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NASCAR National Series News & Notes -- Daytona

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Coke Zero Sugar 400
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 7
The Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: NBC, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (160 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 160)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Coca-Cola Firecracker 250
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Friday, July 6
The Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: NBCSN, 7 p.m.
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250 miles (100 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 100)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225
The Place: Kentucky Speedway
The Date: Thursday, July 12
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 225 miles (150 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 35),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 150)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Anything Can Happen at Daytona

This past weekend at Chicagoland saw the most thrilling last-lap battle for a win of the season. And now we head back to Daytona, where the history of the July Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is worthy of its own highlight reel (Saturday, July 7 at 7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Don't blink or you'll miss an exciting dash to the checkered flag. The last six races overall at Daytona have been determined by a margin of victory of less than a half second:

• 2018 Daytona 500: 0.26 (Austin Dillon over Bubba Wallace)
• 2017 July: 0.213 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr. over Clint Bowyer)
• 2017 Daytona 500: 0.228 (Kurt Busch over Ryan Blaney)
• 2016 July: 0.159 (Brad Keselowski over Kyle Busch)
• 2016 Daytona 500: 0.01 (Denny Hamlin over Martin Truex Jr.)
• 2015 July: 0.122 (Dale Earnhardt Jr. over Jimmie Johnson)

And, in fact, the track holds three of the top 10 closest MOV in the Monster Energy Series since the inception of electronic timing and scoring:

• Third closest MOV - 2007 Daytona July race: 0.005 (Jamie McMurray over Kyle Busch)
• Sixth closest MOV - 1994 Daytona July race: 0.008 (Jimmy Spencer over Ernie Irvan)
• Tied for seventh closest MOV (and closest MOV in Daytona 500 history)- 2016 Daytona 500: 0.01 (Denny Hamlin over Martin Truex Jr.)

Nine Would be Fine

The past eight July races at Daytona International Speedway have seen eight different winners.

2017 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2016 - Brad Keselowski
2015 - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2014 - Aric Almirola
2013 - Jimmie Johnson
2012 - Tony Stewart
2011 - David Ragan
2010 - Kevin Harvick

All but two of those drivers (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart) are entered in this Saturday's Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

If you toss in Daytona 500 winners, the last eight visitors overall to Victory Lane at Daytona are also unique winners.

2018 Daytona 500 - Austin Dillon
2017 July Race - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2017 Daytona 500 - Kurt Busch
2016 July Race - Brad Keselowski
2016 Daytona 500 - Denny Hamlin
2015 July Race - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2015 Daytona 500 - Joey Logano
2014 July Race - Aric Almirola

Stenhouse Jr. a Rising Star at Restrictor Plate Tracks

Some of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s best racing performances have come out of the two restrictor plate tracks - Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway - during the four total visits the Monster Energy Series makes to the tracks each season. His two career series wins and six of his 13 career top-five finishes have been at these two circuits.

As the series heads to Daytona this weekend for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), could Stenhouse Jr. be a repeat winner? After winning this race last year, he's set to hit the stage in his No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford on Saturday.

Stenhouse Jr. has visited Daytona 12 times in his Cup career and has posted one win, two top fives, and three top 10s. He claimed his second career win at the superspeedway after starting in sixth, leading 17 laps.

Stenhouse Jr. has raced at Talladega 10 times in his career and it was there that he won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in 2017, where he started from the pole for the second time in his career. He also has four top fives, six top 10s and one pole at the track.

Just One Spot

The most emotional driver at the end of the Daytona 500 in February may not have been race winner Austin Dillon but rather the driver who finished second - Bubba Wallace.

Richard Petty Motorsport's young driver started off his Sunoco Rookie campaign in dramatic fashion. After giving eventual race winner Austin Dillon a push on the backstretch during the final lap of the season opener, he finished second by a margin of victory of only 0.26.

Now, with 17 races down in the 2018 season, Wallace is looking to move up that one spot in the running order to capture his first Monster Energy Series checkered flag.

Since Daytona he has posted one other top-10 finish, crossing the line eighth at Texas Motor Speedway in April. But he led laps at Bristol, Talladega and Pocono - and has completed over 98 percent of the laps run this season.

Wallace does have a summer start at Daytona. In 2017, he filled in for an injured Aric Almirola in the car he would eventually inherit - finishing 15th in his first trip to the track.

