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Entry lists for NASCAR at Texas

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Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races at Texas Motor Speedway:

Cup – O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox)

Forty cars are entered. The No. 97 Chevrolet of Obaika Racing has not named a driver yet.

Non-Cup regulars entered include B.J. McLeod (No. 52 Ford of Rick Ware Racing), Timmy Hill (No. 66 Toyota of Motorsports Business Management), Garrett Smithley (No. 77 Chevrolet of Spire Motorsports) and Parker Kligerman (No. 96 Toyota of Gaunt Brothers Racing).

Kyle Busch, who will once again go for the third weekend sweep of his career, entered in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series races. He’s the only driver in NASCAR history to have won races in three national series at the same track in the same weekend. Both of those previously came at Bristol Motor Speedway (2010, 2017).

Click here for the Cup Series entry list.

Xfinity – Bariatric Solutions 300 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

Forty cars are entered.

Cup drivers entered: Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) and Brad Keselowski (No. 12 Team Penske Ford). 

Click here for the Xfinity Series entry list.

Trucks – Vankor 350 (9 p.m. ET Friday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-two trucks are entered.

Cup drivers entered: Busch (No. 51 Toyota of Kyle Busch Motorsports), Bubba Wallace (No. 22 Chevrolet of AM Racing and Ross Chastain (No. 45 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports).

Click here for Truck entry list

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. responds to Martin Truex Jr.’s criticism from Atlanta

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. countered Martin Truex Jr.’s claims that Stenhouse, running a lap behind the leaders, held Truex up late in last weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stenhouse told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday that he was “confused” by Truex’s assertion and wondered if Truex thought that “lapped cars have dirtier air coming off the car (than those on the lead lap).”

Truex was upset with Stenhouse after the race, saying Stenhouse should have gotten out of the way sooner. 

“(Stenhouse) rode there in front of us forever and ever, running the bottom,” Truex said after the race. “I kept telling him I needed the bottom, and these cars are just so bad in dirty air that he was holding me up really bad.”

Of lapped cars, Truex said: “They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame.”

Stenhouse didn’t see things that way, telling Claire B. Lang on “Dialed In” on Wednesday:

“To me I didn’t feel like we really held him off. If he was that fast, then he could have closed up to us. If leaders get within five car lengths of me, I let them go. Mike Herman Jr., my spotter, was updating me how far back (Truex) was. We were racing to try to get back on the lead lap.

“I felt like there at a moment we were going to be able to catch (Brad Keselowski, who led the final 33 laps to win). We were running faster lap times than he was. So, we were thinking, ‘hey, let’s just old school get our lap back (by passing the leader) and see how it falls.’

“But also (Keselowski) was catching (Chase Elliott) and was going to put him a lap down, and we wanted to make sure that if (Elliott) got lapped that we could get by him as quick as possible in case the caution came out and we could get the lucky dog that way as well.

“The way I see it, if Truex is fast enough and that much faster than me, then he could have caught us. If he would have caught us and got to within five car lengths, I would have let him go. He didn’t have any problem getting within five car lengths of (Keselowski).

“He talks about dirty air and things like that. I don’t know if he thinks that lapped cars have dirtier air coming off the car. Kind of confused me. Brad Keselowski, he restarted behind me, actually nose to tail with Truex and he passed us on the outside.

“Generally, when I have a faster car, I just drive around the lapped cars that I’m lapping. It’s one of those things that I felt like me and my spotter and our team did the right thing for what we had going on.

“Once I slipped up a little bit, Truex closed within five car lengths and I pulled almost on the apron on the back straightaway to give him whatever lane he wanted and slowed up for him. That’s the way I play it. When the leaders get to me, I give them a lane one way or the other when they get close, but he wasn’t close enough to just give up our whole lap or the positions I was racing for either.”

Issues began when there was a caution during a green-flag pit cycle for Ryan Preece running into the back of B.J. McLeod’s car on pit road. McLeod’s car spun, injuring a member of Chris Buescher’s pit crew.

Joey Logano and Kurt Busch were the only cars on the lead lap that hadn’t pitted. They restarted on the front row. Per the NASCAR Rule Book, cars one or more laps down restart next.

That put Stenhouse, a lap down, inside of the second row with Jimmie Johnson to his outside. The third row had Bubba Wallace on the inside and Ty Dillon. Both were two laps down.

Keselowski, who received the free pass, was positioned on the inside of the fourth row for the restart, ahead of cars that had pitted and did the wave around. Truex restarted on the inside of the fifth row, directly behind Keselowski.

