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Xfinity Series practice report from Charlotte Motor Speedway

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CONCORD, N.C – Tyler Reddick swept both Xfinity Series practice sessions Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In the final session he posted a top speed of 180.536 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

He was followed by Christopher Bell (179.946 mph), Justin Haley (179.485), Cole Custer (178.571) and Austin Dillon (178.130).

Chase Briscoe recored the most laps in the session with 58. He was eighth on the speed chart.

Click here for the speed chart.

First practice

Reddick posted a top speed of 180 mph in the first practice session.

He was followed by Custer (179.509 mph), Austin Cindric (179.093), Dillon (178.613) and John Hunter Nemechek (178.283).

Ross Chastain was sixth on the speed chart (178.083).

Rookie Justin Haley was seventh and recorded the most laps in the session with 26.

Mason Diaz slid and hit the inside wall during the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Christopher Bell’s car damaged by man-hole cover

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CONCORD, N.C. — There is a slightly different traffic pattern in the Xfinity Series garage this weekend after Christopher Bell‘s front end was damaged by a man-hole cover early in practice Thursday.

The splitter on Bell’s No. 20 Toyota was damaged by the man-hole cover, which is located at the end of the garage where the cars run through as they exit the garage.

Bell’s team made repairs quickly and he was able to continue. He was 10th fastest in the practice session.

As a result, NASCAR has placed traffic cones in the area to divert traffic around the area.

The man-hole cover that damaged Christopher Bell’s car (Daniel McFadin)
The traffic cones set up to keep cars from running over the man-hole cover (middle cone) (Daniel McFadin)

Shane Lee to drive for new Xfinity team with Circuit City sponsorship

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CONCORD, N.C. — Former Richard Childress Racing driver Shane Lee will compete for a new Xfinity Series team, H2 Motorsports, the team announced Thursday at Charlotte Motor speedway

Owned by 23-year-old entrepreneur and venture capitalist Matt Hurley, the team will be sponsored by Circuit City and will field Lee in the No. 28 Toyota with support from Toyota Racing Development. They’ll debut June 16 at Iowa Speedway with plans to compete for the rest of the season.

Circuit City, which is primarily an online store now, was notably a sponsor of Hut Stricklin from 1996-98 in the Cup Series.

“I grew up an avid race fan, my parents are from the Midwest and I’ve followed the sport very, very closely since I was a young kid,” Hurley said. “More recently felt like there was an opportunity to go into the sport and bring some of our invested brands back into the sport. I’ve really taken an interest in kind of trying to find a way in.

“We felt like now is the right time to enter the sport, to come in in a competitive way. … Felt like TRD was the right partner to help us do that in a competitive way.”

Lee, 25, competed in the Xfinity Series last year, making 13 starts in RCR’s No. 3 Chevrolet. His best result and only top five was a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway in October.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Lee said. “I met Matt at a couple races last year. We actually became pretty good friends and we weren’t really even working on a racing deal. Probably January or February we started talking about the race deal and wanting to get into racing. We sort of went from there and he got himself figured out and he really went down the line and hired some really good people.”

Lee will be paired with crew chief Pete Rondeau. Rondeau has 103 Cup races to his name, including as crew chief for Regan Smith’s 2011 Southern 500 win.

Rondeau also has one Xfinity Series win with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol in 2004.

“I’ve had a history of accepting challenges,” Rondeau said. “As we did with Furniture Row team, we worked hard and … it ended up flourishing into a championship-caliber team. To me this is no different right here. We have a good core group and I’m happy to work with them. It’s going to be fun and a whole lot of work at the same time.”

Tyler Reddick ‘happy’ with early Xfinity success, Kansas Cup performance

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Things are going well for Tyler Reddick in 2019.

While he hasn’t been flashy about it, the Richard Childress Racing driver leads the Xfinity Series standings almost a third of the way through in his attempt to defend his series championship.

The first 10 races have been a stark contrast to his 2018 campaign, which ended in the championship. Reddick has a series-leading eight top fives, two more than Christopher Bell. Last year, when Reddick had just seven top fives all season, he didn’t earn his second until race No. 10 at Dover.

The only similarity to last year is his lone win has come at a superspeedway (Talladega).

“I wouldn’t say I expected it to be quite as smooth sailing as it has been,” Reddick told NBC Sports while in Philadelphia for a Xfinity Series promotion. “But I knew we had the capability of being as fast as we have been. For us to have the two bad races I would say, possibly three if you count Richmond, and still be running like we are and be where we are in points and all those things. It’s been pretty crazy honestly.

“I wish we had a win or two more along the way. To have a win, to be locked in and leading the points overall and have an average finish of (4.7) right now is pretty good so far for the first bit of the year. I’m happy.”

Reddick didn’t stay still during the first of two straight off weeks for the Xfinity Series.

He made his second career Cup Series start last weekend at Kansas Speedway, again driving RCR’s No. 31 Chevrolet.

After qualifying 30th in a car set up for the race, Reddick started 21st because many of the 11 cars that failed inspection and lost their starting spot were in front of him.

“The leaders could get away from us pretty early and we wouldn’t be able to match their lap times until about 25 laps into a run,” Reddick said. “So it kind of put us in a bad spot there. Throughout the race at times we could stay in the top 15, kind of linger right there.”

The team got a boost when a caution came out in the middle of green flag stops on Lap 219, leaving Reddick and six other drivers on the lead lap.

That allowed Reddick to restart in the top 10, where he’d stay the remainder of the race, running as high as the top five before settling for ninth.

