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.
“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.
Racing Notebook: Power Wins Grand Prix Of St. Pete Pole; Burton Wins At Texas; Robb Wins Indy Pro 2000
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Will Power wins the pole position for the INDYCAR race at St. Petersburg plus Harrison Burton wins the NASCAR Xfinity Series Race at Texas Motor Speedway; Road To Indy Winners and Carvana partners with Jimmie Johnson and Chip Ganassi Racing for their 2021 INDYCAR effort.
Will Power Wins INDYCAR Pole At St. Pete:
- Team Penske’s Will Power is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Power’s fast lap of 1-minute, 1.0369-seconds (106.165 mph) was 0.14-seconds faster than Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi (01:01:1730/105.929 mph) in the third and final round of knockout-style qualifying. Championship contenders Josef Newgarden will start eighth and Scott Dixon will start eleventh after failing to advance past the second round. The green flag drops at 2:30 p.m. on NBC. St. Pete Starting Lineup
Harrison Burton Wins NASCAR Xfinity Series Race At Texas:
- Joe Gibbs Racing’s Harrison Burton took home the victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday. The victory was Burton’s third this season. JR Motorsports Noah Gragson finished second followed by Richard Childress Racing’s Anthony Alfredo. Team Penske’s Austin Cindric finished fourth. Points leader Chase Briscoe finished 24th. Xfinity Texas Results Xfinity Drivers Points
Sting Ray Robb Wins At St. Pete:
- Juncos Racing’s Sting Ray Robb wired the field in Saturday’s Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Cooper Tires. Robb, who started on the pole position, quickly pulled out to a 1.2-second lead and never looked back. “That was a hard race, even though I was leading the whole way. The team set a goal for me to hold a certain lap time and I did, until I saw Danial starting to catch me. I started pushing harder and set the quick race lap time, bettering my own race record from last year. Two lap records in one day here, that’s pretty special!” Danial Frost finished second followed by Robb’s teammate Artem Petrov. Robb will also start on the pole in Sunday’s season finale. Colin Kaminsky, the goalie for the University of Pittsburgh hockey team, finished ninth. indypro2000-race-results-r1
Porto Grabs USF 2000 Victory At St. Pete:
- Kiko Porto claimed a well-deserved maiden Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship victory Saturday afternoon in the USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Andersen RacePark. Eduardo Barrichello finished in second place for Pabst Racing with Reece Gold taking third for Cape Motorsports.
Carvana Partners With Jimmie Johnson & Chip Ganassi Racing:
- Carvana, the nations leading online auto retailer, is partnering with Jimmie Johnson and Chip Ganassi Racing for Johnson’s 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES campaign. Johnson will run the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on the road and street course. Ganassi told Pittsburgh Racing Now he plans to enter the car in all of the races but the driver has yet to be determined.
NASCAR Reinstates Kyle Larson
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – NASCAR is reinstating driver Kyle Larson after suspending him for violating rules this past spring. He will be eligible to compete in NASCAR sanctioned events beginning January 1, 2021.
Larson was suspended indefinitely on April 13 for violating Sections 12.1 (General Procedures) and 12.8 (NASCAR Member Conduct Guidelines) of the NASCAR Rule Book.
During an online iRacing event on April 12, Larson used a racial slur while attempting to take with his spotter on a private channel. It turned out that Larson was speaking on a public channel and everyone heard him, including the online audience.
Chip Ganassi Racing fired Larson on April 14 from his duties as driver of the No. 42 Credit One Bank/McDonald’s Chevrolet. Matt Kenseth was hired to complete the 2020 season. Ross Chastain will drive the car in 2021.
NASCAR ordered Larson to attend sensitivity training as a condition of reinstatement and is going to require him to fulfill additional requirements in order to keep his NASCAR membership current.
“NASCAR continues to prioritize diversity and inclusion across our sport,” NASCAR said in a statement. “Kyle Larson has fulfilled the requirements set by NASCAR, and has taken several voluntary measures, to better educate himself so that he can use his platform to help bridge the divide in our country. Larson’s indefinite suspension has been lifted. Under the terms of his reinstatement, he will be cleared to return to all NASCAR racing activities effective January 1, 2021.”
Last week Larson sat down with CBS Sports James Brown for his first televised interview and detailed some of the work he has been doing behind the scenes to educate himself following his remarks this spring.
Larson has six victories in 223 NASCAR Cup Series starts. He joined the circuit full-time in 2014 with Ganassi’s operation.
Joey Logano Earns Berth In NASCAR Championship With Win At Kansas
KANSAS CITY, KS (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Joey Logano held off Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick to win Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
The victory guarantees Logano a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship November 8, 2020 at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.
“So proud of this Shell-Pennzoil team,” said Logano. “They never quit today. It was a tough one to start. We kind of fell back I think a couple stage points the first stage, then no stage points the second. Paul had some strategy. Two tires. Hung in there, kept our track position. Crazy good pit stops kept us in position.”
Logano did the rest, getting to the lead and then blocking several attempts by Harvick to get the lead of the race away from the No. 22 Ford.
“A couple decent restarts got us to the lead,” said Logano. “From there it’s just driving out of that mirror almost the whole time there the last 40 laps. It was a long 40 laps, however long that run was.”
Harvick didn’t think Logano had a better car, just better track position when it mattered most.
“Joey did just a good job of putting his car right in front of ours,” said Harvick. “With this package, every time you put your car in front of the car behind you, it takes the nose away. We just had a little bit of trouble trying to get the nose to turn when he would take our lane. Our car was plenty fast to win the race today and just came up one short.”
Alex Bowman finished third in the No. 88 Chevrolet followed by Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski in fourth and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5.
Two playoff drivers had issues in Kansas. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin hit the wall on lap 180. Hamlin was forced to pit road due to the damage. Hamlin however rallied for a fifteenth place finish.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch was not as fortunate. Busch’s motor blew up on lap 197 ending the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet’s day. Busch is now in a must-win situation in the next two events (Texas and Martinsville) if he hopes to compete for his second Cup Series Championship.
Logano’s win means there are only 3-spots remaining in the Championship finale at Phoenix. Currently that leaves Keselowski and Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott fighting it out for the final spot. Keselowski sits in third place, eight points ahead of Elliott for the current points cut-off.