Like father … Ross Kenseth will be sporting a familiar look for his Xfinity Series debut in June

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ross Kenseth will make his Xfinity Series debut with the same team, car number and sponsor his famous father has in the Sprint Cup Series.

How much impact did Matt Kenseth have in making it happen?

“Chances are he had something to do with it,” Ross said Friday, aping the deadpan delivery of his dad.

It will be a family affair in the June 20 race at Chicagoland Speedway, where Ross Kenseth will drive the Dollar General-sponsored No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in his first NASCAR national series start. With the Cup circuit off that weekend, Matt Kenseth will be on hand for the race after helping broker the deal to put his son in the No. 20, which is shared by JGR drivers and carried Erik Jones to victory last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Ross has been working really hard to get a good opportunity,” Matt Kenseth said before Sprint Cup practice Friday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I don’t think it can be any better than this. I feel the 20 is one of the best (Xfinity) cars out there. It’ll be a great shot for him. I really appreciate Joe and everyone at JGR giving him that chance, and Dollar General to sponsor his first ever NASCAR start.

“He’s never going to be more ready for the opportunity than he is now.”

The departure of Darrell Wallace Jr. from JGR for Roush Fenway Racing in the preseason opened some voids in the No. 20 schedule, allowing the team to follow through on discussions to put Ross Kenseth in the car.

“We’ve talked about it quite a bit over the last year,” Ross said. “It’s been trying to get the situation to be right. Everything came together with Dollar General, and Coach (team owner Joe Gibbs) taking a chance on me. Having everything line up where they had an open race, and it worked out to be Chicago, which I was excited about being so close to home.”

Kenseth, who will turn 22 on May 25, is a Wisconsin native like his father and has followed his footsteps in racing on short tracks around the Midwest the past few years (including a car fielded by his father in 2013). Last season, Ross Kenseth took on more responsibilities, sometimes driving his team’s hauler in between races.

“I probably ran 25 races last year, and for the amount of work I put in, it seemed like a lot more than that,” he said. “I think it worked out. We were competitive.”

Though he didn’t win last year, Kenseth turned heads with his second career ARCA start —  finishing third at Kansas Speedway last September.

He will run ARCA races for Ken Schrader Racing at Michigan International Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway to help prepare for his Xfinity debut, which he called “a dream come true. To get your first start with a competitive organization that’s won a lot of races, it’s everything a driver wants to have.”

Friday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Richmond

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The racing weekend at Richmond International Raceway kicks off today.

The NASCAR Cup Series has one practice session and late afternoon qualifying, while the Xfinity Series has two practice sessions at the 0.75-mile track.

Keep an eye on Jimmie Johnson this weekend as he goes for his third consecutive NASCAR Cup win, having taken the checkered flag at Texas three weeks ago and Monday at Bristol.

Here’s how today’s action shapes up:

(All times are Eastern)

9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.  – Xfinity garage open

11:30 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. – Cup practice (Fox Sports 1, MRN)

1 – 1:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice (FS1)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

4:45 p.m. – Cup qualifying; three rounds/multi-car (FS1, MRN)

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Michigan

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Every NASCAR Cup driver had to come from somewhere, and for Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones, they came from Michigan.

Today’s edition of “50 States in 50 Shows” takes you to the Great Lake State.

The track that gets our attention is Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run. A track Jones cut his teeth on and where he set a record in 2010 by becoming the youngest driver to win an ASA Late Model race when he was 14.

Oh, and they also race school buses at the track.

 

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Richmond ‘pivotal’ race for Joe Gibbs Racing

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Compared to the winning pace Joe Gibbs Racing kept the previous two seasons, it’s been a long time since the four-car team visited victory lane.

JGR last won 11 races ago in the November race at Texas Motor Speedway with Carl Edwards, who is not racing this year. The last win by a current JGR driver was the fall race at Richmond International Raceway, where Denny Hamlin triumphed.

Now, none of its drivers are in the top 10 in points.

RIR is where NASCAR heads this weekend for a race NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte believes is “pivotal” for the team that’s won the last three races at the .75-mile track.

“We have to remember this is a new aerodynamic package for this year,” Letarte said. “There’s something about it that hasn’t really suited this JGR Toyotas. I don’t think they have found exactly the right combination, it seems Furniture Row (Racing) has. I look at Richmond, the speeds are a little bit down, aerodynamics won’t be as dominate. Even if they’re not dominate and they don’t win, they have to run better.”

 

NASCAR America: Comparing achievements of The King, The Intimidator and Jimmie Johnson

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Just two days after his retirement announcement, Dale Earnhardt came to the defense of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson on Twitter

After a fan attempted to criticize Johnson’s achievements by comparing them to fellow seven-time champions Dale Earnahrdt Sr., and Richard Petty, Dale Jr. said the system Johnson has competed in is twice as challenging as the eras of his father and Petty.

Watch the video to see Dale Jr. and other drivers discuss the differences between Johnson’s era and those of his predecessors.