NASCAR notebook: Xfinity race washout forces Dover doubleheader Sunday

Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran

DOVER — Just when it appeared as if the Drive Sober 200 XFINITY Series race was finally about to take the green flag following an hour-and-a-half rain delay at Dover International Speedway on Saturday, Mother Nature had the last laugh.

The drivers fired their engines up at 4:33 p.m. and took several warm-up laps before a heavy mist turned into a light rain, forcing the cars back onto pit road just 10 minutes later.

Just moments later, NASCAR officials announced the XFINITY race had been postponed and will take place at 10 this morning, setting up an impromptu racing doubleheader with the Citizen Soldier Sprint Cup race scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

Four drivers — Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and Matt Dibenedetto — are entered in both races. The first three are drivers involved in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Logano’s Sprint Cup team announced shortly after the postponement that Ryan Blaney will race his car in today’s XFINITY race.

Anyone with a ticket to either event today may enter and remain in the grandstands for both events.

Dover sent out the following announcement, “During the time between the NASCAR XFINITY Series race and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, please be aware that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ticket holders have priority on reserved seats. If you have reserved NASCAR XFINITY Series tickets, please remember that those seats MAY NOT be available for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.”

“If you have tickets to both races in different locations, please make your way to your reserved NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seat location at the completion of the NASCAR XFINITY Series race.”

Gordon leads practice

Jeff Gordon, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Dover International Speedway while he recovers from a concussion, posted the fastest lap in a rain-abbreviated practice session on Saturday in preparation for today’s Citizen Soldier 400 Sprint Cup Series race.

Gordon put the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at the top of the speed chart by turning Dover’s high-banked, one-mile oval at an average speed of 160.514 mph.

“I’m just happy to do whatever I can to help the [No. 88] team,” said Gordon, who retired as a full-time Sprint Cup driver last season. “I’ve always loved Dover. It’s one of the tracks that I feel confident going to.”

The Citizen Soldier 400 marks Gordon’s next-to-last race as a substitute for Earnhardt. Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 Chevy in the other remaining races.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. posted the second-fastest lap at 159.610, following by Ryan Newman (159.419), Kasey Kahne (159.419) and Paul Menard (159.011).

Brad Keselowski, who will start from the pole position after rain canceled qualifying on Friday, was 22nd fastest with a speed of 157.020.

Sprinkles turned into steadier rain and brought out the red flag, bringing the practice to a halt, with 10 minutes remaining in the session.

The final Sprint Cup practice round was scheduled to start at 1:30 but sprinkles and a heavy mist kept the cars from getting out onto the track.

Stenhouse was happy he was at least to get some practice time on Saturday morning.

“I think the track time we got will definitely help,” he said. “It’s not ideal for our teams and crew chiefs and drivers when you’re trying to base the setup of your car off of the track conditions.

“It’s tough. You want to set up your car based off the end of that [last] practice, but you know that the racetrack is going to get worse than that and it’s going to build more rubber than that. So that’s what we’ve been deciphering back and forth.”

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