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Elliott Sadler wins Xfinity Most Popular Driver; Noah Gragson wins in Trucks

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Elliott Sadler has won the Xfinity Series Most Popular Driver Award, marking his third consecutive year as the recipient and fourth overall, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

Sadler, 43, ended his full-time NASCAR career this season after making 853 starts in all three of NASCAR’s national series since 1995.

Sadler’s achievement is the seventh straight year a JR Motorsports driver has won the award.

NASCAR also announced that Noah Gragson won Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Gragson, who finished second in the championship standings, won the award in his second full-time season in Trucks driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Gragson ended 2018 with one win, eight top fives, 17 top 10s and six poles.

The 20-year-old driver will race for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series in 2019.

Both Sadler and Gragson will be honored at the Xfinity and Truck Series awards banquet on Dec. 8.

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Silly Season sees third rookie join Cup ranks in 2019

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Front Row Motorsports’ announcement that it will expand to three cars and add Matt Tifft increases the rookie field for the 2019 Cup season.

Tifft will be in a Cup rookie class with Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric. That’s already larger than last season’s rookie class, which featured only William Byron and Bubba Wallace (Byron won rookie of the year honors).

Tifft’s signing is just one of many changes that will take place for the 2019 season.

Here’s a look at where things stand in Silly Season:

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2019

No. 6: Ryan Newman joins Roush Fenway Racing for next season (announcement made Sept. 22)

No. 13: Ty Dillon said he will remain at Germain Racing for the 2019 season (announcement made Sept. 24)

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn move to Joe Gibbs Racing from the defunct Furniture Row Racing team (announcement made Nov. 7)

No. 31: Daniel Hemric replaces Ryan Newman at Richard Childress Racing for 2019. (announcement made Sept. 28)

No. 36: Matt Tifft joins Front Row Motorsports in a third car for the 2019 season (announcement made Nov. 27)

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will remain with Richard Petty Motorsports through the 2020 season (announcement made July 28)

No. 47: Ryan Preece replaces AJ Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty Racing beginning next season (announcement made Sept. 28)

No. 95: Matt DiBenedetto moves to Leavine Family Racing for 2019. Leavine Family Racing also switches to Toyota beginning next year (announcement made Oct. 10)

CUP RIDES NOT YET ANNOUNCED FOR 2019

No. 1: Jamie McMurray will not drive this car next season. He has yet to decide if he will drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2019 Daytona 500 and then move to a management position with the team. He said Nov. 16 he had yet to decide if to do that or some other racing.

No. 32: Go Fas Racing is looking for a driver after Matt DiBenedetto announced Sept. 7 that he would not return to the team after this season.

No. 41: Kurt Busch‘s one-year deal with Stewart-Haas Racing ended after the season. Reports have him headed to the No. 1 car in 2019. 

DRIVERS WITHOUT ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR 2019

AJ Allmendinger: He told NBC Sports on Nov. 17 that he didn’t have any races for 2019 lined up at the time.

Trevor Bayne: 2011 Daytona 500 winner is looking for a ride after the Sept. 12 announcement that he won’t return to Roush Fenway Racing in 2019. He told NBC Sports on Sept. 14 that he has been calling car owners looking for a ride and would look at any of NASCAR’s top three national series. 

Kurt Busch: The 2004 Cup champion has yet to announce his 2019 plans.

Jamie McMurray: Has yet to announce what he’ll do in 2019 but it won’t be a full-time ride in the No. 1 car at Chip Ganassi Racing.

Daniel Suarez: With Martin Truex Jr. taking over the No. 19 in 2019, Suarez is looking for a ride. He said Sept. 21 that “we’re talking to a lot of people.” Suarez is the favorite for the No. 41 ride.