The last time the famed No. 43 visited Victory Lane was in this race in 2014, with Almirola behind the wheel. Wallace is hoping the magic at Daytona carries over to get him his first win and a slot in the 2018 Playoffs.

Penske Drivers Look to Make Moves at Daytona

Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have also seen success at the two restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega.

Heading into the race this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, Keselowski has only one win at the track (2016 July race) but has also accumulated three top fives and four top 10s. But, he has had much more success at Talladega Superspeedway, having won there five times and posting seven top fives and 11 top 10s in 19 starts.

Joey Logano and the No. 22 team also have one win at Daytona (2015 Daytona 500), along with five top fives, and eight top 10s. Logano has three wins under his belt at Talladega, as well as six top fives and eight top 10s. Earlier this season, Logano won at Talladega after leading 70 laps.

As Ryan Blaney continues to prove himself as a young driver in the Monster Energy Series, his results at the two tracks have improved. He has visited Daytona International Speedway six times, posting one top five and two top 10s - but one of those top-10 finishes was a seventh-place finish in this year's Daytona 500. In eight races at Talladega, he's tallied a top five and two top 10s.

Season of Excellence

When Kyle Busch captured the checkered flag in the Overton's 400 at Chicagoland Speedway this past Sunday, he upped his win total for the season to five to match Kevin Harvick for the series-best in 2018.

This marks just the fourth season in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series history to have two drivers with five or more wins in the first 17 races:

2010: Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson
1977: Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough
1974: Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough

Looking to Repeat

David Pearson is the all-time winningest driver at Daytona in July, posting five visits to Victory Lane in the Florida heat. And there's not an active driver who's close to touching that mark.

In fact, of the seven Monster Energy Series drivers with July wins at Daytona entered this weekend - none of them have managed to record a second win in the mid-summer race.

Jimmie Johnson has a total of three wins at Daytona (Daytona 500 - 2006, 2013; July race - 2013) while Kevin Harvick (Daytona 500 - 2007; July race - 2010) and Jamie McMurray (Daytona 500 - 2010; July race - 2007) each have two wins at the superspeedway.

Aric Almirola (2014), Brad Keselowski (2016), David Ragan (2011) and Kyle Busch (2008) are the other active drivers with a win in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.

There also isn't an active driver who has multiple Busch Pole Awards in the July Daytona race. (Cale Yarborough has the most all-time July poles with eight.)

Kevin Harvick (2002), Paul Menard (2008) and Kyle Busch (2013) are the only active drivers who have won Busch Pole Awards for this race.

The First First

Daytona International Speedway has been a dream maker for several active drivers who either scored their first win or their first Busch Pole Award at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

Aric Almirola (2014) and David Ragan (2011) both tallied their first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories in the July race. Trevor Bayne, then driving for Wood Brothers Racing, scored his first career win at the Daytona 500 in 2011.

Kevin Harvick (2002) and Paul Menard (2008) are the only two active drivers to win their first Busch Pole Award in the July Daytona race. For Menard, it was his only career Monster Energy Series pole win until he led the field to green last weekend at Chicagoland.

Jimmie Johnson (2002), Austin Dillon (2014) and Chase Elliott (2016) all recorded their first Busch Pole Award for the Daytona 500.

Monster Energy Series Etc.

Florida Grown: 2014 July Daytona winner Aric Almirola is one of 11 drivers who have their home state recorded as Florida and have won at least one race in NASCAR national series competition - eight of those in the Monster Energy Series. And of those eight, only Almirola, Fireball Roberts and LeeRoy Yarbrough have won the July race at Daytona.

Florida Built: Daytona International Speedway has hosted 280 NASCAR National Series races, including 142 Monster Energy Series contests. Nine other tracks have combined to host the other 102 races, for a total of 382, national series events held in the Sunshine State.

