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Hurricane May Blow Away Charlotte Schedule

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 6 2016
Hurricane Matthew is having a big effect on NASCAR's weekend in Charlotte. (RacinToday/HHP photo byr Barry Cantrell)

Hurricane Matthew is having a big effect on NASCAR’s weekend in Charlotte. (RacinToday/HHP photo byr Barry Cantrell)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – With Hurricane Matthew bearing down on the Southeast, NASCAR teams at Charlotte Motor Speedway viewed Thursday’s practice sessions as perhaps their only ones for this weekend’s races.

sprint-logo-08Friday’s Xfinity Series race and Saturday’s Sprint Cup event were expected to be completed this weekend, but there was a question as to whether the races would be run at night as scheduled or during the day if a postponement occurred.

“We’re going to have some rain most likely at some point between now and then, so Charlotte being sensitive to the sun being out, you have to understand what you need to look for to be able to race well Saturday night and that’s not easy,” Martin Truex Jr. said Thursday. “We’ve got good notes from last time we can go off of and we’ll definitely lean on that for sure.”

Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team decimated the field in May’s Coca-Cola 600 at the 1.5-mile track. In the series longest race, Truex broke records set in 1967 by Jim Paschal for the most miles and most laps led. He also set the mark for the quickest ever Coca-Cola 600 and a record for the event’s average speed.

Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch said his team focused on race runs first in Thursday’s practice. In fact, his Toyota was in race trim when it was unloaded at the track.

“We used a set of tires to concentrate on that and then we swapped over to qualifying trim,” Busch said. “If it’s a washout tomorrow, we’ve got what we’ve got. We’ll just have to go off notes and what we did here in the spring; what the 78 (Truex) did here in the spring. We feel like we’ve got a good baseline.”

Ty Dillon said the weather has left his Richard Childress Racing Xfinity team not knowing whether to prepare for a night race or a morning event.

“We’re going to put an emphasis on knowing what the car does in every situation,” Dillon said. “We always seem to be very prepared for anything that comes at us.”

Xfinity Series driver Brandon Jones said if the Drive for the Cure 300 was held Sunday during the day he believed the conditions would equate to Thursday’s first practice, which was “extremely slippery.”

“If we run at night, we’ll have a lot more grip,” Jones continued. “The setup we had in will be perfect. If we don’t, then we’ll have to work on it a little bit. It’s just a mind game. We’ll just have to see where the storm goes. Optimistically, I hope we get to run this thing tomorrow (Friday) night.”

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Austin Dillon described his advancement to the second round of the Sprint Cup Chase as “uplifting for RCR in general.”

“I had multiple guys come up to me in the shop this week telling me how proud they were and proud to be a part of RCR,” Dillon said Thursday. “They feel like we are doing a good job of putting the effort behind everything right now and really taking advantage of this opportunity that we have. Right now we are tied for first in the points. We haven’t been there all year long and this is just a great opportunity for the whole company in general.”

After last week’s Dover race, which concluded the Chase’s first round, the points were reset for the Round of 12. All 12 drivers in the second round, which starts with Charlotte’s Bank of America 500, possess the same amount of points.

“Luke Lambert (crew chief for Dillon’s teammate Ryan Newman) came up to me after the race and said, ‘Man, you guys are built for this just like we made our run,’” Dillon said. “I hope we can back it up and keep ourselves relevant.”

In 2014, the first year of the Chase, Newman advanced to the final round without a victory, gaining entrance into each round on points. He nearly won the season finale at Homestead and the championship, but was run down by Kevin Harvick in the closing laps and had to settle for second in the standings.

“Last weekend was one of those sink or swim kind of feelings going into the race,” Dillon said. “It felt like winning an Xfinity championship making it to the next round in the Chase. I know what it takes and I feel like it’s just going to be one of those things that is going to come to us, but we still have to perform when we have to perform. I love the underdog role because that makes when we do knock people out it’s going to be fulfilling.”

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William Byron is exiting his Kyle Busch Motorsports ride in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series to join JR Motorsports’ in the Xfinity Series next year, but knowing he’s losing the truck series’ top driver this year doesn’t appear to bother Busch.

“We have Christopher Bell already lined up for next year,” Busch said Thursday. “We’ve got another driver kinda in the works and then we’ll keep our (No.) 51 team as driver-of-the-week program with a few of them. I think we’re close to being able to finish some things up. We’ve talked to a few guys about the opportunity to drive fulltime in the (No.) 9 next year.

“William has done a fantastic job, so it’s going to be tough for anyone to come into that role and fill that void. Erik (Jones) did a really good job the year before. I think William has exceeded those expectations quite well, so maybe the next guy will be able to do the same thing. We’ll see.”

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Katelyn Sweet, girlfriend of NASCAR driver Kyle Larson, won the Better Half Dash Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Paige White, Brad Keselowski’s girlfriend, finished second, while Ty Dillon’s wife, Haley, placed third.

Sweet, who started from the pole, took the lead for good on lap 20 of the 25-lap charity race conducted by Motor Racing Outreach. She received $10,000 of which $2,500 went to MRO, $2,500 to Speedway Children’s Charities and $5,000 to the charities of her choice: the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Autism Awareness.

Motor Racing Network announced the event raised more than $70,000 for various charities.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 6 2016
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