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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.

NASCAR

Racing Notebook: Logano on Darlington pole; Allgaier wins Xfinity race and more

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Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

DARLINGTON, SC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – It’s NASCAR ‘throwback’ weekend in Darlington, South Carolina where all three series are on the track this weekend.

Logano Take Cup Series Pole:

  • Team Penske’s Joey Logano is on the pole position for Sunday’s 3rd Annual Goodyear 400.  Logano’s fast lap of 28.805-seconds (170.720 mph) was .082-seconds quicker than Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson’s 28.887.  Hendrick’s Chase Elliott, Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and B.J. McCloud did not make qualifying attempts after separate issues in practice. The green flag drops at 3:30 p.m. on FS1. Darlington Cup Lineup
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Allgaier Wins Xfinity Race:

  • Justin Allgaier beat JR Motorsports Noah Gragson by .259-seconds to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Mahindra ROXOR 200 at Darlington Raceway. In a 2-lap shootout following a caution flag, Allgaier quickly dispatched A.J. Allmendinger – who was on 16-lap older tires and drove away with Gragson in tow.  JRM drivers now have won three straight races in the series. Darlington Xfinity Results

Nemechek Wins Truck Series Race:

  • John Hunter Nemechek beat Carson Hocevar by .552-seconds in overtime to win Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Dead On Tools 200 at Darlington Raceway.  Wexford native Kris Wright finished 32nd after starting 21st in the No. 44 VFW Chevrolet thanks to an accident. Darlington Truck Series Results
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NASCAR

McGriff, Shelmerdine and Kenseth elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame

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Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Herschel McGriff, Kirk Shelmerdine and Matt Kenseth have been elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2023.  Mike Helton was also named the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.

McGriff’s first race was the 1950 Southern 500, in the NASCAR Cup Series’ sophomore season, at the age of 22. His final NASCAR race was at Tucson Speedway in the NASCAR Pro Series West – in 2018 at the age of 90. McGriff started 85 races in parts of 28 NASCAR Cup Series seasons, capturing four wins – all in 1954, when he finished sixth in championship points.

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Shelmerdine won four total Cup Series championships with Earnhardt (1986, ’87, ’90, ’91). Over his 16-year crew chief career with Earnhardt, Rudd, James Hylton and Richard Childress, he won 46 races and posted top-10 finishes in more than half his starts.

Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series Champion, scored 39 Cup wins, which tie for 21st on the all-time list and include two Daytona 500s, the Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600 and the All-Star Race.

The Class of 2023 Induction Ceremony is set for Friday, Jan. 20, 2023 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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IndyCar

Racing Notebook: Rinus VeeKay on INDYCAR Pole; Chris Buescher on NASCAR Cup Pole and more!

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Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski

The Pittsburgh Racing Now Racing Notebook gets you up-to-speed with Saturday’s Qualifying results for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda GP of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park and the NASCAR Cup Series DuraMAX Drydene 400 plus IndyLights qualifying, IndyPro2000, USF 2000 and NASCAR Xfinity.

Rinus VeeKay wins INDYCAR Barber Pole:

  • Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay is on the pole position for Sunday’s Honda GP of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.  VeeKay’s fast lap of 1 minute, 6.2507 seconds in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet in knockout-style qualifying edged Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward for the top spot.  O’Ward will join him on the front row after a best lap of 1:06.4003 in the No. 5 Chevrolet.  Defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Alex Palou will start third in the No. 10 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. INDYCAR Barber Qualifying

Chris Buescher wins NASCAR Cup Series Dover Pole:

  • Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Buescher is on the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series DuraMAX Drydene 400 at Dover Motor Speedway.  Buescher’s fast lap of 159.207 mph around the concrete Monster Mile was 057-second faster than Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.  Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott make up row two. NASCAR Dover Lineup
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Lundqvist wins Indy Lights Barber Pole:

  • Linus Lundqvist is on the pole position for Sunday’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama.  Lundqvist’s fast lap of 1 minute, 12.5713 seconds in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car. Lundqvist’s teammate Benjamin Pedersen starts alongside in the No. 24 Global Racing Group with HMD entry at 1:12.5929, just .0216 of a second off Lundqvist’s time. Indy Lights Barber Lineup

Josh Berry takes Xfinity Series Win at Dover:

  • JR Motorsports (JRM) Josh Berry held off teammate Justin Allgaier to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series A-Game 200 at Dover Motor Speedway. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs was third followed by JRM drivers Noah Gragson and Sam Mayer. NASCAR Xfinity Dover Results

Reece Gold wins Indy Pro 2000 at Barber:

  • Reece Gold of Juncos Hollinger Racing became the third winner in as many rounds of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with a dominant victory Saturday afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park. It was the second career win for the 17-year-old from Miami, Fla.  University of Pittsburgh graduate Colin Kaminsky finished second in the No. #27 Slick Locks Tatuus IP-22. “I’m happy to be back up here, it’s been a while. I needed it, the team needed it,” said Kaminsky. Indy Pro 2000 Barber

Myles Rowe snags USF 2000 win at Barber:

  • Myles Rowe started on the pole position and brought home his second consecutive USF 2000 victory, taking the checkered flag Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park.  Billy Frazer finished second and Michael d’Orlando rounded out the podium. USF 2000 Barber
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