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Preliminary entry lists for Auto Club races

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NASCAR Cup and Xfinity teams travel to Auto Club Speedway this weekend for the second race in the three-race West Coast swing.

Cup Series – Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Ross Chastain is again listed in the No. 6 as Ryan Newman continues to recover from the head injury he suffered in his last-lap crash at the Daytona 500.

The two non-chartered cars are the No. 96 with Daniel Suarez and the No. 66 with Timmy Hill.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity Series – Production Alliance Group 300 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Thirty-six cars are entered.

Daniel Hemric is back in the No. 8 for JR Motorsports.

Anthony Alfredo makes his first series start, driving the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Landon Cassill is back in the No. 89 for car owner Morgan Shepherd.

Click here for the entry list.

Noah Gragson heads home to Las Vegas after Daytona win

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It would be easy to label Noah Gragson as a typical 21-year-old (who happens to drive race cars for a living).

“I feel like I’m a pretty impatient person looking for instant gratification I would say,” Gragson tells NBC Sports.

But he’s working on that.

“I’m starting to learn to be more patient and just appreciate the process maybe a little bit more,” Gragson says. “I think that is showing me it can be more rewarding at times when you can just trust that process and not look for that instant gratification and just be results driven.”

Gragson came close to instant gratification in the Xfinity Series two years ago when he finished second in his first career start at Richmond Raceway while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

The 35 races between that near miss and his win last Saturday at Daytona International Speedway “got frustrating at times” for the JR Motorsports driver.

“I don’t know if I feel regret,” Gragson says. “Last year I put a lot of pressure on myself, like ‘Do I not know how to do this? Do I suck really badly? Like what’s the deal?’ Put a lot of pressure on myself, more than anybody else. Just trying to learn a new organization and a new group of guys and new situations, scenarios. It took me a little bit, but that also is what made that win at Daytona so much sweeter.”

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

After giving JR Motorsports its third straight win in the season-opening race, Gragson milked the moment for all it was worth. He performed a burnout that caught the track on fire, climbed the catchfence with his team, chucked his water bottle into the stands (on his second attempt), planted the checkered flag in the roof of his No. 9 Chevy and slid across its hood like Bo Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard.

“My biggest focus after the race on Saturday was to try to soak it all in, try and experience the moment because you don’t get to race at these places all the time … much less win there,” says Gragson. “You can’t take it for granted. I feel like I’m one of the guys who tries to live up every moment I get because you never know how many times you’re going to get to go back there and experience that.”

Gragson is quick to acknowledge Daytona and the biggest win of his career are in the past. Up next is a trip to his home track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“There’s still a task at hand,” Gragson says. “We can’t lose sight of what our goal is this weekend and definitely need to stay available and accountable and ready to go for this weekend. It’s really easy to get sidetracked with the past weekend’s results.”

Saturday’s race (4 p.m. ET on FS1) will be Gragson’s third Xfinity start on the 1.5-mile oval and his sixth overall after three Truck Series starts.

Unlike in Trucks, where he led 57 laps around the track but never finished better than 12th, Gragson has had more success on the Xfinity level.

He finished third there last spring. In the fall playoff race, he started from the rear after a spin in qualifying and drove to a sixth-place finish. In total, he finished sixth or better in six of the nine races on 1.5-mile tracks.

“I feel like last year I really paced the (1.5-mile) races really well and had a car to be able to be in contention at the end of the races,” says Gragson. “I’ve been to these race tracks once or twice now. I know where the bumps and the seams and the cracks are, how the car’s going to be affected. My focus isn’t what it’s going to drive like when I get to these race tracks, it’s going to be OK. I know what the car needs to feel like and I know how to go fast at these places.”

What does Gragson like about the cracks and seams of Las Vegas compared to other intermediate tracks?

“Probably that you can move up to the top side and you have different options,” says Gragson. “It’s a really challenging race track, especially to get off Turn 4. It gets really, really sharp and narrow. … It’s like a double-edged sword. It’s a really fine balance of not being too loose on entry, but having enough turn in the car to be able to wrap the corner on exit where you don’t have to back out of the throttle on exit to make it to the straightaway.”

Gragson says it “would be a dream” to follow up his Daytona win with a victory in front of his home crowd, adding “I don’t know what I could compare it to until if it were to happen.”

If it does, you likely won’t see him attempt another Dukes of Hazzard-esque slide across the hood of his No. 9 Chevy.

“I might get my ACL caught up on the hood pins,” Gragson observes. “I didn’t realize that until they told me the next day. They’re like, ‘Man, you almost caught your leg on that thing.’ ‘Oh, that would not be good. You’re probably right about that.'”