Sunoco Rookie Update: William Byron leads Bubba Wallace 306 to 269 in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Byron has just one Monster Energy Series start at the superspeedway - this year's Daytona 500, where he finished 23rd. Wallace has a pair of Monster Energy Series starts at Daytona, as he filled in for and injured Aric Almirola in the July race in 2017. He finished 15th in that race before his runner-up finish in the Daytona 500.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Closest Ever: Xfinity Series Racing At Daytona Is Too Good To Miss

The last time the NASCAR Xfinity Series took to the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, it was a spectacle unlike fans had seen before. Not only was there great side-by-side action from flag-to-flag, but the race resulted in the closest margin of victory in NASCAR national series history (0.0004 second) with JR Motorsport's driver Tyler Reddick taking the win over his teammate Elliott Sadler. This Friday night's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona, the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250, has all the ingredients for another outstanding showing (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The best part about the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Daytona is that close finishes have been the norm. Since the inception of electronic scoring in the series in 1996, a total of 28 Daytona races have finished caution-free and every single one of the 28 had a margin of victory of less than a half second.

Below are the top five closest finishes in series history at Daytona:
MOV Winner Runner-Up Date
0.0004 Tyler Reddick Elliott Sadler 2/17/2018
0.007 Tony Stewart Clint Bowyer 2/19/2011
0.013 Regan Smith Brad Keselowski 2/22/2014
0.02 Kasey Kahne Regan Smith 7/4/2014
0.04 Joey Logano Jason Leffler 7/1/2011

Close finishes aren't the only reason to make sure to catch this weekend's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona - also watch for intense competition for the lead. Over the last seven Xfinity Series races held at Daytona, the series has averaged 65.6 green flag passes for the lead per race. The season-opener in February saw 78 green flag passes for the lead.

Six Pack: Six Different Winners In Last Six Daytona Xfinity Races

Expectations of who is going to win this weekend can be tossed out the window because in the past six NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Daytona, there have been six different winners.

The streak dates back to the July race of 2015 when Austin Dillon took the checkered flag over Elliott Sadler by 0.089 seconds. Since then Chase Elliott (Feb. 2016), Aric Almirola (July 2016), Ryan Reed (Feb. 2017), William Byron (July 2017) and Tyler Reddick (Feb. 2018) have all visited the famed Victory Lane at Daytona.

So, who is next?

Fury Race Car's driver Kaz Grala has shown impressive skill on the superspeedways this season. In his series debut at Daytona in February, Grala ran up front with the leaders and finished fourth - becoming just the 10th driver in series history to finish in the top-five in their series debut at Daytona, joining famous names like Dale Earnhardt, Sam Ard and Rusty Wallace. This weekend Grala returns to Daytona looking to add his name to the different winners list and get back to Daytona's Victory Lane - a place he got to enjoy last season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (Feb. 2017).

In total, 28 different drivers have won in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Daytona International Speedway, led by Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart with seven wins each. Of the 28 Xfinity Series winners at Daytona only three former victors are entered this weekend - Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Reed.

One driver who could end the different winner streak is Roush Fenway Racing's restrictor-plate ace, Ryan Reed, who leads all active drivers with two series Daytona wins. Unfortunately, neither were during the summer (Feb. 2015 and Feb. 2017). But Reed is always a contender when the series comes to Daytona. In his nine career starts at the 2.5-mile facility, he has posted two wins, four top fives and five top 10s. His average finish at Daytona is a solid 10.3 - series-best among active drivers with multiple starts.

Kings Of The Beach: JR Motorsports Is The Team To Beat At Daytona

Much like how his father's company, Dale Earnhardt Inc., found success at Daytona in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the early 2000s, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team has become the preeminent organization to beat when the NASCAR Xfinity Series gets to Daytona International Speedway.

JR Motorsports has won five of the last nine (55%) NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Daytona, including the last two.

The team's first win at Daytona came in 2014 when Regan Smith fought his way his way to the win, then his teammate Kasey Kahne backed it up with the season sweep when the series returned later that summer.

Former series champion Chase Elliott also grabbed a victory at Daytona for JRM in 2016. William Byron followed Elliott up in the summer of 2017 with the team's fourth victory, and Tyler Reddick brought home the team's fifth earlier this season.

JR Motorsport's Elliott Sadler will probably be the hungriest for a win at Daytona this weekend. The veteran from Emporia, Virginia, has finished runner-up three times at the 2.5-mile track in his last six starts. In total, he has made 18 series starts at Daytona, posting seven top fives, nine top 10s and an average finish of 13.8. Sadler is one of the better restrictor-plate racers entered this weekend, as he has two series wins at Talladega.

New Leader: Cole Custer Snags Standings Lead

Stewart-Haas Racing's Cole Custer has been a model of consistency this season, posting 12 top-10 finishes in 15 starts en route to the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings lead. For the first time in his career, Custer sits atop the series standings by three points over second-place Daniel Hemric and four points over third-place Elliott Sadler.

