Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Coca-Cola 600
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, May 27
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 5:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 600 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 100),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 200), Stage 3 (Ends on Lap 300), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Alsco 300
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 26
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Rattlesnake 400
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Friday, June 8
The Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250.5 miles (167 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 167)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
It Only Takes One (Lap)
Austin Dillon picked up his first career win in the Coca-Cola 600 last year, leading only two laps. Among them, the most important one: the last lap.
Since then he collected his second career win in this year's season-opening Daytona 500. This time he led the race only when most necessary - the final lap - giving him three laps led in the two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races he's won. Both races are absolutely stars of the NASCAR schedule and Dillon has firmly established himself a star as well.
Since Daytona in February, Dillon has led only four more laps - giving him five out front for the 2018 season. He has one more top-10 - a 10th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway - through the opening 12 races and arrives at his hometown track ranked 17th in the standings.
The 28-year old North Carolina native is as optimistic as you would expect a defending race winner to be for Sunday's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), however.
"I'm really pumped about the 600,'' Dillon said. "It's a long race for us and obviously coming back being the defending winner hopefully we can do it this year again. If fuel mileage is the way we do it, we will do it that way again, it doesn't matter, if we can get back to Victory Lane again this year it would be great.
"But, I've always felt comfortable here at Charlotte in any series I've ran. I felt like I have been pretty solid here in Xfinity and Trucks. Yeah, I'm pumped for the 600. Anytime I come to this track my confidence is high and I feel good about it," said Dillon.
Always A Contender At Charlotte
Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. has good reason to feel confident racing in Charlotte this week. He has two wins in the last four races at the track, including one of the most dominant performances in NASCAR history in leading 392 of the 400 laps (and 588 of 600 miles) to hoist his first Coca-Cola 600 trophy in 2016.
Truex led a race best 233 laps in last year's 600 only to finish third, but he answered with a convincing victory five months later during the Playoffs - one of four Playoff wins he would earn on the way to his first Monster Energy Series championship in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota.
Truex has five top-five finishes - including two wins - in the last six races at Charlotte. His average speed (160.655 mph) in winning the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 is an all-time record at the track.
Kevin Harvick is attempting to win his third straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 - which would match his three-race winning streak set earlier this year at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
And the 2018 season's winningest driver has some other milestones within reach this week as well.
Harvick is a mere 89 laps away from becoming the 15th driver all-time to lead 12,000 or more laps in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Should he reach the mark Sunday night he would be among rare company to have led that many career laps. Seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson (18,663 laps) and 2015 champ Kyle Busch (14,878 laps) are the only other active drivers to have led at least 12,000 laps. Richard Petty holds the all-time record of 51,695 laps.
Here's a look at the drivers with the most laps led:
Drivers - Laps Led
Richard Petty - 51,695
Cale Yarborough - 31,627
Bobby Allison - 27,344
Dale Earnhardt - 25,683
David Pearson - 25,159
Jeff Gordon - 24,936
Darrell Waltrip - 23,134
Rusty Wallace - 19,971
Jimmie Johnson - 18,663
Kyle Busch - 14,878
Bobby Isaac - 13,200
Mark Martin - 12,878
Tony Stewart - 12,819
Junior Johnson - 12,643
Kevin Harvick - 11,911
Additionally, Harvick - who won the Monster Energy All-Star Race last Saturday night in Charlotte - is aiming to become only the sixth different driver to win the All-Star race and championship in the same year. Jimmie Johnson is the most recent driver to do so - claiming both trophies in 2006 and 2013. Only seven times has a driver won both the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same season. Kurt Busch was the last to do so in 2010.
The Elusive Victory Lane
Kyle Busch still leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship standings despite Kevin Harvick's amazing roll of wins. And although Busch is historically quite good at Charlotte, it is the ONLY track on the Cup schedule where the 2015 champion has never won a points-paying race.
Busch's driving rating of 104.9 is second only to the track's all-time winningest driver Jimmie Johnson. In fact, Busch is second to the eight-time Charlotte winner in most of the vital loop data statistical categories (covering races from 2005-present) from average running position (8.019 vs. 10.069) to laps led (1,094 vs. 993) to percentage of time running in the top-15 (87.0 vs 77.5).