Gragson is a guest on this week’s episode of The Dale Jr. Download, which airs today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Dale Jr. discusses flying again, how much he misses racing

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will wave the green flag for today’s Daytona 500, explained Sunday what he’s done to feel more comfortable flying since his plane crashed on landing last year.

Earnhardt, a NASCAR on NBC analyst, also discussed in a session with reporters if JR Motorsports would ever move to Cup and how much he misses driving a race car.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla survived when the plane they were in bounced twice on landing and continued off the runaway, went down a ditch, through a chain-link fence and came to rest on a nearby road and burned last August on a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway.

Here’s what Earnhardt said:

About flying since his plane crashed on landing last year in Tennessee:

“It’s really tough for me to get back in the plane and it will never be the same now that you know the real realities and dangers. It will never, ever be the same again. It’s something you’ll never be able to forget and never lock out no matter how many flights you take.

“The only thing I can do, I guess, that helps me, everybody is different, this isn’t advice for everybody, this is just what I’ve done that helps me feel better, is before I flew I didn’t inquire about the weather or any details, any technical information about the length of the runaway we’re flying into. I didn’t know the performance of my own plane as far as its ability to land and take off and what kind of airstrips that it could do and couldn’t do that. There’s a lot of things that I just didn’t even think about and I just left it up to our guys that were flying the plane, that if they were comfortable I was comfortable.

“I think that for me to be able to get back in there and go and do and travel like I want, the only way I could do it really is to get into the details. I’m not flying the plane, I’m not a pilot, but I have as much control as I possibly can and what I’m doing and the decisions we’re making without flying the plane.

“I believe in the two guys that I’ve got up there. I’ve known them for two decades and in kind of searching out and seeking out this information and understanding how to read, the pilots, the information that they have is so through and detailed. … Some of these stuff goes over my head. I’m diving into the deep end to learn everything I can about the plane’s ability and the decisions they make and why they make it.

“It’s been extremely educational as you can imagine. I’ve learned so much in such a short period fo time It’s kind of empowered me and give me more confidence in what we’re doing and that we are safe and that I am going to be safe. I don’t want to just quit flying. I don’t want to just quit getting into an airplane.

“I need to get over that fear and work hard to get through it. That’s the advice I got from the people that I sought out, they said just keep getting back into the plane. The only way I can do that is by knowing everything I can possibly know about the exact trip we’re going to take and so that’s helped me a lot.

“I’m learning so much every single time we take off and land. I’ve learned more about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and the decisions they make. Now I’m a bit more involved in the trips we take and what I’m willing to do and not do when it comes to weather and what airports we’re flying in and out of and I’m extremely overly safe on my some of those decisions and it’s been probably annoying to my pilots, they would never admit to that, but I have to sort of figure this out on my own and it’s working out pretty good so far.”

About if JR Motorsports would ever move to Cup:

“We’ll probably never go to Cup. It just takes so many more employees. It’s difficult to find funding to be in the Cup Series. This is just me, my sister, we would have to sever our relationship with Rick (Hendrick, who is a co-owner of JR Motorsports) because he couldn’t have a fifth (Cup) car as an owner. There’s just too many roadblocks and hurdles and challenges to get to the Cup level.

“We really like the business model that we have for our Xfinity program. We’ve really honed it and tuned it to where we can do it efficiently. We would have to really relearn an entirely new budget and what we can and what we can’t accomplish, what we can afford and can’t afford. Our guys will come up with five ways we can get faster and we can’t have all five. We have to look at it economically and what makes the most sense for us as a company to balance our budget.

“I also think that the things I enjoy about being in the Xfinity Series would go away. We enjoy working with young guys. We enjoy working with old veterans, giving people their first opportunity or second chance. We enjoy graduating mechanics, crew chiefs and engineers up to the Cup level. That’s as fun to me, even more fun than winning races. … That’s what we’re trying to accomplish to get these guys to the next level. I wouldn’t have that if you were racing in the Cup Series. I really like where we’re at and we’re successful in the Xfinity Series.”

About how excited he is to drive in the Xfinity race next month in Miami and how he prepares:

“That’s coming fast. Typically I have all year. I’m nervous. I’ll be honest, I’m a little nervous. Being out of the car for a year and jumping back in there and get right back into it and understand exactly where the limits are. Luckily, we’re riding on the fence at Homestead and the limit is right there. Those cars are pretty tough … you can get into the wall a little bit and not have to worry too much about hurting your car. I’m sure I’m going to probably tear off the right side of that thing after practice, qualifying and through the race, I’ll hit it several times. …

“I really missing racing. I really miss driving and it’s getting worse. I thought as I got out of the car and the further I got from my full-time career the less that would bother me but it actually is getting worse for some reason. I really look forward to getting some seat time and smelling the smells and hearing the nosies and just enjoying being in the car.”

