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NASCAR

NASCAR Heads To Darlington Raceway For “Throwback” Weekend

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Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

DARLINGTON, SC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – NASCAR rolls into the oldest and toughest race track, Darlington Raceway, for their annual “throwback” weekend.

Teams, drivers and sponsors embrace the weekend and roll out cars with special paint schemes that pay tribute to NASCAR’s past and heritage.

The fight for the NASCAR playoffs is down to two races.  Four drivers are fighting for the final two playoff positions.

Stewart Haas Racing’s (SHR) Daniel Suarez sits in the 16th and final playoff position after an 8th place finish in the series last race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Suarez’ SHR teammate Clint Bowyer is in 17th position, two points behind Suarez. Bowyer has only one top-10 finish in 13-starts at the track.  He finished 36th last year and 40th the year before.

“We know how important these next two races are,” said Bowyer.  “Everyone in the sport knows and everyone will be watching.  We know if we run like we are capable of running we will be fine.  Now we just have to go out and do it this weekend at Darlington and next weekend at Indianapolis.”

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Seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson, of Hendrick Motorsports, sits 26-points behind Suarez.  Johnson has 3-wins at the track “Too Tough To Tame”, sweeping both races in 2004 and picking up another win 2011.

Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman currently sits 15th in the playoff standings, only 14-points ahead of 17th place Bowyer.  Newman has not won at Darlington but has 13 top-10 finishes and seven top-5 finishes in 20-starts.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr lead the championship field with four wins each.

Hamlin comes into the race with momentum after winning at Bristol.  The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota has 2-victories, 11 top-10 finishes in 13-starts at the track.  Hamlin’s average finish of 6.154 is best among active drivers.

“This FedEx team is on such a roll right now,” said Hamlin.  “We show up fast to the race track each and every weekend and I’m proud of what our entire team has been able to accomplish these past few weeks.”

Busch sits atop the series championship standings with a 39-point lead over 2nd place Joey Logano of Team Penske.  Busch has some momentum too, five top-10’s in his last 6-races.  Busch also has a series-best 20 top-10’s.  Busch has one victory at Darlington (2011) and has finished 11th or better in the last 9-races at Darlington.

The Bojangles Southern 500 takes place Sunday, September 1st at 6 p.m. ET.  Television coverage starts at 5:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and can be heard on Motor Racing Network (MRN) affiliates and on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

IndyCar

Racing Notebook – Ohio Racing Gets Red Flagged; New Series from Stewart and Evernham plus Weekend Winner Recap

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Steve Skarupa Photography

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Monday’s Pittsburgh Racing Now Notebook has details on new restrictions placed on events in Ohio plus Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham are teaming up to start a new series and we look back at the winners on track this past weekend.

New Restrictions On Events In Ohio:

  • The Ohio Department of Health has mandated activities to be limited in the state of Ohio due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictions are forcing Sharon Speedway to cancel this Saturday’s events, including the RUSH Late Model Series “Bill Forney Memorial”.  Sharon Speedway plans on resuming their 2020 schedule of events when the restrictions are lifted.

Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham Starting New Series:

  • NASCAR Hall of Famers Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham are teaming up to start a new racing series.  The Sports Business Journal first reported the deal, which includes former NASCAR executive George Pyne and sports agent Sandy Montag.  The Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) will feature six races on short tracks and will include top drivers from a variety of backgrounds.  The SRX will be similar in scope the defunct IROC Series and is set to debut in 2021 and will be televised by CBS Sports.

Cole Custer Gets 1st Career Cup Win At Kentucky:

  • Stewart Haas Racing’s Cole Custer picked up his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory Sunday at Kentucky Speedway winning a thrilling battle on the last lap with saw Custer four-wide with Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Blaney.  Truex held on for second and Matt DiBenedetto finished third.

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Chip Ganassi Racing Sweeps Road America:

Larson and Conley Take Sharon Speedway wins:

Saturday Winners At Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway:

  • Chas Wolbert picked up his second straight win taking the RUSH Sportsman Modified 15-lap main event. Keith Barbara picked up his first win of the season in the RUSH Late Model Dirt Series 20-lap feature.  Jason Fosnaught was victorious in the PPMS Pro Stock division.  Stephen Shelpman continued to dominate the Keystone Coach Works Hobby Stock division with another victory. Philip and Noah Bubeck were each victorious in the Four Cylinder and Young Guns divisions respectively.

Saturday Winners At Jennerstown Speedway:

  • Defending Track Champion, Teddy Gibala won for the first time this season in the Martella’s Pharmacies Late Model division of racing, becoming the fourth different winner in four events. Also celebrating in Stoney’s Beer Victory Lane were R.J. Dallape (Stoystown Auto Wreckers Modifieds), Aaron Van Fleet (Ron’s Collision Center Street Stocks), Dale Kimberly (Farmers Union Co-Op Chargers), and Evan Nibert (Somerset Trust Company Fast ‘n Furious 4-Cylinders).

Matt Kenseth’s New Colors For All-Star Race:

  • Wednesday’s NASCAR Cup Series All-Star race at Bristol Motor Speedway is going to feature a different style paint scheme that fans are not used to seeing on race cars.  The number and some sponsor placement is moving.  Here is a look at the McDonald’s Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 of Matt Kenseth:

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Local Racing

Thursday Night Racing Roundup: Cindric and Abreu Grab Victories

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Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – There was some action on the race tracks Thursday night as the NASCAR Xfinity Series was in action at Kentucky Speedway and Ohio Sprint Speedweek continued from Muskingum County Speedway.