Though he hasn't won yet this season, he does have six top fives and an average finish of 8.9 - the best of his career.

Custer heads to Daytona this weekend with a ton of momentum mounting behind him, but the 2.5-mile facility hasn't been very kind to the young driver. In three starts at Daytona, he has an average finish of 24.3; including a career-best 14th-place finish earlier this season.

But don't think Custer's consistency could take a hit this weekend, because the Californian driver might have found his groove on restrictor-plate tracks when the series visited Talladega in April, as he finished ninth.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Doubling the Duty: Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Joey Gase, Ross Chastain, JJ Yeley and Ray Black II are all entered in both the Monster Energy and NASCAR Xfinity Series races this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Daytona Debut: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rising star Justin Haley will be making his NASCAR Xfinity Series track debut this weekend at Daytona for GMS Racing in the No. 23 Chevrolet. GMS Racing's No. 23 team won the most recent restrictor-plate race held at Talladega with driver Spencer Gallagher behind the wheel. Haley made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Daytona earlier this season, finishing runner-up to Johnny Sauter.

Sunoco Rookie Update: Christopher Bell has opened up the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings lead to 22 points over second-place Tyler Reddick. Reddick will look to rebound this weekend and close the points gap. Reddick won at Daytona in February.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

The Little Team That Could

Brett Moffitt's victory at Chicagoland Speedway was unexpected in more ways than one. Starting from the sixth position and battling with John Hunter Nemechek for most of the race, Moffitt was able to speed by Nemechek when he ran out of fuel as the white flag waved on the final lap of the Overton's 225.

This was Moffitt's third victory of the season and fourth of his career, but it's even more special considering his No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises team didn't have the resources to come to the 1.5-mile track until Fr8Auctions.com made a commitment to sponsor Moffitt's Toyota just a few days before the race.

"I can't thank everyone on this team enough and Fr8Auctions that even got us here this week. Tuesday, we didn't even know. They really extended a hand and helped us when we needed it the most," said Moffitt in a post-race interview.

As a small team that must take things week-by-week, coming out of a race that they didn't get to prepare for like they would have if they knew they had the sponsorship, a win is huge.

"We weren't even supposed to be here," said crew chief Scott Zipadelli after Moffitt won the race by 5.092 seconds over Ben Rhodes.

Moffitt and his teammates continue to do what they need to do each week to make themselves serious title contenders. Eleven races into the season, Moffitt is one of only two multi-race winners in the Truck Series, the other being former series champion Johnny Sauter with four.

"This is great. We didn't know if we were coming like you said. To be here in Victory Lane, it's an honor and a blessing. These guys work hard. I feel like we threw away a couple of wins this season. I hate it for the No. 8 [John Hunter Nemechek], whatever happened to him, but we'll take it however we can get it right now," Moffitt said.

Sauter's biggest challenger when it comes to the Playoffs right now could be Moffitt. Sauter is still in the points lead with Noah Gragson behind him by 65 points. Moffitt is in third place, down 85 points.

Crew Chief Spotlight: Scott Zipadelli

If it weren't for the hard work of crew chief Scott Zipadelli, as well as the rest of the team's positive attitude, Brett Moffitt would not have made it to Victory Lane three times this season, especially last weekend at Chicagoland.

Zipadelli, who was crew chief for Moffitt in 2016 for six races, has worked in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2015. In total, he has 79 races under his belt with six different drivers - Ben Kennedy, Jake Griffin, Brett Moffitt, German Quiroga, Matt Tifft and Ryan Truex.

He has four wins as crew chief, three this season and one in 2016, also with Moffitt. He has 23 career top fives, 37 top 10s, and three poles.

Like Moffitt, this is a career season for Zipadelli as both are gearing up for the Playoffs.

Six Very Different Tracks Calls for Even Tougher Competition

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has six races left until the Playoffs. The schedule will get very tough for the competition and the differences in the tracks will test the drivers more than ever before.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has a one-week break before they head to Kentucky Speedway on June 12 for the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 (7:30 ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 1.5-mile tri-oval with four turns and has produced a variety of race winners. The racing surface is 72-feet wide and there is a 1,600-foot backstretch.

