NASCAR Cup

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Ryan Newman fastest in second Cup practice at ‘Dega; six cars over 204 mph

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NASCAR’s Rocket Man lived up to his nickname, rocketing to the top of the speed chart in Friday’s second and final Cup practice at Talladega Superspeedway.

Ryan Newman piloted his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford to a blistering speed of 204.157 mph to top the 39 drivers that took to the track.

Newman was the fastest of six drivers that eclipsed 204 mph, and led 24 drivers that topped the 200 mph mark.

By comparison, the top speed in Cup practice last fall at Talladega was 204.227 mph and 24 cars also topped 200 mph in the lone session that day.

Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second-fastest (204.127 mph), followed by Richmond winner Martin Truex Jr. (204.114 mph), Matt Tifft (204.092) and Cup points leader Kyle Busch (204.079 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Erik Jones (204.062 mph), Aric Almirola (202.611), Paul Menard (202.328), Matt DiBenedetto (202.243) and Denny Hamlin (201.949).

Qualifying for Sunday’s GEICO 500 takes place Saturday afternoon at 4:40 p.m. with two rounds of single-vehicle qualifying.

Click here for the full speed chart from Friday’s second Cup practice.

MORE: Kurt Busch, David Ragan, Erik Jones fastest in first Cup practice at Talladega

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Justin Haley to celebrate 20th birthday with Cup debut at Talladega

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Justin Haley will likely never forget his NASCAR Cup debut, which comes in Sunday’s GEICO 500.

First, it will come at NASCAR’s largest race track, Talladega Superspeedway. And second, Haley will turn 20 years old that day, sitting behind the wheel of the No. 77 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Spire Motorsports.

This is a dream come true,” Haley said in a media release. “I couldn’t be prouder than to make my Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut with Spire Motorsports and the Fraternal Order of Eagles (F.O.E.).

The F.O.E. has supported my career since the beginning and it feels like our program will come full circle when I make my debut on NASCAR’s biggest stage this weekend at Talladega. I’m incredibly grateful to both Spire Motorsports and the F.O.E. for this opportunity. I’m excited to get on track and see what we can do.”

The Indiana native is racing full-time in the Xfinity Series this season for Kaulig Racing. He has earned top 10 finishes in six of the first eight races and is 11th in the Xfinity standings. He will also drive in Saturday’s Xfinity race at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

Sunday’s Cup debut will mark Haley’s third career race in a car on a superspeedway.

Haley almost won his second career Xfinity start, last July at Daytona International Speedway. It appeared he won the race, but NASCAR ruled he illegally advanced his position by crossing the double yellow line at the bottom of the track late in the race, nullifying the win and leaving him with an 18th-place finish.

Haley has two prior starts at Talladega in a truck, including a fourth-place finish there during last year’s playoffs. He also has one prior start at Daytona in a truck, where he finished second in the 2018 season-opening race.

He would go on to finish third in the 2018 Truck Series standings, earning three wins, nine top-five and 18 top 10 finishes for GMS Racing.

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Cup starting lineup at Martinsville

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Fords flexed their muscle during Saturday’s qualifying, grabbing the first four spots and six of the first 11 for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Joey Logano will start from the pole, alongside Aric Almirola. Brad Keselowski will start in Row 2, alongside Kevin Harvick.

Row 3 will have Denny Hamlin and William Byron. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott make up Row 4, while Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez will start from Row 5.

Click here for the full row-by-row Cup starting lineup.

Note that the starting lineup is provisional until Sunday morning’s pre-race inspection. Any car that fails inspection will lose its starting spot and move to the back of the field.

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NASCAR’s Saturday schedule at Martinsville Speedway

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It’ll be a very busy day at Martinsville Speedway.

The NASCAR Cup Series will have two practices as well as qualifying, while the Gander Outdoors Truck Series will qualify and then race.

Here is Saturday’s schedule with TV and radio info:

(All times are Eastern)

6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

7 a.m. – Truck garage opens

9:35 – 10:25 a.m. – Cup practice (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network)

10:40 a.m. – Truck qualifying; multi-truck/three rounds (FS1)

12:15 p.m. – Truck driver-crew chief meeting

12:30 – 1:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

1:30 p.m. – Truck driver introductions

2 p.m. – Truck Series TruNorth Global 250; 250 laps/131.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

5:10 p.m. – Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Kevin Harvick rallies to put forth another fourth-place effort

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In a sport that is based so much on numbers such as elapsed time, speed and more, Kevin Harvick is becoming a walking, talking advertisement for the science of numerology.

Think about it: not only does Harvick drive the No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Ford Mustang, he now has three fourth-place finishes in the first five races of the 2019 NASCAR Cup season.

Harvick had to work at it in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. He didn’t have the best or fastest car in the field, but constant adjustments by his team on pit road throughout the race kept improving the car, leading to its ultimate fourth-place showing.

My guys did a great job,” Harvick said. “We didn’t have much that we thought was going well this weekend, but they made the car better and did a great job of keeping us in the game. It raced well and we had a great day on pit road. We overachieved today and I am really proud of everyone on the team for that.”

Harvick acknowledged he didn’t have much late in the race for eventual winner Kyle Busch, runner-up Joey Logano and third-place finisher Brad Keselowski, which is why he was so happy to put forth yet another fourth.

I didn’t have anything for the Penske cars or the 18 car (Busch),” Harvick said. “They did a great job of racing hard all day and we made a lot out of the West Coast Swing with not very much. We have some work to do but we know you still have to go race. Our Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang was okay today and we got a decent finish.”

Harvick has earned fourth-place finishes at Atlanta, Las Vegas and now Fontana, sandwiched around a ninth-place showing at Phoenix, falling back from a potential top-five finish in the closing laps.

While he’d obviously love to reach victory lane, his fourth-place finishes have helped to keep him right in the middle of the points standings, leaving Fontana in third-place in the rankings, 24 points behind points leader Busch.

We have done that four weeks in a row but when you come to this West Coast swing you have what you have and we left here with four top-10’s and three top-fives over the first five races.

I am proud of everybody for that. It isn’t always going to be good. You have to try to figure out how to do things better when they aren’t going very good and our guys have done that.”

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