Matt Kenseth goes on to Phoenix after ‘mediocre’ Texas race

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The opening laps of the AAA Texas 500 on a green Texas Motor Speedway were “fast. Really fast” for Matt Kenseth.

But the rest of the 293-lap, rain-shortened race was “mediocre” for the Chase driver. Kenseth finished where he started the night, in seventh. He was the third-highest placing Joe Gibbs Racing driver, following winner Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch in fifth.

“We just didn’t run good enough this weekend to get it done really,” Kenseth told NBC Sports after his seventh top-10 run in nine races.

“We were just sort of mediocre, a little better than where we finished. I couldn’t keep the track position or get a lot of it back. It was really hard for me to pass cars today. When we had a clean track, we could run some decent lap times, but I was just kind of stuck where I was most of the day.”

Kenseth had an average running spot of 7.63 while getting as high as second.

“(Crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) did a good job,” Kenseth said. “One time we pitted early and got a few spots and got up to fifth, but then we just got behind on the second-to-last pit stop and when I got behind people we were just kind of mediocre. I just couldn’t really pass anybody, but if you put me in line in fifth I could run fifth. Unfortunately, a couple of those guys got in front of me and I couldn’t get back around them.”

Kenseth is fifth in the Chase standings, one point out of the top four. His last chance to cement a spot in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

The 2003 Sprint Cup champion has one win at Phoenix, but it came in 2002 when the track had a different configuration. In 27 starts, he has six top fives.

To join Edwards and Jimmie Johnson in the title race, Kenseth can either win, which would be his first since the July race at Loudon, or be one of a possible two drivers who get in on points.

The obvious road block to a Phoenix win is Kevin Harvick, who has won six of the last eight races there. That makes Kenseth slightly resigned to having to get in on points. Should Harvick win, he would take a third spot, leaving only one spot available in the championship round via points.

“Kevin is dominant is an understatement at Phoenix so you almost have to pencil him in for that third spot,” Kenseth said. “So, really I feel like the rest of us are fighting for that fourth spot next week. You know, we’re just going to have to go there. It hasn’t necessarily been our best track but we’ve ran pretty well there lately, so we just have to go there with the idea to try and win the race, try to lead some laps, get some bonus points and hopefully get a good enough finish.”

NASCAR America: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talks Phoenix finish, racing roots

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joins NASCAR America to go over his fourth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver also shares his racing origins in Mississippi and the hobbies he and girlfriend Danica Patrick share with each other.

Stenhouse is in his fifth full-time year competing in the NASCAR Cup Series with Roush Fenway Racing.

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Alaska

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NASCAR America continues its journey through the United States with the second chapter in “50 States in 50 Shows.”

Following South Alabama Speedway, the show features Capitol Speedway and Alaska Raceway Park in Alaska.

Owned by Nancy and Wes Wallace, Capitol Speedway is a 3/8th-mile oval and features sprint car racing and demolition derbies.


Kevin Harvick crew chief fined, suspended one race for encumbered finish

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Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, has been suspended for one NASCAR Cup Series race and fined $25,000 for an unapproved track bar slider assembly last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

The penalty, a L1 infraction, results in an encumbered finish. Harvick placed sixth in the Camping World 500.

The No. 4 team has also been docked 10 driver and owner points. Harvick was seventh in the standings after four races. He trailed leader Kyle Larson by 61 points. The loss of points drops Harvick one spot to eighth behind Jamie McMurray.

Harvick has not won a race yet, which would qualify him for the playoffs.

MORE: Brad Keselowski closes crew chief for three races, team docked 35 driver points

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NASCAR docks Brad Keselowski, Team Penske 35 points; suspends crew chief Paul Wolfe

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NASCAR docked Brad Keselowski 35 points, suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe three races and fined Wolfe $65,000 because Keselowski’s car failed inspection after finishing fifth in last weekend’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR also docked the team 35 owner points for the L1 infraction. NASCAR stated that Keselowski’s result is an encumbered finish.

NASCAR cited Keselowski’s car for failing weights and measurements on the laser platform. NASCAR stated in Wednesday’s penalty report that the team failed the rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station. 

MORE: NASCAR suspends crew chief Rodney Childers one race

Team Penske issued a statement Wednesday:

“We have acknowledged the penalties levied against the No. 2 team following last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.  The race cars returned to the race shop today and we are in the process of evaluating the area in question. In the meantime, we have decided Brian Wilson will serve as Brad Keselowski’s crew chief at Auto Club Speedway while we evaluate our approach relative to today’s penalties.”

The penalty drops Keselowski from second in the standings to fourth heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

The more significant issue is how this could impact Keselowski, who already has a win, in the playoffs.

The top 10 in points before the playoffs begin earn additional points. The points leader earns 15 playoff points. The driver second in the standings earns 10 playoff points, the driver third in the standings earns eight playoff points, the driver fourth in the standings earns seven playoff points. It goes down to the driver 10th in the standings earning one playoff point.

Those playoff points carry through the first three rounds, which is different from last year. Falling behind in the regular season – or losing points because of a penalty – could have ramifications in the playoffs. 

“I think it’s real important to explain why points matter this year,” Keselowski said on Fox Sports 1’s “Race Hub” on Wednesday night. “Last year, you got a win and you locked in and you got to the next round. This year with points, you still lock in with wins. The difference is there’s a huge points bonus for having the most points at the end of the season that carries all the way through the playoffs, and you only get that bonus if you’re one of the best cars and leading up front at the end of the regular season, which requires having a lot of points. Thirty-five points is a pretty big deal, and so is 10 points for Kevin (Harvick) and his team.”


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