Keselowski maneuvered by the four lapped cars ahead of him quickly after the restart. Truex did not.

Friday 5: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready for challenge of winning Xfinity races

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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Jeffrey Earnhardt sighs and says “too long.”

He rests his head in his hand and stares ahead.

“It’s been too long,” Earnhardt says since he last won a race. “Hell, I can’t remember. That’s pretty sad. It’s been a while.”

A journey that started with racing a Yugo — yes, a Yugo — and later moved from small team to small team in NASCAR, now has its reward more than a decade later.

Earnhardt will drive in nine Xfinity races for Joe Gibbs Racing this season, beginning with the Feb. 16 season opener at Daytona International Speedway. 

The expectations are high — “it’s wins or nothing” he saidbut the pressure can’t compare to what Earnhardt faced to reach this point.

“The pressure to go and get in a car that is capable of winning, that’s the pressure I’ve been looking for my whole life,” he said, wearing a black Joe Gibbs Racing T-shirt in a conference room at the team’s Cup headquarters.

Instead, the pressure has been to survive in the sport. Beginning with the Yugo.

He begged his father for a couple of years to let him race. His dad eventually relented, saying Earnhardt could compete if he found a car and sponsorship to pay for it. Earnhardt got the Yugo and sponsorship for it.

He never won in that car. But he didn’t drive it long.

“I ended up flipping it,” Earnhardt said of a race at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Virginia. “Because it was so slow. A guy shoved me off in the corner and turned me sideways and another car came and hit the front end of the car … and turned me head-on into the outside wall. Flipped. Landed on its roof.

“I was like, ‘Man, this thing is going to catch on fire.’ I’d seen too many movies. I ended up getting my shoelace hung on the brake pedal and didn’t think I was going to make it out alive. Everyone was like, ‘You’re fine, we’ve got you.’ ”

He thought everything would be fine when he joined Dale Earnhardt Inc. and drove in what is now the K&N Pro Series East Series in 2007-08.

“Signed a four-year contract at 17 years old and thought, this is going to be a walk in the park,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports. “Everything is going to be taken care of.”

But his ride went away after DEI merged with Chip Ganassi Racing in November 2008. The struggle to find rides began. Earnhardt ran one K&N Pro Series East race and two Xfinity races in 2009. He ran five Truck races in 2010. In 2011, he drove in two Xfinity races and five Truck races.

Earnhardt fought in one MMA bout in 2012 — he won — but realized afterward that he still wanted to race.

“I did the MMA thing to try to find something that gave me that rush that I get in a race car and it still wasn’t the equivalent,” Earnhardt said.

He continued to search for rides.

“What my grandfather did and his legacy means the world to me,” Earnhardt said of the late Dale Earnhardt. “I would hate to not think that I gave literally everything I possibly could to make it continue.”

He’s driven in 151 races in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks but never with a team that could compete for wins. His best Xfinity finish is 12th at Bristol (2014) and Talladega (2015). His best Cup finish is 11th in last July’s Daytona race.

With JGR, top 10s should be common. Earnhardt will drive the No. 18, a car that won twice last year with Ryan Preece at Bristol and Kyle Busch at Pocono and saw Noah Gragson finish second with in his Xfinity debut at Richmond last year.

“I was talking on the phone with my manager and I was like, I’ve gone from the struggle of trying to keep the car under me for the whole entire race and not wreck to now the struggle is going to be those late-race restarts when you’re on the front row,” Earnhardt said. “That’s a new challenge, it’s a good challenge.”

2. Reversal of fortune

What would have happened had NASCAR disqualified cars last year that failed inspection after a race instead of doing it this season?

Two Cup races would have had different winners.

Kyle Busch would have finished the season with a series-high nine wins instead of being tied with Kevin Harvick at eight.

Harvick would have lost his win at Las Vegas after his car was found to have an issue with the rear window during an inspection at NASCAR’s R&D Center. That would have given Busch, the runner-up, the win.

Also, Harvick would have lost his Texas win for an issue with the spoiler — also discovered at the R&D Center. But runner-up Ryan Blaney was penalized because his car failed inspection and the win would have gone to Joey Logano, who finished third in that race.

Nine cars that finished in the top four in a Cup race last year failed inspection after the event and would have been disqualified under this year’s rules.

3. Disqualification penalty appeals

Should a vehicle be disqualified after failing inspection after the race, the team can appeal. They will have to pay a non-refundable appeal filing fee of $5,000.

