Ryan Blaney, James Buescher top Thursday’s Nationwide Series practice sessions at Richmond

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Ryan Blaney and James Buescher topped Thursday’s two practice sessions for Friday’s ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway.

Blaney (pictured) paced the field in the first practice session with a top speed of 122.421 mph, followed by Regan Smith (122.388), Trevor Bayne (121.660), Kyle Larson (121.649), Ty Dillon (121.622) and sixth-fastest and current NNS points leader Chase Elliott (121.561).

In the second session, Buescher was a tick slower than what Blaney did in the first session, but still led the field with a top speed of 121.792 mph.

Bayne was second-fastest (121.518) in his 35th and last practice lap. Third through fifth fastest were Chris Buescher (121.365), Ryan Reed (121.212) and Elliott (121.027).

Blaney dropped from his top speed in the first session to 16th-fastest in the second session (119.495).

NNS qualifying will be Friday at 3:10 p.m. ET, with the race itself slated to take the green flag at 7 p.m. ET.

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Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”