Kyle Busch tops first Nationwide practice at Phoenix

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Seeking his eighth NASCAR Nationwide Series win of the year (and his fifth win in his last seven NNS starts), Kyle Busch topped today’s opening NNS practice session at Phoenix International Raceway.

The Sprint Cup star turned in a lap of 132.861 mph in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, enough to eclipse Ty Dillon (132.421), Erik Jones (132.193), Regan Smith (131.999), and Alex Bowman (131.796).

Busch’s NNS victory last Saturday at Texas helped the 54 camp draw closer to Team Penske’s No. 22 in their duel for the series’ owner’s championship.

The No. 22 currenly holds a 26-point lead in that fight, and in the 22 car this week is Brad Keselowski, who was sixth-fastest in this first session at Phoenix. Elliott Sadler, NNS points leader Chase Elliott, Brian Scott, and Chris Buescher completed the Top 10 speeds.

Elliott can clinch the Nationwide title if he can maintain his current 48-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Smith through Saturday’s DAV 200.

A 44-point lead over Smith post-Phoenix means that he’d just have to start next weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch.

The weekend did not get off to a good start for rookie driver Dylan Kwasniewski, who logged the 11th-fastest time in practice but also hit the wall hard enough to force his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports team to bring out the backup car.

A second, 70-minute NNS practice session will take place later today at 3:10 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Nationwide Series at Phoenix – First Practice Times

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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