CREW CHIEF CHANGES

No. 3: Danny Stockman replaces Justin Alexander as Austin Dillon‘s crew chief in 2019 (move confirmed Nov. 26)

No. 11: Mike Wheeler will not return as Denny Hamlin‘s crew chief for 2019 (announcement made Nov. 16)

No. 24: Chad Knaus replaces Darian Grubb as William Byron’s crew chief in 2019 (announcement made Oct. 10)

No. 48: Kevin Meendering replaces Chad Knaus as Jimmie Johnson‘s crew chief in 2019 (announcement made Oct. 10)

No. 95: Mike Wheeler joins the team and replaces Jon Leonard, who moved back to Richard Childress Racing to be an engineer on Austin Dillon’s team.

XFINITY SERIES

ANNOUNCED CHANGES FOR 2019

No. 1: Noah Gragson replaces Elliott Sadler at JR Motorsports for 2019 season (announcement made Sept. 25).

No. 42: Chip Ganassi Racing signs Ross Chastain to drive the No. 42 full-time for 2019 (announcement made Nov. 9).

No. 98: Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to drive the team’s second Xfinity car and be a teammate to Cole Custer (announcement made Nov. 27).

RCR: Tyler Reddick moves from JR Motorsports to RCR for the 2019 season. Reddick’s car number, sponsor and crew chief will be announced later. (announcement made Oct. 31).

Elliott Sadler, track president have disagreement over security guard’s actions

Photo: Dustin Long
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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Elliott Sadler and the track president of Homestead-Miami Speedway had a heated discussion Friday about a security guard denying Sadler entrance to the infield earlier in the day.

Sadler said he did not have a parking pass when he arrived at the track because it was in his motorhome. He said he showed the guard his NASCAR driver credential.

“Oh yeah, I know who you are, but you’re still not going in,’ “ Sadler said the guard told him.

Sadler, who is retiring from full-time competition after this weekend, recounted the episode when he met the media Friday.

“Does anybody have any common sense at this race track?” Sadler said. “Guys, you don’t even know who you are doing security for. You have no idea. Finally I had to steal a parking pass from somebody else until I could get inside to get mine to get to my bus. I’m just sitting there thinking that the guy tells me he knows who I am but he’s still not going to let in. That really took the cake.

“Homestead, please get some folks in here that know what they’re doing. I don’t know who the president is of this track, but he needs to wake up.

“I’ve been doing this for 23 years, 23 years, and that’s the first time, ever, ever, that me and the gate guard if I did not have a parking pass yet because I just landed, that he and I couldn’t have a common sense discussion, here’s my annual, look I’m a driver. I told security, ride with me, I’ll show you where I’m going. I’ll bring you back out here. First time in 23 years. I was mad.”

After his news conference, Sadler was introduced to Matt Becherer, who has been the track’s president since December 2009. They had a heated discussion that lasted a few minutes.

“Our security team is always looking to make sure that people have the proper credentials, which are personal credentials as well as parking passes,” he told NBC Sports. “A parking pass was missing in this instance, and we were just asking for it. Simple as that.”

Asked if everything is resolved, Becherer said: “I don’t know. He’s got everything he needs. We’re looking forward to a great race (Saturday) and wishing him the best in (Saturday) night’s race.”

This is the second time in a little more than a decade that a NASCAR driver has had an issue with a security guard at this track. Kasey Kahne was arrested in 2007 after an incident with a security guard. Kahne had completed running on track and was being taken back to the driver motorhome lot in a golf cart when he was stopped and asked for his credentials.

A police report stated that Kahne exited the golf cart and tried to walk into the motorhome lot. The report stated that when the security guard blocked Kahne, Kahne pushed the guard to the ground. Kahne’s record was cleared upon performing community service, and the security guard’s lawsuit was dismissed after an undisclosed settlement.

Xfinity practice report from Miami

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Final Practice

Ryan Reed posted the fastest lap in final practice for the Xfinity race at Miami with a speed of 166.451 mph.

He beat Austin Cindric (166.195 mph) by .050 seconds. Cindric was also second in the first practice session.

Elliott Sadler (165.873) posted the third fastest time.

Playoff contenders Tyler Reddick (165.766) and Christopher Bell (165.710) rounded out the top five.

