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Adam Stevens fined $10,000 for Phoenix penalty

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Kyle Busch won Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix, but on Monday crew chief Adam Stevens was fined $10,000 by NASCAR for a safety violation found during post-race inspection.

Stevens was penalized for violating Sections 10.9.10.4 of the NASCAR Rule Book regarding Tires and Wheels: lug nut(s) not properly installed.

That was the only penalty assessed on the Cup side.

There were two penalties – also for lug nut violations – assessed to Xfinity Series teams following Saturday’s iK9 Service Dog 200:

* Taylor Moore, crew chief of the No. 8 Chevrolet driven by runner-up Ryan Truex, was fined $5,000 for lug nut(s) violation.

* Timothy Goulet, crew chief of the No. 74 Chevrolet driven by Mike Harmon, was also fined $5,000 for lug nut(s) violation.

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Phoenix winners and losers

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WINNERS

Kyle Busch: Sweeps the weekend at ISM Raceway to climb to 199 career NASCAR victories.

Joe Gibbs Racing & Team Penske: They are the only organizations to win the last six Cup races, dating back to November’s playoff race at ISM Raceway.

Cup qualifying: It has been must-see viewing the past two weeks. The drafting and gamesmanship on pit road made qualifying fascinating at Las Vegas. The Daniel Suarez-Michael McDowell fight highlighted the session at ISM Raceway.

Ryan TruexFinished second to Kyle Busch in the Xfinity race. Truex is running a limited schedule with JR Motorsports.

 

LOSERS

Austin Dillon: Had to give up fifth place late to pit for fuel. He finished 21st and has finished no better than 16th this season.

Ryan Newman: Yes, he finished a season-best 12th despite two pit road penalties (speeding and a crew member behind the wall touching pit road) but imagine what he could have done without those issues?

Ryan Preece: Since his eighth-place finish in the Daytona 500, he has placed 35th, 25th and 34th.

Xfinity practice report from Phoenix

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Austin Cindric topped Friday’s second and final Xfinity Series practice at ISM Raceway in suburban Phoenix.

Much like his Team Penske counterparts Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski, who were 1-2 in Friday’s sole Cup practice, Cindric put the Penske camp atop the second Xfinity practice with a speed of 132.129 mph.

Christopher Bell was second-fastest (131.791 mph), followed by John Hunter Nemechek (131.560), Ryan Truex (131.473) and Kyle Busch (131.430), who was fastest in the first practice earlier in the day.

Sixth through 10th were Cole Custer (131.043 mph), Tyler Reddick (130.942), Justin Allgaier (130.890), Noah Gragson (130.686) and Justin Haley (130.345).

There was one incident in the session when Ronnie Bassett Jr.’s Chevrolet Camaro hit the Turn 3 wall hard with about three minutes remaining, ending the session early. Bassett is slated to make his Xfinity Series race debut on Saturday. It’s unclear if his team will be able to repair the damage.

Xfinity teams will qualify (multi-vehicle, three rounds) Saturday at 12:40 p.m. ET, with the iK9 Service Dog 200 race later that afternoon at 4 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Click here for the full second practice speed chart.

FIRST PRACTICE SESSION:

Kyle Busch was fastest in the first of two Xfinity Series practices Friday at ISM Raceway in suburban Phoenix.

Busch topped the 29-driver field with a speed of 131.921 mph. The Las Vegas native will be seeking his 94th career Xfinity win in Saturday’s iK9 Service Dog 200. He’s also going for his second win in a row, having won last week’s Xfinity race at Las Vegas.

Christopher Bell was second-fastest (131.579 mph), followed by Cole Custer (131.148), Austin Cindric (131.133) and John Hunter Nemechek (131.043).

Sixth through 10th were Ryan Truex (130.890), Tyler Reddick (130.776), Noah Gragson (130.615), Justin Allgaier (130.572) and Justin Haley (130.506).

The second and final Xfinity practice session will run later this afternoon from 5:05 to 5:55 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full practice speed chart.

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Zane Smith to make Xfinity debut in Las Vegas

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Zane Smith sat atop the pit box for JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet during last Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Atlanta when his phone started “blowing up.”

The gist of the messages barraging the 19-year-old who was a week away from making his Xfinity Series debut?

“Hey, Jimmie Johnson just gave you a huge shout out.”

The seven-time Cup champion was serving as an analyst on Fox Sports 1’s broadcast and had brought up Smith. The mention meant a lot to Smith, who “always looked up” to Johnson, a fellow California native.