If he will race more than once a year since he misses it:

“No, not really. It’s a healthy thing to miss it and want to do it. I think it helps me in the booth to have that energy as a fan. I think one is plenty, probably one is more than I should be doing. I’ve got my wife and Isla and all that, I should devote as much as I can to them. One is just perfect.

“I think that it really helps me remember what drivers are thinking about, so I’m going to get in that car and as much as it will be about having fun, it’s also going to be about reminding myself of all the things that goes through a driver’s mind when he’s out there in the car so when I’m in the booth I’m really able to explain and remember and recall some of the things that emotionally that the drivers are dealing with. It’s so helpful.

“If anything I would love to maybe get an opportunity to test a Cup car, and I’ve talked to a couple of teams when they’re out there testing about hoping in for a few laps. I just really want to know what this package feels like at a mile-and-a-half (track) and I’ve never driven the car with the current package.”

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity opener at Daytona for first series victory

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Noah Gragson won Saturday’s Xfinity Series opener at Daytona, taking the victory in a three-lap shootout that ended under caution and claiming his first career Xfinity Series win.

The victory comes in his 37th career start.

Gragson, 21, led 15 laps and beat Harrison Burton, Timmy Hill, Brandon Jones and Chase Briscoe.

It is JR Motorsports’ third straight win in the season-opening race at Daytona and its fifth win in the last seven.

Gragson is the seventh Xfinity driver to earn his first win at Daytona.

The Las Vegas native took his time getting to victory lane.

His lengthy celebration on the frontstretch saw him: fan a flame on the track caused by his burnout, climb the catchfence with his crew, execute an impressive Bo Duke hood slide across his car, try multiple times to toss a water bottle into the stands before he finally planted the checkered flag atop his car before driving to victory lane.

“I’m so thankful for this opportunity,” Gragson told FS1. “Man, I’m speechless right now, I didn’t think this would come. … I spent a lot of time with (team owner) Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. this week, talking for about two hours. Wanted to be a better speedway race. He told me ‘go have fun, wreckers or checkers, you got to manage you gaps, be there at the end and just go lead the damn the thing.’ That’s what we did.”

Later in the media center, Gragson said “Without that talk I don’t think I’d be sitting here.”

Gragson had to bounce back from a Lap 32 speeding penalty. It’s the fifth time in the last seven Daytona races that the winner rebounded from an in-race penalty.

The race ended under caution due to a large wreck on the backstretch on the final lap.

The finish was setup by a wreck on a restart with seven laps to go.

It collected Jeb Burton, Austin Cindric, Ryan Sieg, Brett Moffitt and others. It began after Briscoe took the lead and he moved up to  block Gragson as they neared Turn 3. Burton, running behind Gragson, checked up and was turned by Cindric. He bounced off Jones before turning back into the wall, causing a chain reaction.

The wreck resulted in a seven minute and 50 second red flag.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Jeb Burton led a 1-2-3-4 sweep by JR Motorsports to end the first stage.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier won the stage under caution following a wreck by Riley Herbst, pole-sitter Myatt Snider and Chris Cockrum on the last lap.

More: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Harrison Burton earned his best finish in 10 Xfinity starts and his second top five … Timmy Hill earned his best finish and his first top five in 185 career Xfinity starts. It came hours after his MBM Motorsports team received a L2 level penalty for an improper body modification, which included a six-race suspension for his crew chief.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Caesar Bacarella finished 29th after he spun on his own exiting Turn 4 on the first lap of the race … Jeremy Clements finished 28th after the hood on his No. 51 car tore apart on Lap 19 and caused a debris caution … Defending race winner Michael Annett got loose and spun on Lap 38 and collected Austin Hill and rookie Joe Graf Jr in a wreck. Annett was later in the last-lap crash … Justin Allgaier finished 30th after he was involved in a wreck with Josh Bilicki and Clements with 13 laps to go.

NOTABLE: The top three lap leaders of the race – Jeb Burton (26 laps), Justin Allgaier (23) and Myatt Snider (22) all were eliminated in crashes.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You know, don’t expect I’ll ever (go to victory lane at Daytona) again as a driver, so I’ll take these whenever they’re coming, right.  If I can get in here as an owner or part of any kind of success like this, it’s a great feeling.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. to FS1 after Gragson’s win.

WHAT’S NEXT: Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 22 on FS1.

Check back for more.

Silly season scorecard: Daniel Suarez joins Gaunt Brothers Racing

Daniel Suarez
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The biggest remaining piece to the puzzle that was the 2019-20 NASCAR silly season has been put into place with the confirmation that Daniel Suarez will compete full-time in the Cup Series with Gaunt Brothers Racing.

Suarez moves from Stewart-Haas Racing over to GBR to drive its No. 96 Toyota. This will be the first full-time Cup campaign for the team.

