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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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Denny Hamlin, Jordan Fish welcome second daughter

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Denny Hamlin announced the birth of his second daughter Wednesday afternoon, welcoming Molly Gold Hamlin in a Twitter post.

Hamlin’s girlfriend, Jordan Fish, gave birth to Molly on Tuesday, five days after the original due date. The couple announced they were expecting their second child together in February.

Molly joins older sister, Taylor, who is seen holding the baby in a picture Hamlin posted.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had substitutes on standby during the last two Cup races at Watkins Glen and Michigan in the event Fish went into labor during either race weekend.

Furniture Row Racing takes over management responsibility of pit crews from JGR

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Joe Gibbs Racing has relinquished management responsibility of the pit crews for the No. 77 and 78 teams to Furniture Row Racing, NBC Sports has confirmed.

Fox Sports 1’s Alan Cavanna first reported the change.

The move Wednesday means that Furniture Row Racing has complete control of its pit crews from a personnel side even though they remain Joe Gibbs Racing employees. The No. 77 and 78 crews can still train at Joe Gibbs Racing but any decisions related to performance or status for any race weekend will be made by Furniture Row Racing.

As part of its alliance, Joe Gibbs Racing supplies pit crew members to Furniture Row Racing. JGR suspended two members of Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew for a confrontation with Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch, last month at Indianapolis after Busch and Truex crashed racing for the lead.

JGR suspended front tire changer Chris Taylor and rear tire changer Lee Cunningham three races each for the incident. Stevens was not penalized. Both Taylor and Cunningham return to Truex’s team this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Questions were raised immediately that the suspensions could provide JGR with a competitive advantage over Truex’s team.

People are always going to say all kinds of things,” car owner Joe Gibbs said July 30 at Pocono Raceway. “I don’t think you can worry about that. Obviously, they’ll be back.”

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Cup teams testing Tuesday, Wednesday at Chicagoland Speedway

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Ten Cup teams are scheduled to take part in an organizational test today and Wednesday at Chicagoland Speedway. The track hosts the opening race in the playoffs Sept. 17.

Each Cup organization is allowed to have one team at the test.

Those scheduled to test, according to NASCAR, are:

Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing)

Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing)

Ty Dillon (Germain Racing)

Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing)

Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports)

Brad Keselowski (Team Penske)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing)

Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports)

Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing)

Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing)

Also, each manufacturer will have a car testing. Alex Bowman will drive the Chevrolet car. David Ragan will be in the Ford car. Drew Herring will drive the Toyota car.

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Sam Hornish Jr. fastest in final Xfinity practice at Mid-Ohio

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Sam Hornish Jr. posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s final Xfinity practice session at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Hornish toured the road course at a speed of 94.857 mph for Team Penske. James Davison, who finished 20th in this year’s Indianapolis 500, was next on the speed chart with a lap of 94.846 mph. Matt Tifft (94.542 mph) was third and followed by Regan Smith (94.507) and Cole Custer (94.379).

Both Davison and Smith are in Joe Gibbs Racing cars this weekend.

Click here for full practice report

Saturday morning’s session was added after rain washed out both of Friday’s practices.

Qualifying is at noon ET on CNBC. The race is at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.