“It’s kind of hard not to look up to him,” Smith told NBC Sports. “We kind of come from the same backgrounds. Our dads worked in off-road racing and come from nothing. I always have weird Déjà vu with him. I say that a lot, but it trips me out all the time. If I can be half the dude he can be I’ll be happy. ”

The New Guy

Of the six drivers slated to drive JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet this year in the Xfinity Series, Smith is not like the others.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Jeb Burton, Ryan Preece and Ryan Truex are all veterans with 56 or more starts across NASCAR’s three national series.

Smith, a member of the 2018-19 NASCAR Next class, has only one Gander Outdoor Truck Series start and will make his Xfinity debut today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

A winner of four Menards ARCA Series races, Smith said he entered this weekend “super focused.”

“I was actually just talking to my dad (Mike) about it,” Smith said.  “It’s crazy how we’ve gotten this far and really everyone that’s got me to this point.”

A native of Huntington Beach, California, Smith has competed since he was a 3-year-old riding a BMX bike.

After making the switch go karts, he steadily moved up the ranks, racing in Legends cars, Super Late Models and ARCA before making his only Truck Series start last June at Gateway Motorsports Park. He finished fifth for DGR-Crosley.

“We won’t move up until I win everything you kind of can. Or if you don’t win, you put yourself in contention to,” Smith said.

So why move to Xfinity after just one impressive Truck Series start?

“In my opinion, and a lot of people will kind of tell you as well, is that the Truck Series can kind of teach you bad habits,” Smith said. “I’ve kind of watched that from a lot of people. I feel like the Truck Series is kind of on its own. They just drive different from the rest. I totally agree if you have the money or the backing to go do a full year of trucks, absolutely I would first. But with my situation I can’t do that.”

Smith’s situation is a group of dedicated investors who have backed him since his go-kart days.

“It’s more than just slapping your logo on a side of a car,” Smith said. “They’re trying to get me to the top-level (Cup) and then I pay them back.”

The major investors in the group consist of Roy Debhan of ProAm Racing, Tim Casey of La Paz Margarita Mix and La Paz Racing and former Truck Series team owner Jimmy Smith.

He’s also received support from the Herbst family, which operates Herbst Smith Fabrication and whose Terrible Herbst Motorsports odd-road team his father manages.

“We had to figure out how to get to the race track when I was in go karts when a race weekend would cost a couple grand,” said Smith.  “Now it’s a couple hundred. It’s tough getting to the race track and a lot of fans I think needed to be educated on that no matter who you are you’re going to have to pay.”

Next Chapter

After a 2018 season where Smith finished second in the ARCA point standings, Smith landed at JR Motorsports for a tentative eight-race schedule after a deal with GMS Racing failed to come together.

After Las Vegas, he’s set to compete at Bristol Motor Speedway (April 6), Richmond Raceway (April 12 and Sept. 20), Dover International Speedway (May 4 and Oct. 5) and Iowa Speedway (June 16 and July 27).

Zane Smith during the Jan. 31 test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Smith got his feet wet on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 during the Las Vegas test. While the focus of the test was on the Cup Series and its new rules package, Smith was among four Xfinity rookies who took part.

Smith said he was the fastest of the Xfinity drivers.

“I felt super comfortable in it,” Smith said. “In my opinion, if you’re good enough to run with these guys you should be able to hop in anything and be fast in it.”

While he spent the first two race weekends shadowing the No. 8 team as Elliott and Preece drove it, Smith said he’s been leaning the most on teammate Justin Allgaier.

“He’s like the nicest person you’ll meet off the race track and he’s a badass on the track,” Smith said. “He’s kind of confusing honestly. I don’t know how to explain it. Really, whatever you need to ask him, he’s going to answer it for you. Definitely seems like one of the best teammates you’ll ever have.”

Saturday will see Smith will get to show off all he’s picked up from his teammates in the last month.

Roughly 70 family members, friends and investors in his racing future will be in attendance.

“I’ve got zero expectations,” Smith said. “Just to make the most out of it.”

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Preliminary Daytona 500 entry list released

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Forty-two cars are on the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 17 Daytona 500.

NASCAR released the entry list Wednesday night.

Among those on the entry list are: Casey Mears (No. 27, Germain Racing), Reigning Xfinity champion Tyler Reddick (No. 31, Richard Childress Racing), Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Beard Motorsports), Joey Gase (No. 66, Motorsports Business Management), Ryan Truex (No. 71, Tommy Baldwin Racing) and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman (No. 96, Gaunt Brothers Racing).

Click here for Daytona 500 entry list

MORE: Full Daytona Speedweeks schedule