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Eight Cup teams to be penalized practice Saturday at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Eight Cup teams will be docked practice Saturday for inspection issues at ISM Raceway. Only one team is a playoff team.

The cars of DJ Kennington, Ty Dillon, JJ Yeley, Jimmie Johnson, Timmy Hill and Tanner Berryhill will miss 15 minutes of practice Saturday morning for being late to pre-qualifying inspection.

Practice will be from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. ET on CNBC.

The cars of AJ Allmendinger and Berryhill will miss 15 minutes of the final practice session for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice.

Playoff contender Martin Truex Jr. will miss 30 minutes of final practice for failing pre-qualifying inspection three times.

Final Cup practice is from 2 – 2:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

Tanner Berryhill ready for Cup debut in last elimination race

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You’re forgiven if you don’t know Tanner Berryhill’s name.

It’s been four years since the last of his 40 Xfinity starts and three years after his one-off start in the Monster Energy Open.

Now the 24-year-old is set to make his Cup debut in Sunday’s playoff elimination race at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC), which will set the championship four in Miami.

Berryhill grew up in Bixby, Oklahoma, racing Bandoleros, sprint cars and midgets thinking he “would be Jeff Gordon.”

Like Gordon in the 1992 Cup finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Berryhill’s debut will be in one of the most important races of the year.

In the summer of 2017 Berryhill was contemplating making a “clean break” from NASCAR.

While he loves racing, being a “salesman” had come to dominate his time in the sport.

“That’s kind of what it takes to be a driver in NASCAR these days is to find sponsors all the time and beat the streets for that,” Berryhill told NBC Sports. “I tried that with my own team and I was carrying so many hats, it just didn’t work out and I got told ‘no’ too many times, it got me a little discouraged.”

Studying finance at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte – where he’ll graduate in December – Berryhill was about ready to embrace working for his family’s construction business in Oklahoma.

The years since 2015 hadn’t seen him completely on the racing sidelines. Berryhill competed in the Chili Bowl Nationals, late models and other midget races.

“I’ve been ready to go this whole time, just been waiting for somebody to call me to put me in (a ride),” Berryhill said.

The first call from Victor Obaika, owner of Obaika Racing, came in May.

Berryhill had worked on the team’s Xfinity operation last year helping put cars together and he and Obaika had talks in late 2016 about a racing opportunity.

Dan Stillman, who had been the crew chief of Berryhill’s family Xfinity team in 2014, was now with Obaika. Stillman suggested Berryhill be given a chance earlier this year.

Berryhill’s first shot at NASCAR in three years came in September in the inaugural Xfinity race on the Charlotte Roval.

“I was a little nervous to be honest to be going in driving it, but as soon as I got on the track I was like, ‘Oh, this is exactly what I remember,'” Berryhill said. “I didn’t have any issues getting up to speed. I feel like Lap 2 on track I was maximizing the car.”

But problems with the brakes on the No. 97 Chevrolet prevented him from making the field.

“I think (Obaika) was happy with what I did in practice, the way I held myself and whatnot,” Berryhill said. “Gave me another chance to come (to Phoenix) and do it.”

Unlike his first attempt to qualify for a Cup race – also at Phoenix in 2015 – only 40 cars are entered and Berryhill is guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup of Sunday’s race.

That race just happens to be the final elimination race of the playoffs as seven drivers will compete for the last three spot in the championship four.

“I understand the implications I could cause by messing somebody’s race up, and I’m going to do everything I can to not do that,” Berryhill said. “That’s not how I want to be remembered in this sport.”

Berryhill cites his career so far as evidence to those competing up front shouldn’t have to worry about him.

“I’ve raced 40 Xfinity races,” Berryhill said. “I’ve never been in a car capable of not going a lap down, to be honest. That said, I’ve dealt with leaders lapping me for 40 races. I have plenty experience of staying out-of-the-way, not causing trouble.”

Though Berryhill concedes he had a late-race encounter with Kyle Larson in the 2014 Xfinity race at Darlington, “which is in my opinion still ridiculous.”

Berryhill has consulted with drivers he’s close to on how he should navigate Phoenix should a tense situation arise, asking, “Where should I go to get out-of-the-way? Where is the best way?”

