NASCAR: Stenhouse tops final Bristol Cup practice ahead of qualifying later today

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With qualifying for Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race coming up later today at Bristol Motor Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has put up the fastest lap in Sprint Cup final practice.

Late in the 50-minute session, the Roush Fenway Racing driver zipped around the half-mile oval at 131.048 mph in the No. 17 Ford Fusion.

Defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson went second-fastest behind Stenhouse (131.012), and was followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne in third (130.869), Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola (130.780) in fourth, and Practice 1 leader Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing in fifth (130.762).

Michigan winner Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Bristol spring race winner Carl Edwards were sixth through 10th respectively in the session.

Final practice was slowed briefly by a bizarre caution that involved Richard Childress Racing’s Paul Menard. A notebook was left on the car and as Menard made his way through the Bristol high banks, it fell off and scattered papers everywhere.

Fox Sports’ Wendy Venturini later reported on NASCAR Live that those papers were actually notes from Menard’s car chief regarding the set-up of the No. 27 Chevrolet. The car chief had to go to the safety crew afterwards to retrieve what papers they were able to collect. Menard was 18th-quickest in the session (128.597).

Qualifying for tomorrow night’s 500-lap main event will go off this afternoon at 5:40 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Bristol – Final Practice Times

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.