Unlike a regular appeal, which features a panel of three people, the race disqualification appeal will be heard by one person. It could be one of the 28 people listed in the rule book as appeal panelists or it could be the Final Appeal Officer or their alternate.

One thing to note in this particular type of case is that the decision of that one panelist is final. The decision cannot be appealed to the Final Appeal Officer.

4. Charter transfers

With a new season, comes the transfer of charters in Cup.

Six of the 36 charters have changed teams for this season.

The charter that was with BK Racing’s No. 23 car last year, which Front Row Motorsports purchased, will be with the No. 38 car of David Ragan.

The charter that had been with Ragan’s team goes to teammate Matt Tifft. Front Row Motorsports added a car, growing to a third team this season.

The charter with Richard Petty Motorsport’s No. 43 car with Bubba Wallace goes to Rick Ware Racing and will be aligned with the No. 51 car and driven by B.J. McLeod in the Daytona 500.

The charter that was with Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 car last year goes to RPM’s No. 43 car this season.

Furniture Row Racing’s charter was purchased by Spire Motorsports and be used with the No. 77 car. That will be No. 40 for Jamie McMurray in the Daytona 500 and then go back to No. 77 the rest of the season. 

The charter that had been with the No. 72 car of TriStar Motorsports moves to the No. 52 car at Rick Ware Racing.

5. Rule changes

NASCAR came out with a bulletin this week that updated its rule book.

Among some of the changes:

— Drivers must have all four tires below the orange box at the commitment line to enter pit road. That had been the case last year at all tracks except Martinsville. Drivers needed to only put two tires under the orange box there. Now, they will have to adjust at Martinsville.

— A pit crew member’s foot must not touch pit road before the vehicle is one pit box away from its assigned pit box or the equivalent marked distance. Should a crew member’s foot or both feet touch the pit road surface too early, the pit crew member can re-establish their position back to or behind the pit wall before servicing the car to avoid a penalty.

— A sixth person can go over the wall during a pit stop but that person’s duties are limited to servicing the driver in their health and well-being, assisting with safety systems, window net, helmet and cooling ventilation hose, radio system replacement, steering wheel wiring, providing personal medical supplies and cleaning the windshield. Such a person, though, is not allowed to help repair the body and/or mechanical components on the car.

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Driver lineup set for Charlotte road course tests in July

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Charlotte Motor Speedway announced the driver lineup for the two days of testing that will take place in July on the track’s road course.

NASCAR created two separate test days. Tests will be July 10 and July 17. Both sessions will go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET with a lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. ET.

The tests are open to the public.

The Cup series races on Charlotte’s road course Sept. 30 in the playoffs.

Scheduled to test on July 10

Martin Truex Jr.

Jimmie Johnson

Chase Elliott

Kevin Harvick

Clint Bowyer

Denny Hamlin

Daniel Suarez

Brad Keselowski

Paul Menard

Trevor Bayne

Jamie McMurray

Austin Dillon

Chris Buescher

Kasey Kahne

Michael McDowell

Gray Gaulding

Landon Cassill

B.J. McLeod

Scheduled to test on July 17

Kyle Busch

Erik Jones

Ryan Blaney

Joey Logano

Kyle Larson

Aric Almirola

Kurt Busch

Alex Bowman

William Byron

Bubba Wallace

Ryan Newman

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

AJ Allmendinger

Ty Dillon

Matt DiBenedetto

Corey LaJoie

David Ragan

Reed Sorenson

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Josh Bilicki to run second car for JP Motorsports in Xfinity Series

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Josh Bilicki announced Monday that he’ll drive a second car for JP Motorsports this season in the Xfinity Series, piloting the No. 45 car. JP Motorsports, a team owned by Phyllis and Jerry Hattaway, will have Stephen Leicht drive the team’s No. 55 car in the Xfinity Series this year.

The 22-year-old Bilicki has made nine career Xfinity starts, including six last season. His best finish last year was 12th at Road America for B.J. McLeod.

“I’m ecstatic to announce a full season effort in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JP Motorsports in the #45 Prevagen Toyota Camry,” Bilicki in a statement.  “I have gained a lot of valuable experience over the past two years by racing at different tracks and with different teams, but it will be nice to show up to every race this year with the same team. I come from a road course racing background, so there are still several NASCAR tracks that I have yet to race. It feels great to have the business side of things done before the season starts, so now I can focus solely on driving. It will be a year full of learning, but we have good equipment and cars and will be competitive from the start.”

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