But Berryhill is “just focused on having a good race. Keeping a car clean and taking what I can get. If I’m faster than someone, I’ll go past them. It’s as simple as that. We’re racing.

“I’m not going to be dumb or foolish. We’re building this program from the ground up.

“You got to start somewhere.”

Preliminary entry lists for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks at Phoenix

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NASCAR’s top three national series head to Phoenix this weekend to set the championship field for each series:

Cup – Can-Am 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-eight cars are on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s race.

DJ Kennington is listed in the No. 7 car for Premium Motorsports.

Obaika Racing announced Wednesday morning that Tanner Berryhill will drive the No. 97 and make his Cup debut. The Cup entry list had not been updated by Wednesday morning to include that.

Cody Ware will drive the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing.

Carl Long‘s No. 66 team has withdrawn.

Click here for Cup entry list

Xfinity – Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 40 cars entered for this event.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

Truck – Lucas Oil 150 (8:30 p.m., ET Friday on FS1)

There are 31 entries for this race. Derek Kraus, a 17-year-old who finished fourth in the K&N West Series standings, will make his Truck debut this weekend.

Click here for Truck entry list

Here’s the starting lineup for tonight’s Sprint Showdown

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While it will have 14 fewer drivers (29 instead of 43) than a normal Sprint Cup race starting field, tonight’s Sprint Showdown will be as competitive as any points-paying race — maybe more.

After all, there are two prizes for the winner of each segment.

First, each gets to advance to Saturday night’s main event, the 31st annual Sprint All-Star Race.

Second, by virtue of advancing, the two Showdown winners — as well as whichever driver wins the Sprint Fan Vote — will have a shot at the $1 million first prize for winning the All-Star race.

Here’s the starting lineup for tonight’s Sprint Showdown:

source:

 

Paul Menard, Greg Biffle on front row for tonight’s Sprint Showdown

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With a field-best burst of speed Friday afternoon, Paul Menard earned the pole for tonight’s Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Menard covered the 1.5-mile track at a field-best speed of 189.673 mph, just a tick ahead of second-fastest Greg Biffle (189.660).

“Short race, obviously 20 laps the first segment, hopefully it goes green the whole way and we lead every lap,” Menard told Fox Sports 1. “We’ve got a real good race car, but all hell can break loose, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Added Biffle, “We’ve got a lot of confidence. This Ortho Ford Fusion has a lot of speed. Man, I just wish I hadn’t had to back out of the gas in 1 and 2. That probably cost us that top spot, but we’re happy to be on the front row here. It’s nice to qualify up front and hope we have a good run.”

The pole winner in the Showdown has gone on to win six different times in the history of the event.

David Ragan was third-fastest (189.049 mph), followed by Clint Bowyer (188.298) and Austin Dillon (188.173).

The Showdown is two segments at 20 laps each. The top finisher in each segment will earn a berth in Saturday night’s main event, the Sprint All-Star Race.

Here’s how the field stacks up for tonight’s Showdown:

1 Paul Menard … 189.675 mph

2 Greg Biffle … 189.660

3 David Ragan … 189.049

4 Clint Bowyer … 188.298

5 Austin Dillon … 188.173

6 Kyle Larson … 188.101

7 Martin Truex Jr. … 188.055

8 Danica Patrick … 187.996

9 Casey Mears … 186.981

10 Michael McDowell … 186.884

11 Chase Elliott … 186.323

12 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 186.233

13 Sam Hornish Jr. … 187.650

14 Justin Allgaier … 187.389

15 Trevor Bayne … 187.130

16 Alex Bowman … 186.400

17 David Gilliland … 186.226

18 Mike Bliss … 185.414

19 Josh Wise … 185.160

20 Landon Cassill … 184.989

21 Matt DiBenedetto … 184.881

22 Jeb Burton … 184.685

23 Cole Whitt … 184.565

24 JJ Yeley … 182.673

25 Michael Annett … 181.494

26 Jeff Green … 181.336

27 Brendan Gaughan. 179.271

28 Alex Kennedy … 179.259

29 Tanner Berryhill … 177.078

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