Kentucky Speedway is a track that has produced many winners. There are only three drivers that have multi-race wins at the 1.5-mile track. They are Ron Hornaday Jr. (2006, 2009, 2011), James Buescher (2012) and Kyle Busch (2011, 2014).

Toyota has dominated at the track for the past five years. If a Toyota wins again this year, that will be the most any manufacturer has won in a row at Kentucky. A Chevrolet won every year from 2011 to 2013 before Toyota took over.

After a quick turnaround, the series heads to Rossburg, Ohio, for the Wednesday night Eldora Dirt Derby. Eldora Speedway is a 0.5-mile high-banked clay dirt oval. Since racing began at Eldora in 2013 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the dirt racing facility has accrued five different race winners.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will then head to Pocono Raceway, also known as the Tricky Triangle, for the Gander Outdoors 150. Pocono Raceway is a 2.5-mile triangle with a quick 60-lap race. None of the three turns are the same, and none of the three straights are matching in length. Each turn at Pocono Raceway mimics a turn from another track. Turn One was exhibited after Trenton Speedway because of its 14-degree banking, Turn Two (also known as the "Tunnel Turn") is like Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Turn Three is similar to the Milwaukee Mile, with six-degrees of banking.

From there, the series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the Corrigan Oil 200. Michigan International Speedway is a 2-mile, D-shaped oval with 18-degree banking in the turns that has produced 16 different race winners.

Teams will then head to Bristol Motor Speedway the following week for the UNOH 200. The 0.533-mile short track concrete oval that drivers battle on for 200 laps. Although this track is short in length, it is known for his distinct features and variable banking.

The Playoffs begin at the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. The track is a 2.459-mile, 10-turn asphalt road course that has fashioned five different race winners so far. Austin Cindric won his first pole and first career race at the track in 2017.

Sunoco Rookie Contenders Update

The 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookies are fighting week-by-week to prove themselves and capture their 2018 Playoff spot.

Taking a look at the standings, rookie Myatt Snider is currently the highest-placing rookie, sitting in ninth place. Dalton Sargeant follows him in 11th and Todd Gilliland is in 13th. Justin Fontaine is in 16th with Bo LeMastus is parked in 29th.

Snider posted one top five and five top 10s through the opening 11 races. He has led a total of 12 laps. Sargeant has two top 10s and has led 29 laps.

Gilliland has only run in seven of the 11 races, as he was under the age of 18 in the beginning of the season. Fighting hard each race to put himself in a Playoff-contending position, Gilliland has one top five and four top 10s and has led 64 laps, the most of any rookie in the series.

Gilliland has not started outside of the top 10 since the race at Martinsville. The rookie also finished runner-up at Gateway Motorsports Park after starting eighth.

Fontaine has run all 11 races and has posted two top 10s and LeMastus has only run in five races.

If the season were to end right now, only Snider and Sargeant would make the Playoffs for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

Owner's Update: GMS Racing's No. 21 Chevrolet took a sizeable lead in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner standings after three wins and two stage wins. GMS Racing leads Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 18 by 65 points. Shigeaki Hattori's No. 16 takes third place, only 20 points behind the No. 18. Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 51 holds the fourth position in owner standings and the No. 4 finishes out the top five, down 129 points from the leader. GMS Racing's No. 21 Chevrolet won the owner standings last season by seven points over Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 4.

OEM Battle: Chevrolet remains the leader in the manufacturer standings with 409 points and Toyota is right behind them with 399. Currently, Ford has 360 points. Chevrolet has six wins and Toyota has five.

Dalton Sargeant Honored Grandfather In Chicago: Lt. Commander Harry Sargeant was the name above the door of Dalton Sargeant's No. 25 GMS Racing Chevrolet at Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. His grandfather served 26 years in the U.S. Navy and commanded two ships, the USS Preserver and the USS Sailfish. He retired in 1978. The honor was part of NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola, a program where NASCAR honors and remembers service members and their families.

Noah Gragson With The Most Stage Wins: Noah Gragson may be sitting in second place in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings, but he has the most stage wins of any driver in the series with six. Those stage wins are keeping him in second place above Brett Moffitt, who has three race wins. Johnny Sauter, the leader in the points standings, has only two stage wins and Stewart Friesen in fourth place has three. Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes also have two stage wins and Moffitt, Christian Eckes and David Gilliland are tied with one each.

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