The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota was runner-up in the Coca-Cola 600 last year and has been second there three times in his career. He has four third-place finishes. His 16 top-10 efforts in 28 starts is second only to Johnson and Matt Kenseth's 20 top-10s among active drivers.
Making His Mark
Daniel Suarez' impressive runner-up finish to Kevin Harvick in Saturday night's Monster Energy All-Star race was reflective of the second-year Cup driver's work of late. He has raced to three top-10 finishes in the last four races. He tied his career best Monster Energy effort of third-place at Dover two weeks ago.
And the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway proved to be one of his better tracks during his 2017 rookie season. He was 11th in his first 600-miler in the spring and sixth in the fall 500-mile race there. His runner-up finish to Harvick in the All-Star Race non-points event last weekend at Charlotte was visibly encouraging for the 26-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
"Definitely a lot of confidence,'' Suarez said with a smile. "The team has been doing a hell of a job in the last month and a half, two months, being competitive, racing up front. It's been a lot of fun obviously racing in the top five, top 10 more often.
"I feel like we are on the right track, we are in the right line obviously to keep moving forward. But we have to keep working to try to get a little bit better. I feel like we are good, but we are not great yet. Hopefully we can get there soon."
King Of The Queen City
Jimmie Johnson is still looking for his first win this season, but the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion must feel optimistic arriving at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he has earned eight wins (four in the Coca-Cola 600) and five pole positions (three in the Coca-Cola 600) and boasts the best driving rating of any of his competitors this weekend (109.8).
He leads in all six of the primary statistical categories from average running position (8.019) to laps led (1,094) since 2005. Two of his wins here from the pole position (2004, 2014) have come in the Coca-Cola 600. He also won the fall race from the pole in 2009.
"The All-Star Race was fun, but this weekend is a different package, so that race didn't do much to help us prepare for this weekend,'' said Johnson, whose Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet finished sixth last Saturday night.
"The 600 is a long race, it's a test of endurance and patience, and you have to accommodate for track conditions changing from the day to the night."
First Time's The Charm
For whatever reason, the 1.5-mile Charlotte track has been prone to new winners. Ten times a driver has scored his first win at Charlotte - seven times in the Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Jeff Gordon (1994) certainly headlines that list that also includes Hall of Famer David Pearson (1961), 2000 Cup champ Bobby Labonte (1995), 2003 champion Matt Kenseth (2000), Casey Mears (2007), David Reutimann (2009) and Austin Dillon (2017).
Chip Ganassi Racing's Jamie McMurray got his first career Monster Energy Series win at the track in only his second race - filling in for the injured Sterling Marlin in the 2002 fall race at Charlotte. Buddy Baker (1967) and Charlie Glotzbach (1968) also tallied their first Cup win in the fall Charlotte race.
Charlotte Motor Speedway has been an important place in Kasey Kahne's career. The Leavine Family Racing driver has won four times here - the most of any Cup track for him. He swept the 2006 season races.
In the last 15 years, only eight-time winner Jimmie Johnson has celebrated in Charlotte victory lane more than Kahne. Three times Kahne has won the Memorial Day 600-miler (2006, 2008, 2012). Since 2011, Kahne has eight top-10s including his 2012 win and runner-up finishes in both 2013 Charlotte races.
Kahne is looking for his first top-10 since moving to the Leavine No. 95 Chevrolet team this season.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Queen City's Turn To Keep The Xfinity Series Different Winners Streak Alive
Ten races into the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season and there have been 10 different winners. Now it's Charlotte Motor Speedway's turn to see if the streak can continue and give the series its 11th different winner in as many races.
If a 11th different winner should occur this weekend, the 2018 season would solely hold the second-longest different winner streak to start the season in series history. Currently at 10 different winners, the 2018 season is tied with 1987 for the second-longest different winners streak to start a NASCAR Xfinity Series season.
Since the series inception in 1982, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has had 10 different winners in the first 10 races just three times - 1987, 1988 and 2018.
The record for the highest number of different winners to start a NASCAR Xfinity Series season is 13 set back in 1988; followed by 2018 and 1987 with 10 different winners.
The 1988 and 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons are tied for the series-most different winners for the entire season with 18 each.