“I think we still could have had a shot at running top 10 without that (caution),” Reddick said. “To ultimately get in the spot where we were and almost get to third place, fourth place after one of those restarts. It was a really good feeling. I was ashamed the next restart I threw it all away, just had a mistake and lost it. To still finish ninth after the issues we had on the restart and to bounce back from that, that was really cool.”

Reddick will return to Kansas in the Xfinity Series in October during the playoffs. But due to the Cup Series rules package, Reddick says nothing he experienced Saturday will translate back to his full-time ride.

“They couldn’t be any more different right now than they are at this moment,” Reddick said. “Everything that you know and teach yourself in Xfinity you pretty much have to throw it all away and disregard it when you step into a Cup car.

Reddick added, “It’s quite unreal to be honest with you how much different they are.”

The next three Xfinity races see the series visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway.

After his stellar start, Reddick isn’t too enthusiastic about the next stretch.

“Those are all really bad tracks for me,” Reddick said. “I’ve never ran Pocono with what the Xfinity cars are now. We ran the drag duct race there (in 2018 and finished ninth). My first time there at Michigan was with Chip Ganassi Racing (in 2017 and finished 13th). We had good speed but I just wasn’t quite comfortable in race cars yet, especially at a 2-mile race track. …

“Charlotte’s a place I’ve had a lot of rough luck at (finishes of 10th and 23rd). I don’t even think of Charlotte as a mile-and-a-half, but it is. Hopefully, I was hearing it was going to be 94 degrees. I’m hoping it’s really, really hot and really, really slick. It might work out OK for us. So I’d say Charlotte is the one I’m looking to the most.”

Through 10 races Reddick’s main competition in defending his title would appear to be Bell and Cole Custer, who have three wins and two wins respectively.

But Reddick is keeping his head up when it comes to one other driver.

“Definitely as we get into the summer stretch you can’t forget about Justin Allgaier,” Reddick cautioned. “He’ll run really good at the short tracks. He’ll be really good at the road courses. You can’t ever forget about him.”

Allgaier has four top fives this season and is coming off a runner-up finish at Dover and a third-place finish two races before that at Richmond.

“Trying to forget about him is exactly when we’re going to get in trouble and that’s when he’s going to pop his head back into the race and make himself known. He’s had some really bad luck but you definitely can’t rule him out.”

Gray Gaulding ready to gamble for $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus at Dover

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Gray Gaulding is clear what Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway represents to him.

Of the four drivers who will compete for the last of four $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prizes, Gaulding has more to win and lose.

“We’ve got a 1-in-4 chance to win $100,000,” Gaulding told NBC Sports. “For the Tyler Reddicks and the Chris Bells and Chase Briscoes, yeah, I’m not throwing any shade at them. If they win it, that’s great.

“But realistically, if they don’t win it, it’s not going to hurt the performance of their car. With us, if we win it, we’re putting that right back into our race team.”

Gaulding, who drives SS Green Light Racing’s No. 08 Chevrolet, is one of the unlikeliest drivers to get the chance to compete for the $100,00 prize.

Among the drivers to take part in the four Dash 4 Cash races this year, he’s the only one who doesn’t compete for Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing or JR Motorsports.

The underdog shot at the prize is a result of Gaulding’s second-place finish last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

It was Gaulding’s first top five in 84 starts across NASCAR’s three national series. It was also the best finish for team owner Bobby Dotter in 172 Xfinity starts since 1995.

“We need that money to keep running the way we’ve been running to make it all work,” Gaulding said. “I feel like for us it’s more of a ‘must go win it’ than the other three guys.

“I think I kind of have an edge on them as far as doing whatever it takes to win the hundred grand. If I have to bump somebody out of the way to win the hundred grand for 20th place, I’m going to bump them out of the way. That’s just how hungry we are to make this happen. We have a lot on the line this weekend.”

While Gaulding’s late-race surge at Talladega to finish behind Reddick may have been surprising, Gaulding’s team has been consistent through 10 races. After a 34th-place finish at Daytona, Gaulding hasn’t finished worse than 21st and has three top 15s.

Before the season began, Gaulding made a promise to Dotter, who he has known since he first moved to North Carolina as a kid.

“I’m going to be your best salesman this year,” Gaulding said. “I’m going to show people with me driving and the crew members we have and how you own this race team, we can go out and not be a 25th-place team or a 30th-place team. We’re going do things with very little.

“Sure enough, that’s what we’ve done.”

They’ve done so with help from sponsors like Panini, a sports card collecting company. They sponsored Gaulding at Bristol after his father, Dwayne, made a cold call. After Gaulding finished 15th, he talked with Panini VP of Marketing Jason Howarth about keeping the party going.

“We said, ‘Hey, here’s the deal. If you can find a way to pull off a way to get me an engine for Talladega, we will go there and have a chance to win,'” Gaulding said. “If they didn’t do what they did for Talladega, we definitely wouldn’t have had the chance to win.”

Panini came to the 21-year-old’s rescue this week. When Gaulding’s original sponsor for Dover fell through, Panini returned as an associate sponsor. Gaulding’s primary sponsor will be World Wide Safety Consulting.

While Gaulding’s team will be able to afford a full set of tires, they won’t be able to lease an engine from ECR as it did for Talladega.

But Gaulding thinks the nature of Dover could be forgiving to the team despite its lack of a top-tier engine.

He also is hoping for an assist from Mother Nature.

“I feel Dover’s one of those tracks that if your car is handling well and your car is driving good on older tires you can make up for a little bit of a difference,” Gaulding said.

“If we were able to work some pit strategy and stay out and gamble on winning the race or just finishing in front of those other three guys to win the $100,000, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re gambling as much as we can on this race in trying to win that Dash 4 Cash.”