The Latest: Ganassi has spoken to Patrick about 2018 races
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on NASCAR’s championship weekend (all times local):
Team Chip Ganassi says he has spoken to Danica Patrick about possibly allowing her to drive for him in the Daytona 500 and Indy 500.
Patrick announced her retirement from full-time racing Friday but added that she will do the “Danica Double” in 2018.
Chip Ganassi Racing seems like the likely landing spot. Ganassi has room to field additional cars — he’s scaling down from four full-time Indy cars to two next year — and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Roger Penske and Michael Andretti both have full lineups announced for next year’s Indy 500.
Patrick will not be driving in the Daytona 500 for Stewart-Haas Racing, team co-owner Tony Stewart told AP. Patrick moved from IndyCar to NASCAR after the 2011 season, and has been racing Cup cars for SHR since 2012. She is being replaced after Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Aric Almirola.
“I met with her and her agent once,” Ganassi said. “I think it is a good idea for her to do, in fact I think it’s a great idea. The business-side of the deal still has to work.”
Ganassi already has Cup star Kyle Larson in his camp practically begging for a shot at the Indy 500. Would he enter one-off entries at Indy for both Patrick and Larson?
“I’d have to talk to Larson about that,” Ganassi smiled.
Denny Hamlin stole the pole for the NASCAR Monster Cup season finale, bumping championship contender Martin Truex Jr. out of the top spot in the final seconds of qualifying.
Truex was the fastest of the title contenders, qualifying just ahead of Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski was fifth, and Kevin Harvick was ninth.
“That was a bit dramatic,” Truex said, adding that he was a few thousands seconds away from a perfect day.
Hamlin reached 173.980 mph on his fast lap. Truex was 173.952, Busch was 173.930. Keselowski was 172.452. And Harvick was 171.876.
Championship contender William Byron led the final Xfinity Series practice before the title-deciding race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Byron paced the final session Friday, and he was well ahead of all his challengers for the title. The race begins Saturday afternoon.
JR Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier were ninth and 13th, respectively, in the final practice. All three drivers are trying to give team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. a title in his final season as a driver. They are up against Daniel Hemric from Richard Childress Racing. Hemric was 15th in the final practice. All four title contenders drive Chevrolets.
Austin Cindric was the fastest of the four NASCAR Truck Series championship race drivers in qualifying.
Cindric starts third, two-time series champion Matt Crafton is eighth, defending series champion Johnny Sauter is 11th and Christopher Bell is 13th.
They’ll be chasing pole winner Chase Briscoe.
Bell led the Truck Series in wins (seven), top five-finishes (14) and laps led (865). Cindric can win a championship for Brad Keselowski Racing before it folds.
William Byron was the fastest of the four Xfinity Series championship contenders in their first practice session Friday.
Byron was fifth on the speed chart. He’s one of three drivers from JR Motorsports racing for the championship against Daniel Hemric of Richard Childress Racing.
It’s an all-Chevrolet championship race. JRM drivers Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier were 15th and 17th in first practice. Hemric was 21st.
Danica Patrick broke down in tears while trying to discuss her next venture. Patrick says she will run in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 next year and then end her full-time racing career.
Patrick had to stop and compose her emotions and wipe away tears as she tried to announce her decision.
Patrick told The Associated Press on Friday it took her months to come to the realization that her career is over. The 35-year-old Patrick says once she accepted that then the idea of capping her run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway popped into her head.
She has been working on putting together “The Danica Double” over the last three weeks. Patrick would not reveal who she will drive for in either race next year, but the Indianapolis contender would be Chip Ganassi Racing.
Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500.
NASCAR championship contender Kyle Busch topped the speed chart in the first practice for Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch turned a lap of 172.695 mph and was followed by fellow title contenders Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Busch, Truex and Harvick all turned seven laps. Brad Keselowski, the fourth driver in the field, was 21st on the chart after just five laps.
Kyle Larson had the fastest 10-lap average at 165.012 mph.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran into problems in the first practice session of his final race weekend.
Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet had engine problems that will require a new motor before NASCAR’s season finale Sunday.
Earnhardt, who drives the Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, will retire after the Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Tony Stewart has enjoyed his first year of retirement.
The three-time NASCAR Cup champion kept busy running Stewart-Haas Racing and has driver Kevin Harvick racing for the championship Sunday.
Stewart has won championships as a driver and an owner at SHR. This is the first time in the Cup series he’ll be rooting for a title from the pit box.
Stewart has continued to run dirt track races and attends most Cup races. SHR won the Daytona 500 with Kurt Busch.
“There was one person over the course of the winter that told me this was going to be a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” Stewart said Friday. “I looked him and said, ‘You’re crazy. I already feel the weight off my shoulders.’ But as the year’s gone, they’re right. It has been a lot bigger challenge than I thought it would be. I’ve been busier than I’ve been the last five years.”
Stewart owns race tracks, teams, a sprint car series and did what he wanted this year in NASCAR on his own terms.
Martin Truex Jr. will have his race team owner cheering him on from afar.
Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser is sidelined in Colorado, recovering from surgery and unable to travel after suffering his own heart attack a week ago.
“I am linked together with text messages with him,” FRR president Joe Garone said. “It was a tough operation. It’s going to take time to where he can move around.”
Garone said Visser will likely watch from his home.
The Denver-based Furniture Row runs its final race as a two-car operation. Erik Jones will move to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 and FRR will continue to run with Truex.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he’s at peace with his decision to retire.
Earnhardt is calling it a career after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt says he’s been touched by the well-wishes and video tributes in his honor. The 14-time winner of NASCAR’s most popular driver award says he’s healthy and hopes to finish the race on his terms.
“It would be a bit of a heartbreaker if we have the kind of issue that would take us out of an event and we couldn’t finish,” he said Friday.
Earnhardt is rooting for long-time friend Martin Truex Jr. to win the Cup championship Sunday.
“I’m Team Martin this weekend, for sure,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt was also set to pose for team photos with friend Matt Kenseth, also on his way out of NASCAR. Kenseth has no ride lined up for 2018
Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he would consider returning to Homestead-Miami Speedway next season to drive in the Xfinity Series finale.
Earnhardt is set to retire from the NASCAR Cup Series after of Sunday’s season finale. Earnhardt had committed to two or three races next year in NASCAR’s second-tier series.
Earnhardt won consecutive Xfinity Series championships in 1998 and 1999.
Defending Truck Series champion and 2017 title contender Johnny Sauter posted the fastest lap at 169.629 mph in the first practice of the day. Christopher Bell, also among the four championship contenders, had the best 10-lap average at 165.967 mph.
Austin Cindric was sixth and Matt Crafton 13th. Cindric, Bell, Crafton and Sauter are in the winner-take-all championship race Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Crafton is a two-time series champion, and Sauter won the title last year.
The trucks qualify in the afternoon and the championship race begins at 8 p.m.
Johnny Sauter signed a contract extension with GMS Racing the same day he was set to defend his NASCAR Truck Series championship.
The 39-year-old Sauter will race for the championship Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sauter, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric are vying for the title on the 1 ½-mile track.
Sauter says “to be able to compete at this level, where you know you could win any given weekend, is incredible and I’m excited to be able to continue with the No. 21 team next year.”
Sauter joined GMS last year, won three races and the championship.
This year, the journeyman won a career-best four races and has a shot to become the second Truck Series driver to win back-to-back titles.
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