Here’s a recap of all the major headlines from silly season.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 00: Quin Houff will race for Star Com Racing full-time. Announced Nov. 27.

No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Nov. 1 a multi-year extension with Kurt Busch.

No. 6: Roush Fenway Racing announced Oct. 30 that Ryan Newman would return to the car as part of the news that Oscar Mayer would sponsor the No. 6 through 2021.

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer was announced Oct. 17 as returning to Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth season.

No. 15: Brennan Poole will make his Cup debut and will drive for Premium Motorsports full-time. Announced Dec 11.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after the 2019 season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 32: Corey LaJoie will return for a second straight full season with Go Fas Racing and the No. 32 Ford. The team announced on Nov. 1 it would enter a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing next year. Ryan Sparks will serve as his crew chief.

No. 37: Ryan Preece moves from the No. 47 to the No. 37. He will have a new crew chief, Trent Owens, who has been crew chief on the No. 37 for the past three seasons.

No. 38: John Hunter Nemechek replaces the now retired David Ragan for Front Row Motorsports. Announced Dec. 12.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing announced Nov. 15 Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez.

No. 47: JTG Daugherty Racing announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Preece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher. On Dec. 2, the team announced Stenhouse will drive the No. 47, with Brian Pattie serving as his crew chief.

No. 77: Ross Chastain will drive the car as part of a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing and Spire Motorsports in the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 (announcement made Jan. 9).

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

No. 96: Daniel Suarez joins Gaunt Brothers Racing for his fourth full-time Cup season and the team’s first (announcement made Jan. 28).

Rick Ware Racing: JJ Yeley and Joey Gase will drive two of the team’s three full-time rides. The third driver has not been named yet, although David Ragan will compete in the Daytona 500.

Kaulig Racing: The Xfinity Series team will attempt to make its Cup Series debut in the Daytona 500 with Justin Haley (announcement made Jan. 10).

ANNOUNCED PLANS IN OTHER NASCAR SERIES

Xfinity Series 

Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 Ross Chastain would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet, joining Justin Haley, who returns for a second full-time season and will drive the No. 11 Chevy.

More: Kaulig Racing announces full-time crew chiefs for 2020

Joe Gibbs Racing — Announced Oct. 17 Harrison Burton will drive its No. 20 Toyota full-time in 2020. Announced Oct. 31 Brandon Jones would return for a third year in the No. 19. Revealed Nov. 5 it would field a third full-time entry with Riley Herbst in the No. 18.

JR MotorsportsJustin Allgaier will return to the team for a fifth year in the No. 7 Chevrolet. The No. 8 car will be driven by Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Jeb Burton 11 races and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one race. Noah Gragson will also return for a second season in the No. 9 car, while Michael Annett returns for a fourth year with the team in the No. 1 car.

Richard Childress Racing — Will field the No. 21 full-time with three drivers, Myatt Snider, Anthony Alfredo and Kaz Grala. Andy Street will serve as crew chief. Snider will also compete in selected races for Ryan Sieg Racing.

Stewart-Haas RacingChase Briscoe will remain with the team for his second full-time season (announcement made Jan. 6).

JD MotorsportsJesse Little will compete full-time for the team, while Colby Howard will compete for the majority of the season.

SS Greenlight Racing – Former Richard Childress Racing driver Joe Graf Jr. will compete full-time in the No. 08 Chevrolet (announcement made Jan. 16)

Martins MotorsportsTommy Joe Martins‘ team returns to the track with Martins set to drive the No. 44 car (announcement made Dec. 24).

Truck Series

GMS RacingDriver lineup will include Brett Moffitt, Sam Mayer, Sheldon Creed, Tyler Ankrum and in six races, World of Outlaws driver David Gravel.

Kyle Busch MotorsportsRaphael Lessard will drive the No. 4 full-time while Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 full-time.

Halmar Friesen Racing — Stewart Friesen will return for a third full-time season in the No. 52 Truck. The team will also switch from Chevrolet to Toyota in 2020.

Hattori Racing EnterprisesAustin Hill will return to the No. 16 Toyota for a second year.

Niece Motorsports – Ty Majeski will drive the No. 45 truck full-time, taking the place of Ross Chastain. Announced Dec. 10. Carson Hocevar and Natalie Decker will compete part-time for the team.

DGR-Crosley/Front Row Motorsports – An alliance between the two teams will field an entry for Todd Gilliland in the No. 38 truck (announced Jan. 13), but it will be in a Ford instead of a Toyota (Announced Dec. 11).

McAnally-Hilgemann Racing – 2019 NASCAR ARCA Menards Series West champion Derek Kraus will compete full-time for the new team in the No. 19 (announcement made Jan. 13).

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