How Joe Gibbs Racing playoff drivers are preparing for the playoffs

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Joe Gibbs Racing has struggled at times for wins this season, particularly the still-winless Matt Kenseth.

But all three of its playoff drivers — Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin — are ready for the NASCAR Cup playoffs that begin this Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Their strategy may differ slightly from each other, but there’s an overall confidence that each and every JGR driver believes he can get through the first three rounds and contend for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In the above video, a relaxed and cool Kenseth talked with NBCSN’s Dave Burns about the highs and lows he’s experienced this season and believes he and his No. 20 team are trending in the right direction heading into the playoffs.

“I guess I’m ready to break that winlessness streak,” Kenseth said. “I’m ready to go. I’m glad we’re in, we had a pretty tough first few months of the season and pretty proud of our team to get us back up since June.

“Our performance has been better, pit road has been great, right now I think we’re in our best shape of the season. … We haven’t won a win in a long time. I feel we’re way too good of a team to be winless this long. Our No. 1 goal is to get that win.”

Teammate Kyle Busch has two wins thus far this season and expects to earn more in the 10-race playoffs.

In an interview with NBCSN, Busch the biggest strength of his team is his relationship with crew chief Adam Stevens, and he’s confident the pair can take the No. 18 to its second Cup championship in the last three seasons.

“I feel pretty good about it, obviously this year has been a pretty good year for us,” Busch said. “I’m looking forward to these final 10 weeks.”

The one track that concerns Busch the most is Texas. “We didn’t have the best showing there in the spring race,” Busch said. “I’m looking forward to (Homestead-Miami) the most. Of course, you have to be in the top 4 to be looking forward to that race, But I feel there’s no reason why we can’t be in the top 4 going into Homestead-Miami.”

And then there’s Denny Hamlin, who was a special guest at the NBC Sports studios in Stamford, Connecticut on Thursday before flying to Chicago for the start of the NASCAR weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Hamlin joined NBCSN’s Parker Kligerman on the NASCAR America simulator and showed how he approaches practice behind the wheel.

Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer tied at top of Xfinity playoff standings

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Justin Allgaier and Cole Custer are tied for the top spot in the Xfinity playoff standings after the playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway.

Each driver has 2,057 points.

Allgaier finished third after bouncing back from losing a tire on Lap 19 and going two laps down. He was two laps down for 27 laps and one lap down for 30 before getting back on the lead lap.

Custer, who finished fifth, won the first two stages of the race, earning two playoff points in the process.

The top five in points are Allgaier, Custer, Elliott Sadler (-2), Daniel Hemric (-5) and William Byron (-6).

Click here for the points standings.

Results from Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images
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Tyler Reddick scored his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win, leading a 1-2 finish for Chip Ganassi Racing on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Reddick beat teammate Brennan Poole by 14.5 seconds in the playoff opener.

Reddick is the seventh different winner in the last seven series races. He led twice for 66 laps. Reddick had not led any laps until Saturday night.

Playoff contender Justin Allgaier rallied from two laps down after a right front tire went down early in the 200-lap race to finish third. Ryan Preece placed fourth. Rookie Cole Custer, who won both stages, finished fifth.

Click here for race results

Tyler Reddick wins playoff opener at Kentucky for first career Xfinity victory

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Tyler Reddick, a part-time driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, led 66 laps to win the Xfinity Series playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway.

In his rookie year in the series, Reddick earned the win in his 15th start in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

The 21-year-old driver beat teammate Brennan Poole, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Preece and Cole Custer.

“I don’t know if it was necessarily me making a statement, it’s just Chip Ganassi Racing making a statement,” Reddick told NBCSN. “(Crew chief) Mike Shiplett has brought me from ground zero all the way to here. All the guys at Ganassi have gone above and beyond in helping me become a better driver. To be here today is surreal.”

Reddick, who had not led a lap before Saturday night, took the lead for the first time on Lap 126 of the 200-lap race.

Reddick is the fourth Xfinity driver to get his first win this season.

Saturday’s win comes after it was announced on Sept. 14 that Reddick would join JR Motorsports full-time in 2018.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Cole Custer

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

MORE: Race results

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Justin Allgaier bounced back from losing a tire and going two laps down to finish third. He leaves Kentucky tied with Cole Custer at the top of the playoff standings. … Brennan Poole’s runner-up finish is a career-best result in 77 starts … Ryan Preece has finished in the top four in all three of his starts for Joe Gibbs Racing. … Ryan Reed finished 10th, ending an eight-race streak without a top 10.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Sam Hornish Jr. finished 31st, nine laps down after contact with Brandon Jones on Lap 53 caused him to hit the wall at the exit of Turn 2, forcing him to pit for repairs. … William Byron finished 18th, two laps down after he was forced to pit on Lap 101 for a loose wheel.

NOTABLE: Reddick is the seventh different driver to win in the last seven races this season. … Reddick is the seventh different winner in the last eight races at Kentucky.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I was about the color of my car (red) there for a little bit.” – Justin Allgaier after finishing third following a rebound from going two laps down early in the race.

NEXT: Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 30 on NBCSN.

Social Roundup: Sights from first Martinsville night race

Marty Snider
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The wait is over.

Night racing at Martinsville Speedway is now a reality.

After tests and practice sessions, the half-mile track in Virginia is hosting the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and its qualifying races tonight for the NASCAR Late Model Series.

In attendance at the race are Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez, as well as NBCSN’s Marty Snider, who is watching his son Myatt compete in the race.

Here’s a look at some of the sights and sounds from the historic night for NASCAR’s oldest track.