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Cindric Wins At Kentucky:

  • Austin Cindric survived three restarts in the final 30 laps and a NASCAR Overtime finish to capture his first NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) victory of the 2020 season. The victory was Cindric’s third career NXS victory and first on an oval. The driver of the No. 22 Snap-on Ford Mustang moves from fourth to third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, 45 markers behind leader Chase Briscoe.

Abreu Gets Ohio Speedweek Victory:

  • Rico Abreu led wire-to-wire to pick up the Ollies Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 feature win at Muskingum County Speedway.  Abreu started on the pole position and led all 30-laps to pick up his 8th All Star career victory, two of which have come during Ohio Sprint Speedweek.  Shane Stewart finished second and points leader Aaron Reutzel finished third.
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NASCAR

Matt Kenseth Energized by 2nd Place Finish At The Brickyard 400

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Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Imagine being called to do a job you have done before but the equipment to do the job is different and you don’t have any time to get up to speed on the changes.  You just jump right into the fire with both feet so to speak.  It’s not an easy task for the most experienced but that is exactly what Matt Kenseth is being asked to do.

Kenseth finished second in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).  The finish was Kenseth’s best since replacing Kyle Larson in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet after Larson was fired for using a racial slur in an online race.

Kenseth said he could have parked the McDonald’s McDelivery Camaro in victory lane if he just could have got the car out front of the field in clean air.

“Our McDonald’s Chevy handled great,” said Kenseth.  “We were really fast. If we would have been up front, I feel like we would have been hard to beat.”

Team owner Chip Ganassi was happy to see Kenseth and the No. 42 team rewarded with a good run considering the situation they were thrown into this Spring.

“Obviously we needed some immediate stability and that’s what Matt has brought,” Ganassi told Pittsburgh Racing Now.  “He’s a veteran driver, he’s been to all the tracks, he’s mature and he understands what the needs of a team are.  He was the best guy available.”

Ganassi would’ve loved to have swept the weekend at Indy after Scott Dixon parked the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda INDYCAR in Victory Lane on Saturday.

“You just want to be able to put yourself in position to win and we did that both days,” said Ganassi.  “Yes, Matt was on the front row for last restart with better tires but we probably would have been better off third than we were second.  We were surrounded by those Fords and you have got to have a friend or two to help you there and that wasn’t going to happen with all those Fords.”

“It’s never been easy to pass at Indy,” noted Kenseth. “I don’t think it has ever been this hard in my career.  The horsepower is real low, they’ve got that huge spoilers on them, they’ve got a lot of drag, a lot of downforce and obviously the bigger the spoiler on the back the more the air is disturbed behind it.  You can draft up a little bit on the main straightaway but the biggest thing is that it makes such a big wake in the corner that it’s hard for the trailing car to keep any kind of grip to get a run, particularly after the tires get a few laps on them.”

Kenseth’s debut in the No. 42 at Darlington resulted in a top 10 finish but until Sunday the results following Darlington were a bit of a mixed bag.

“We started off and finished 10th at Darlington and I was definitely fairly rusty in a lot of areas like pit road and a lot of the little things,” said Kenseth.  “The second Darlington we ran a little better but I hit the wall, got a flat tire and got a poor finish.  It was just kind of downhill from there.  Nothing was going really well.”

It’s hard for teams to make improvements when they are not allowed to test and with NASCAR cancelling practice on race weekends in the wake of COVID-19.  Kenseth isn’t using any of that as an excuse.

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“It’s the same for everybody,” said the 2003 NASCAR Cup Series Champion. “It’s been a little more challenging that I hoped it would be for sure but I feel like the last few weeks we hit on a couple of things that seemed to help.”

“Each race, in a way, is a test session where we’re still learning about what he likes and doesn’t like in terms of personalization of the car,” said Ganassi.

The tide began to turn when the series rolled into the Keystone State in late June for the doubleheader weekend at “The Tricky Triangle”.

“Pocono didn’t knock anybody’s socks off as far as finishes but it was much better,” said Kenseth. “We ran 11th and 12th and certainly performed better as a team than we had previous to that and Indy was just a solid day all the way around and we were able to get a good finish out of that.”

“Some of the finishes we’ve had aren’t indicative of how we are running,” said Ganassi.  “But that happens in this sport.”

What Kenseth and the entire CGR team is looking for is more runs like at Indy, Pocono and Darlington.

“Whenever you run well, you build more confidence, not just for myself but for the team and everybody involved,” said Kenseth.  “Running bad has opposite effect. Certainly when you run bad, you never feel good about it. When you run better, certainly builds confidence. Kind of shows us all as a group that we can do it. I’m hoping we can just carry that momentum into Kentucky, just keep moving forward running up front where this team belongs.”

Kenseth hopes to continue what they’ve been doing to be successful because the veteran knows the ups and downs of a NASCAR season, where his sense of humor and quick wit help keeps things in perspective.

“Walking through the shop you think they are whispering, ‘got the short straw with this replacement driver'”, Kenseth joked.  “Certainly you have all those weeks where you’re running in the 20s with a team that we know is capable of running like we ran at Indy, that’s kind of tough on your ego, confidence, whatever.”

Ganassi, whose organization is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this season, knows what the team and the driver are capable of and feels they are still in the running to make the NASCAR Playoffs.

“By no means are we out of the Championship yet so we feel good,” said Ganassi.  “I don’t think there is anybody any better that I could have put in there or I would have.  I think he is doing a stellar job.”

The Quaker State 400 from Kentucky Speedway takes place Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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