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Matt Kenseth focused on making playoffs, not 2018 plans

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Matt Kenseth, who holds the final playoff spot with three races to go, says he’s more focused on that than what he’ll do in 2018.

Kenseth does not have a ride for next year with Erik Jones replacing him at Joe Gibbs Racing after this season.

Asked if he had any plans for 2018 on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kenseth said: “No, not at the moment. When I do I’ll tweet something. Like on a Monday or something. No plans right now. Just raise kids and hang out with my family.

“I’ll be honest with you … I’m not worried about (2018) even really one percent anymore to be honest with you. I’m just not concerned about it. I’m really concerned about 2017 and that’s the truth. I mean we’ve got 13 races or something left. Three to try to get into … the playoffs. We’re not in there yet. Kind of got ran over at the end of the race last week by the 24 (Chase Elliott), trying to race him. But hopefully we get a win, get in the playoffs and try to race for a championship. That’s our goal every year, and really that’s what I’m been concentrating on.’’

Kenseth leads Clint Bowyer by 31 points heading into Saturday’s race at Bristol (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC). Kenseth was in position to build that lead last week until the final restart at Michigan. He restarted third but contact caused him to fall back. He finished 24th, the last car on the lead lap, breaking a streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes. Kenseth lost 21 points from where he restarted to where he finished.

Kenseth said his strategy hasn’t changed even with his position in the points.

“I’ve never been in a race I didn’t want to win,’’ he said. “I’ve never been in a race where I didn’t feel like I needed the win. I don’t know that it really changes. You know ever since Daytona we’ve been trying to win and know that quote unquote needed that win. To me it doesn’t really change. You’re going to race as hard as you can and try to get that win anytime you can.

“It’s really hard to win races at this level. I’ve been doing it a long time, really haven’t won that many races compared to how many I’ve started, so I realize how hard it is to win. You always try to take advantage of those opportunities if you have them.”

Kenseth has six career Cup wins on a short track. That ranks tied for fifth with Kevin Harvick behind Jimmie Johnson (14 wins), Kyle Busch (10), Kurt Busch (nine), Denny Hamlin (nine).

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Martin Truex Jr. wins Stage 1 of New Hampshire playoff race

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Martin Truex Jr. won the first stage of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for his 19th stage win of the season.

Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led the race until Truex passed him coming to the start-finish line to start Lap 41. Truex led the final 36 laps of the 75-lap stage.

The top 10 after 75 laps is Truex, Kyle Larson, Busch, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

Jones was the only non-playoff driver in the top 10.

There were no cautions in the stage.

Joey Logano, who started last after multiple inspection failures kept him from qualifying, finished the stage in 13th.

Playoff driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made contact with the wall during the first 10 laps and finished the stage in 22nd.

Stage 2 will end on Lap 150 of the 300-lap race.

 

Don’t stand for anthem? Richard Childress says get on the bus afterward

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LOUDON, New Hampshire — While many NFL players kneeled during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games Sunday, NASCAR crews stood along pit road for the national anthem.

More attention has been paid to the issue since President Donald Trump said in a speech Friday that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.’’

Several NFL players have not stood for the anthem before games to protest the treatment of blacks by police. Former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend last year when he played with the San Francisco 49ers.

Car owner Richard Childress was asked before Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway what the policy was for his team if someone kneeled for the anthem.

“Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over,’’ Childress said on pit road. “Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.’’

Richard Petty told USA Today: “Anybody that don’t stand up for (the anthem) ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”

Car owner Joe Gibbs said he didn’t talk about the issue with his team before the race.

“You’ve got an athletic event and that’s what we’re going to have,’’ Gibbs said.

Car owner Chip Ganassi said: “I like Mike Tomlin’s answer.’’

Tomlin is the coach of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. All but one of his team’s players stayed off the field for the anthem before its game Sunday.

Tomlin told CBS Sports before the game: “We’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches. We’re not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something he shouldn’t be separated from his teammates who chooses not to. So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision.”

Last year, Austin Dillon talked about how the sport displays patriotism.

“I don’t know how it would go over with the fans – we’re a very patriotic sport,” Dillon said if someone in NASCAR would kneel during the anthem. “I think our sport does a good job of showing that every Saturday, Sunday of showing patriotism and what the flag means. Not only that, we have a lot of military out here each and every weekend.

“I’ve got SEAL guys that will personally text me and say, ‘Hey, thank you for not moving around (during the anthem). … It means a lot to them just to stand at attention.”

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Joey Logano looks to rebound from rough weekend, Chase Elliott eyes win (videos)

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It’s been a rough weekend already for Joey Logano.

He failed pre-qualifying inspection four times and was not allowed to make a qualifying attempt, as a result.

Then, NASCAR kept Logano from participating in the final practice Saturday, also being penalized because of failing qualifying inspection.

We caught up with Logano before Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Check out his thoughts for today’s race in the video above, as well as Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett’s thoughts.

Also, check out Chase Elliott, who finished second at Chicgaoland, and his thoughts about today’s race as he once again chases his first potential win for 2017 in the video below.

Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman at New Hampshire: It’s all about getting a win (video)

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Matt Kenseth remains winless thus far in 2017.

A few hours later today, Kenseth hopes to break that winless streak with a visit to victory lane at the conclusion of the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kenseth was interviewed before the race by NBCSN and admits that while earning points is important, winning is much more important today.

Will he be able to do it?

Check what Kenseth had to say in the video above.

And then there’s Ryan Newman, who had a disappointing 23rd place finish at Chicagoland and looks to get back on track today.

Check out what Newman had to say in a pre-race interview on NBCSN below.