This season's winners include Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Kyle Larson (Las Vegas), Brad Keselowski (Phoenix), Joey Logano (California), Ryan Blaney (Texas), Ryan Preece (Bristol), Christopher Bell (Richmond), Spencer Gallagher (Talladega) and Justin Allgaier (Dover).
Allgaier, Bell and Keselowski are the three winners this season entered this weekend in the Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Saturday, May 26 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that could end the different winners streak. Of the three, Brad is the only driver who has previously won at Charlotte in the Xfinity Series, three times to be exact (Fall 2010, Summer 2012 and Fall 2014).
Fury Race Cars To Make Debut, Enlists Driver Kaz Grala For Next Four Races
A well-known face in the NASCAR garage is returning this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tony Eury Jr., the famous NASCAR crew chief, has turned owner and in doing so enlisted rising young talent Kaz Grala to drive the No. 61 Fury Race Cars Ford Mustang for the next four races including this weekend in the Alsco 300 (Saturday, May 26 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Tony Eury Jr. and his father Tony Eury Sr. became famous over the last three decades working as crew chiefs at Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the Monster Energy Series and JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Now Tony Eury Jr. has been running Fury Race Cars in the Late Model and Modified divisions of NASCAR, but this weekend he and crew chief Shane Wilson and driver Kaz Grala are making their NASCAR national series debut.
"We are all really proud of what we've been able to put together in such a short amount of time," said Tony Eury Jr.
Grala is an ideal contender for the No. 61 Ford. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate is currently 19th in the series driver standings. In 10 starts this season he has posted one top five and an average finish of 22.0.
"I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity to continue competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series," said Grala.
This weekend will be Grala's series track debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Former Series Champ Chase Elliott Returns For GMS Racing
With driver Spencer Gallagher currently sidelined as he completes the NASCAR Road to Recovery Program, GMS Racing has tapped former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott to pilot the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This will be his first race in the series since the season-opener at Daytona.
Elliott, 22, will also drive the No. 23 for GMS at Pocono (June 2), Chicagoland (June 30), Daytona (July 6) and Bristol (Aug. 17).
Johnny Sauter took the reins of the No. 23 a few weeks back at Dover for GMS Racing and posted a top-10 finish (sixth). Elliott this weekend will look to continue to build on the team's recent success. Elliott's Xfinity career has been quite impressive, in 73 starts he has five wins, 31 top fives and 59 top 10s. He also won the title in his rookie season.
Elliott has made four series starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, posting a pole and three top 10s. His average finish on the 1.5-mile track is 15.5.
Elliott Sadler's Winless Streak Could Reach 50 Races At Charlotte
High atop the point standings mountain sits veteran JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler, 38 points ahead of his teammate Tyler Reddick in second, and 52 points ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell in third. While the points cushion is nice, it has been too long since the driver from Emporia, Virginia has visited Victory Lane. If he doesn't take the checkers this weekend, it will bring Elliott Sadler's winless streak to 50 races - the fourth-longest winless streak of his career.
Sadler's last series win was at Kentucky Speedway on September 24, 2016. This season, though he doesn't have a victory, Sadler has been very competitive. In 10 starts he has posted eight top fives and 10 top 10s (both are series-most); including a runner-up finish a few weeks back at Dover.
"I couldn't be more ready to get back into my OneMain Financial Chevrolet after the last few off weekends," said Sadler. "We've had a strong start to the season, so we're looking to keep that going as we head to Charlotte."
This weekend's Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway could be the race that ends Sadler's winless streak. He has made 22 series starts at 1.5-mil speedway posting one pole (2012), five top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 16.8.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Youth Movement Seem Quite Formidable
Joe Gibbs Racing is known for cultivating young talent in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and this season is no different.
The JGR stable has been filled with rising stars this season but the two going for the series title are Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Christopher Bell, 23, in the No. 20 Toyota and Brandon Jones, 21, in the No. 19 Toyota.
Bell, the elder statesmen of the two, leads the young JGR stars as he is currently ranked third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship driver standings, just 52 points back from the standings leader. In 10 starts this season Bell has already locked himself into the Playoffs with his win at Richmond. He has also posted three poles and six top-five finishes to accompany the win. Bell made his series track debut at Charlotte last season in this event; starting seventh and finishing fourth.
