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Matt DiBenedetto fastest in final Cup practice at Bristol

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Matt DiBenedetto claimed the fastest single lap in the Cup Series’ final practice session Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

DiBenedetto posted a top speed of 128.848 mph around the half-mile track.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (128.245 mph), Aric Almirola (128.228), Chase Elliott (128.219) and Alex Bowman (128.168).

Blaney had the best five and 10-lap averages (125.660 mph). Erik Jones and DiBenedetto followed in the 10-lap category.

Joey Logano recorded the most laps in the session with 116.

Click here for the speed chart.

The red flag was displayed with eight minutes left for fluid put on the track by Blaney, whose power steering pump failed.

After cleanup was completed the session was extended by 12 minutes.

Front Row Motorsports’ Matt Tifft was relieved for final practice by Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe after Tifft experienced symptom of vertigo during first practice. Tifft will be reevaluated before qualifying.

 

David Ragan stepping back from driving full time after 2019 season

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After 13 consecutive seasons in NASCAR’s premier series, David Ragan will make 2019 his last as a full-time driver.

In a release Wednesday morning from Front Row Motorsports, Ragan, 33, said he will continue to race part time in NASCAR.

“I’ve prayed and heavily considered this decision, but for myself and my family, I believe this is the right thing to do,” the No. 38 Ford driver said. “I am a husband and a father to two young girls first, and I am a driver second.

“To compete in what I consider the greatest series in the world, you need full dedication of your time and focus. My children are growing up quickly, and I want to concentrate my time in being the best father and husband I can be. I feel this is where God is leading my life, and therefore I’m making this decision.”

Ragan later posted a video on Twitter explaining his decision.

Ragan’s rookie Cup season was in 2007 with Roush Fenway Racing. He scored his first Cup victory in the No. 6 Ford with Roush in the July 2, 2011 race at Daytona International Speedway.

He won again on May 5, 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway, delivering the first win for Front Row (which he joined in 2012) in one of the biggest NASCAR upsets in recent history.

Ragan also drove for Joe Gibbs Racing (as a fill-in for Kyle Busch) and Michael Waltrip Racing in 2015 and BK Racing in 2016.

Front Row Motorsports, which also fields cars for Michael McDowell and Matt Tifft, plans to field the No. 38 next season and has begun evaluating candidates to replace Ragan in 2020.

In 457 Cup starts, Ragan has two wins, 15 top fives and 40 top 10s. He finished a career-best 13th in the 2008 points standings.

Over 107 Xfinity starts, he has two wins (Talladega Superspeedway and Bristol Motor Speedway, both in 2009), 17 top fives and 49 top 10s.

Here’s the release from Front Row:

MOORESVILLE N.C. (August 14, 2019) – David Ragan and Front Row Motorsports announced today that Ragan will step away from full-time NASCAR competition after this season.  Ragan will continue to race on a part-time basis in NASCAR and other series at his desire.

Ragan, 33, began competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2007 with Roush Fenway Racing after finding success in the now NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.  He has 457 starts in the premier Cup Series heading into this weekend’s race with a total of two wins, 40 Top-10 and 15 Top-five finishes.  Ragan’s last Cup win was the first for Front Row Motorsports.  He also has two poles in the Cup series.

These stats accompany two wins in the Xfinity Series and one win the ARCA Menards Series.  In addition, Ragan was the 2007 NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year.

A statement from Ragan:

“I’ve prayed and heavily considered this decision, but for myself and my family, I believe this is the right thing to do.  I am a husband and a father to two young girls first, and I am a driver second. To compete in what I consider the greatest series in the world, you need full dedication of your time and focus. My children are growing up quickly, and I want to concentrate my time in being the best father and husband I can be.  I feel this is where God is leading my life, and therefore I’m making this decision.

“There aren’t enough words to thank everyone who has helped me in my career and to all the fans who have supported me in this journey. It’s not over, but I’m ready to spend more time at home.”

A statement from Bob Jenkins, owner, Front Row Motorsports:

“We admire David for making what I’m sure was a very difficult decision.  We also commend him for his reason.  David has always put family first, and as a father, I understand what it’s like to not be at that game or big event for your child.  Throughout his time at Front Row Motorsports, David has always gone beyond what was asked of him- or even volunteering his own time to help grow our team.  Now it’s time for him to give some of that back to his family and we totally support that.  Our doors are always open for David and we’ll miss seeing him every week.”

The team will announce the driver plans of the No. 38 Ford Mustang team when ready.

Martin Truex Jr. to start at the rear at Michigan

Photo: Dustin Long
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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Martin Truex Jr. will make his 500th career Cup start from the rear of the field after his car failed inspection twice before Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.

Truex was to have started 15th in the 38-car field. The team also had an engineer ejected.

Also starting in the rear will be Garrett Smithley for a driver change. Reed Sorenson drove the No. 77 car the past two days while Smithley was at Mid-Ohio for the Xfinity Series.

The cars of Corey LaJoie and Matt Tifft will go to the rear for transmission changes.

They’ll join Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric in the rear. Both Richard Childress Racing cars had their qualifying time disallowed after failing inspection after qualifying on Friday.

Alex Bowman fastest in first Cup practice at Watkins Glen

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Alex Bowman topped the speed chart in the Cup Series’ first of two practice sessions for Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International.

Bowman posted his top speed of 125.888 mph around the road course in the final minute of the session.

The top five was completed by Kyle Busch (125.786 mph), Denny Hamlin (125.643 mph), Chase Elliott (125.623) and Kyle Larson (125.786).

Hamlin and Austin Dillon recorded the most laps in the session with 23 each.

The practice was stopped once for a Matt Tifft spin with 42 minutes left in the session. Elliott narrowly avoided colliding with his No. 36 Ford.

“I got really lucky for sure,” Elliott said. “I was like ‘Here we go, we are going to crash another one in practice.’ I saw smoke and at first, I thought somebody blew up, so I was like I’m going to get over here out of the way and hope to stay out of the oil. Then I realized somebody was spinning out and I was going to go to the right of him because I thought he was going to stay closer to the left. Joey (Logano) was stopped on the bottom and I think myself and whoever was behind me knew there was no way we were getting stopped before we got there. I had to decide last second that the left side was the only option if I could get there. Luckily, I got over there, but I don’t really know how.”

Click here for the practice report.

Cup starting lineup at Pocono: Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano on front row

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LONG POND, Pa. — Kevin Harvick will be starting from the pole position in search of his second consecutive victory in the Cup Series and the first of his career at Pocono Raceway.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver turned a 174.058-mph lap for his first pole position at Pocono, his fourth of the 2019 season and the 29th of his career. Harvick has finished second four times at the 2.5-mile speedway.

Joey Logano qualified second, his fifth front row start at Pocono.

MORE: Click here for the updated starting lineup after prerace inspection. and click here for the lineup by car.

Aric Almirola qualified a career-best third at Pocono, followed by Erik Jones.

Austin Dillon initially qualified fifth but was one of nine drivers who failed prerace inspection Sunday morning and had their speeds disallowed.