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NASCAR: Live from Vegas

Welcome to Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. It goes on our live blog Friday from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photos, tweets, notes and comments from drivers will be updated throughout the day.

And the morning starts with cloudy skies and sprinkling rain. Good thing NASCAR gave the teams an extra test day here Thursday. The good news is the forecast for Sunday looks clear and sunny.

-- Terry Blount

Smoke says patience needed

Tony Stewart said again Friday that everyone needs to take a deep breath and reserve judgment on the Gen-6 car.

"The one thing you guys have to understand when we built this new car, not one came with an instruction manual," Stewart said. "It's literally a work in progress. I think it's off to a great start and has great potential. Everybody is going to keep learning."

-- Terry Blount

Junior not surprised by fine

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said no driver should be surprised that Denny Hamlin was fined.

"We were told a couple years ago to sort of watch all the negative comments," Earnhardt said. "I thought it was clear to all of us to be careful how we said what was on our mind.

"[NASCAR officials] don't mind you coming to the hauler and talk about how to improve things. They are open to listening to that stuff. Who's to say that doesn't happen today? I think it does."

Earnhardt also said it didn't hurt his feelings any that all the Cup track activity was rained out Friday.

"I was kind of glad to see it rain today," he said. "We practiced enough, like 12 hours yesterday [6½ hours actually]. I'm ready to race."

-- Terry Blount

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Keselowski handed pole for Sunday

All Sprint Cup track activity was rained out Friday, including qualifying, putting Brad Keselowski on the pole for Sunday's race in Las Vegas.

The top 36 cars in the field are set based on 2012 points, giving the No. 1 starting position to last season's champion.

"It's a really good deal," Keselowski said. "I guess that's one of the perks being the [2012] champion in the first few races. This is the first time I've ever had decent starting position from a rainout.

Read the full story here

-- Terry Blount

Gamble on!

You can bet on almost anything in Las Vegas. One of the popular betting options this weekend is whether Danica Patrick will finish in the top 25 on Sunday.

Patrick would take that bet.

"Top 25? Yeah, I would bet on myself," Patrick said Friday. "Running here last year [in a Nationwide race when she finished 12th], I had even less idea what was going on. But this is a fun track. It's definitely the kind of track I feel most comfortable on -- high banked and high grip."

Through a complicated provisional system, Patrick has a guaranteed spot in Sunday's race no matter what happens in qualifying, but don't ask her to explain it.

"I don't know how the hell it works," she said. "Do you guys?"

No matter where she qualifies, Patrick said one of her favorite things to do on any race weekend is talk with young girls who want to meet her.

"Nothing can brighten up your day like seeing a 3-year-old who knows your name and wants to meet you,'' Patrick said. "Sometimes I don't know how they know my name, but kids are very impressionable. No matter how busy I am, I always try to make time to sign autographs for the little kids. It makes me feel good."

-- Terry Blount

Almirola enjoying the ride

Aric Almirola is one of the early-season surprises in Cup. He ranks 10th in the standings after a 13th-place finish in the Daytona 500 and a 15th-place showing last weekend at Phoenix.

"The core group of guys is the same from last year when we ran so well in the last 10 races," Almirola said. "So going into this year, I was more excited than ever. We've gotten off to a good start and proven that all of my expectations were correct.

"One thing we wanted to focus on this year was to not dig ourselves a hole at the beginning. That's easy to do and hard to stay away from at Daytona. Even though it's only two weeks in, it feels good to be competitive and be where we want to be in points."

Terry Blount

Air Titan still on sidelines

The Air Titan, NASCAR's new track-drying machine, is not in Las Vegas.

After Daytona, NASCAR officials took the Air Titan back to the Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. to conduct more tests on the equipment to see what improvements can be made.

-- Terry Blount

Danica hurting

Danica Patrick said she doesn't have a concussion from Sunday's hard crash at Phoenix, but she joked she might have one from Thursday night when a rock hit her in the head.

"I feel like I got a concussion last night when I got hit with a rock at the [Las Vegas Motor Speedway] dirt track," Patrick said Friday. "It's really sore. It hit me straight in the head and I went to the ground. Good thing I had a hat on or I feel there would have been blood."

NASCAR officials said there was no need for Patrick to get evaluated Friday at the LVMS infield care center because she was evaluated Thursday night when the incident happened.

Read the full story here

-- Terry Blount

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Speed check

In case you missed it, here's an update on the practice speeds from Thursday's extra day on the track.

Greg Biffle had the fastest speed of the day, turning a lap at 189.427 mph in the afternoon session. Jimmie Johnson was second at 189.142 mph. Matt Kenseth turned the best lap in the morning session at 187.396 mph.

The entry list has 44 cars in line to qualify later today, so only one team will miss the show.

-- Terry Blount

Mum's the word

Drivers already were in protection mode Thursday after they heard about Denny Hamlin's $25,000 fine for criticizing the Gen-6 car.

Clint Bowyer came in the media center and was asked about the car during an open test session.

"It's good," he said. "The car is good. Everything is very, very good."

That playful toe-the-party-line answer drew a round of laughter from reporters.

Jeff Burton was more willing to give a meaningful statement about Hamlin's fine.

"A little bit of an overreaction," Burton said of NASCAR fining Hamlin. "I'm sure everybody is a little sensitive about [the Gen-6], because in my eyes, this is probably the most work that's ever been done in trying to create a better car for the fans."

But Burton added that drivers "want to be who we are."

After finishing his comments, Burton chuckled and turned to the NASCAR official moderating the interview session and said: "I'm not going to get fined for that, am I?"

-- Terry Blount

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Family time

Burton also said it's possible crew chief Luke Lambert could miss the Cup race for the second consecutive week. He left Phoenix last weekend when it appeared his wife was about to deliver their child.

The delivery didn't happen, but Lambert will leave again if the birth appears imminent this weekend. And Burton was adamant about Lambert doing the right thing.

"If something starts, we're going to support Luke being at home,'' Burton said. "He should be home with his wife. If anybody questions that, I don't give a damn. Yeah, racing is important, but being a father is more important."

Ernie Cope would replace Lambert on the pit box if Lambert flies back to North Carolina. Cope helped Burton post a 10th-place showing last weekend at Phoenix.

-- Terry Blount

Treasure hunt

Hard to believe that it was one year ago here in the Neon Garage when Dodge unveiled its 2013 Gen-6 car, a very stylish red Charger.

As things turned out, it was much ado about nothing. Dodge left the sport after last season, a decision that wasn't made until a few months after the Gen-6 unveiling.

I wonder who has that prototype and where it's displayed, if anywhere. It might be worth something as the car that never was.

-- Terry Blount

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