Playoff contender Cole Custer (165.578) scraped the wall late in the session, but not before posted the sixth fastest time. His damage was not sufficient enough to force him to roll out a backup car.

“I just tried to get too much into Turn 3,” Custer told NBCSN’s Marty Snider at the end of the session. ” I started trying to run the top to get comfortable a little bit and I  just kind of crossed over the line.”

Daniel Hemric (164.289) was the slowest of the contenders.

Bell (163.311) posted the quickest 10-lap average in final practice followed by fellow contender Custer at 162.920.

Reddick was fourth-best on this chart with Hemric seventh among 21 drivers who posted at least 10 consecutive laps.

Click here for complete results.

First Practice

Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in Friday’s first practice for the Miami Xfinity race with a speed of 167.193 mph. Bell was docked 30 minutes of practice time for failing inspection three times at Phoenix.

He beat Austin Cindric (166.410) by .152 seconds.

Playoff contenders Daniel Hemric (165.431) and Cole Custer (165.375) were third and fourth respectively.

John Hunter Nemechek (165.006) rounded out the top five.

In seventh, Tyler Reddick (164.394) was the slowest among the playoff contenders.

Nemechek posted the quickest 10-lap average in this session with a speed of 162.254.

Bell (161.658) had the second-best 10-lap average. Reddick (161.567) was third on this chart.

Click here for complete results.

 

Christopher Bell wins at Phoenix to clinch spot in Xfinity title race

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Facing a must-win situation, Christopher Bell did just that, winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at ISM Raceway to clinch a spot in the Championship 4 at Miami.

Bell entered the race 34 points out from the final transfer spot. He started 38th after his No. 20 Toyota did not get through inspection in time to qualify.

The rookie marched through the field and took the lead for good on Lap 108 when he passed John Hunter Nemechek.

Bell led 94 laps and beat Daniel Hemric, Matt Tifft, Austin Cindric and Ryan Preece.

It is Bell’s seventh win of the season, a rookie record.

“I’ll be honest after (DNFs at) Kansas and Texas I kind of just accepted we wouldn’t be able to get there,” Bell told NBC. “Just came over here with a ‘Let’s have fun attitude.’ … We didn’t really make our way up front that fast. I kind of got stalled out once I got into the top 15. I knew this thing was really fast because yesterday in practice it was really good. That clean air just meant so much. My pit crew did an amazing job … We’re going to (Miami), baby.”

Justin Allgaier, who won five races this season, was eliminated from title contention. He placed 24th, one laps down after he lost his brakes with about 20 laps to go.

Elliott Sadler, who will not compete full-time after the end of the season, was also eliminated.

Austin Cindric and Matt Tifft were the other drivers eliminated.

The Championship 4 will be Cole Custer, Bell, Hemric and Tyler Reddick

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Daniel Hemric earned his fifth runner-up finish without a Xfinity win … Matt Tifft placed third, his best result since he finished second at Road America … Austin Cindric earned his third top five in the last five races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Akinori Ogata extended the series’ streak of incidents on Lap 1 to three races when he wrecked in Turn 3. He finished 33rd … After winning the first two stages, Justin Allgaier placed 24th, one lap down. He suffered damage from contact with John Hunter Nemechek on Lap 145. He then lost his brakes with about 20 laps to go, but finished the race.

NOTABLE: Chevrolet clinched its 19th manufacturer championship in the series at the start of the race … Christopher Bell’s seven wins are the most by a non-Cup driver in Xfinity since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won seven times in 1998.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: ”Disappointment. At the end of the day we did everything right this year. We had a great season. Today we did everything right at the beginning part of the race. That was probably the most frustrating part. We led a lot of laps. We won both stages. All things considered it was going to be a great day. Ultimately at the end, getting ourselves in that bad position, getting caught up in that little of a crash and losing brakes. At that point it was survival, gain as many points as we can gain.” – Justin Allgaier after he was eliminated for title contention.

WHAT’S NEXT: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 17 on NBCSN