Bell's teammate Brandon Jones is having the best start to a season in his Xfinity Series career. The Atlanta, Georgia, native is currently seventh in the series championship driver standings. In 10 starts this season he has posted one top five and six top 10s. His average finish this season is a career-best 11.9. Jones has made four starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 13.0.
Both youngsters will have veteran teammate Kyle Busch to lean on this weekend as the Las Vegas native returns to the series in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Busch leads the series in wins (eight), top fives (18) and top 10s (20) at Charlotte.
Charlotte Welcomes New Series Winners
In the 72 NASCAR Xfinity Series races held at Charlotte Motor Speedway since 1982, 35 different drivers have won and nine of those 35 have been first-time series winners; including Alex Bowman's big victory last fall.
This weekend at Charlotte, among the 43 entrants attempting to qualify, 29 have yet to win in the series and only four currently have wins at the 1.5-mile facility (Kyle Busch with eight, Brad Keselowski's three, Jeff Green has two and Joe Nemechek has one).
The nine drivers to previously get their first series win at Charlotte are Harry Gant (5/29/1982), Darrell Waltrip (10/9/1982), Bobby Allison (5/26/1984), Tim Richmond (5/25/1985), Terry Labonte (10/5/1985), Sterling Marlin (10/6/1990), Mike Bliss (10/15/2004), Dave Blaney (10/13/2006) and Alex Bowman (10/7/2017).
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Wilburn Named Crew Chief For No. 7 - This week JR Motorsports announced Bill Wilburn, who has served as car chief with the No. 7 team for the past five seasons, will step into the crew chief role normally occupied by Jason Burdett this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"We're definitely going to miss having Jason (Burdett, crew chief) at the track, but I have full confidence in Billy Wilburn and this team. These guys have been working like crazy at the shop and I know we're going to have a strong BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevy this weekend," said Allgaier.
Burdett is serving a two-race suspension after an infraction was found during inspection following the team's win at Dover.
Monster Mayhem - Five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are entered in this weekend's Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway - Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott.
Owner Standings Update - Through 10 races this season, the JR Motorsports No. 1 Chevrolet team leads the series owner standings by 10 points over second-place Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota team and 13 points ahead of Team Penske's No. 22 Ford team.
Sunoco Rookie Points Update - Tyler Reddick leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by 14 points over second-place Christopher Bell through the first 10 races of the season.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
A First Time For Everything
It was a rainy and muggy Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and waiting was the name of the game for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Caroling Education Lottery 200. After multiple delays, the race went green and Johnny Sauter sure was glad it did. For the first time in his career, Sauter took home the victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
This win marked his third of the season and 20th of his career. It also marked the second race of his career where he won from the pole. The last time Sauter did that was in 2011 at Martinsville.
He passed Brett Moffitt on Lap 87, one tour before Josh Reaume's spin-out brought out the fifth caution of the race. From there, Sauter was unstoppable in his No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet. He continued on to lead a race-high 71 laps and increased his series points by 59 over second-place Noah Gragson. That also put him 65 points ahead of Moffitt in third.
It was his first win in 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Charlotte, so his excitement was more than overdue.
His best finish at the speedway before his victory over the weekend was last year, when he started third and finished second. Sauter's worst finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway was in 2013, when he started 16th and finished 28th due to a crash.
It was a long time coming for Sauter and all that was heard through his radio stream after he crossed the finish line was a lot of yelling and cheering, "We just won Charlotte!"
Sauter, who just celebrated his 40th birthday on May 1, has 228 races under his belt in the series with 20 wins, 94 top fives and 146 top 10s. He also has six poles and has led 2,135 laps.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is entering a two-week break this weekend before heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the Rattlesnake 400 on Friday, June 8 (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
What Will Sauter Do Next?
Sauter has become the sixth different driver in series history to post three or more wins (Daytona, Dover and Charlotte) in the first seven races of the season; joining Kyle Busch (four wins: 2014, 2011), Matt Crafton (three wins: 2015), Mike Skinner (three wins: 2007, 1996, 1995), Ron Hornaday Jr. (three wins: 1995) and Ted Musgrave (three wins: 2001)
In 1995, Mike Skinner won eight of the 20 series races and captured the championship. Like Sauter, he won three of the first seven races. None of the other drivers listed above went on to win the championship after posting three or more wins in the first seven races of the season.
Looking ahead to Texas, Sauter has visited Fort Worth 19 times in his career and has been very successful, winning four times. He has posted nine top fives, 15 top 10s and three poles. Matt Crafton is the only driver who has visited the track more than Sauter.
So far this season, Sauter hasn't started outside of the top ten and has finished in the top-five in every race except for Martinsville, where he finished 21st.
In 2017, Sauter had his career-best tally with four wins. Only seven races into the 2018 season and he is one win away from tying that record.
Season - Wins
2014 - 1
2015 - 0
2016 - 3
2017 - 4
2018 - 3
It should be noted that of his 20 career wins, Sauter has won the most at Texas, with four victories followed by three each at Martinsville and Daytona.
The Wheel Is His
NASCAR national series drivers are not permitted to drive on tracks 1.5-miles in length or longer until they reach their 18th birthday
But Todd Gilliland doesn't need to worry about that anymore, as the young racer out of Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, celebrated his 18th birthday on May 15.
Gilliland has raced three times so far this season and only nine times total in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He made his first appearance on a 1.5-mile track in Charlotte last weekend for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 where he finished 10th after starting third
This was Gilliland's first-time racing at his home track of Charlotte. Of the three races he has been in so far in 2018, he has gotten better and improved with each race. His first race was in Martinsville where he started 23rd and made his way up to finish 14th in the No. 4 Toyota. For the second time of his career, Gilliland traveled to the Monster Mile at Dover International Speedway where he started in third and finished in 10th, the exact same thing he did at Charlotte.
Gilliland has yet to post a win in his career with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series but for having only participated in nine races, he has made a solid name for himself. He has posted two top fives and five top 10s, meaning he has only placed 10th or worse four times. Two of those times were due to car issues with the suspension and transmission in his first two career series races.
Gilliland has only led one lap in his entire career, but it seems that could be changing as this season continues.
Gilliland's father, David, ran his first race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2005. In 2009, he hit the track two more times and in 2015, he ran seven times. In 2018, he has raced twice, at Daytona and Dover. David has never won a race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Todd is already put up better numbers than his dad in the Truck Series. David has one top five and four top 10s. Although, David has one pole under his belt from the 2018 season opener at Daytona, where he drove Todd's truck and finished 21st.
Texas Motor Speedway Quick Facts
Oval: 1.5 miles
Width: 58 feet (minimum)
Turns: 750-foot radius
Banking: 20 degrees in Turns 1 and 2, 24 degrees in Turns 3 and 4, five degrees in straightaways
Frontstretch: 2,250 feet long
Backstretch: 1,330 feet long
Fastest Race: 158.002 mph/1 hr., 23 mins., 44 sec. - Erik Jones (2015)
Slowest Race: 109.988 mph/2 hr., 20 min., 44 sec. - Ron Hornaday Jr. (2008)
Qualifying Record: 185.134 mph/29.168 sec. - Noah Gragson (2017)
Closest Winning Margin: 0.116 of a second (Tom Bodine over Mike Skinner, 2006)
Largest Winning Margin: 13.302 seconds (Matt Crafton over Justin Lofton, 2014)
Winner's Best Starting Position: 1st - Jay Sauter (1999), Greg Biffle (2000), Bryan Reffner (2000), Clint Bowyer (2006), Todd Bodine (2007)
Winner's Furthest Starting Position: 22nd - Todd Bodine (2004)
Most Laps Led by Winner: 140 - Ron Hornaday Jr. (2008)
Most Laps Led by Non-Race Winner: 133 - Matt Crafton (2016)
Fewest Laps Led by Winner: 1 - Todd Bodine (2006)
Youngest Winner: William Byron, 18 years, 6 months, 13 days (2016)
Oldest Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr., 52 years, 11 months, 21 days (2011)
Most Lead Changes: 19 (2011, 2015)
Most Leaders: 11 (2011)
Fewest Lead Changes: 1 (1997)
Fewest Leaders: 2 (1997, 2006)
Most Cautions: 10 (2011, 2017)
Most Caution Laps: 46 (1998, 2011)
Fewest Cautions: 1 (2015)
Fewest Caution Laps: 5 (2015)
Most Cars Finishing on Lead Lap: 24 (2005)
Fewest Cars Finishing on Lead Lap: 6 (2000, 2002, 2007)
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