Matt Kenseth, crew chief Jason Ratcliff provide constancy, consistency for Joe Gibbs Racing

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The only crew chief driver combination that remained intact at Joe Gibbs Racing last season also was the only team that went winless in 2014.

After leading the Sprint Cup Series with a career-best seven victories in 2013, Matt Kenseth endured his first season without a checkered flag since 2010. But he enters the ’15 season with crew chief Jason Ratcliff for the third consecutive year.

“I think it was they couldn’t find another driver that wanted to work with me, probably,” Ratcliff said with a laugh Saturday night after Kenseth won the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. “No, I mean, I really enjoy working with Matt.  I don’t think that (a change) was ever a consideration. I think I know how Matt feels about it. Right out of the box in 2013, we were really strong, won a lot of races. Communication was strong.

“Last year we didn’t get to victory lane, but we had a great season when you look at our overall performance.”

Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota finished seventh in the points standings but managed 22 top 10s (two more than in ’13) during a down year for JGR. Teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch earned only a victory apiece, prompting crew chief changes for both cars. Dave Rogers moved to Hamlin’s No. 11 from Busch’s No. 18, which will be helmed by Adam Stevens (promoted from the Xfinity Series). Darian Grubb, who had spent three season with Hamlin, moved to the new No. 19 of Carl Edwards.

In just two seasons, Kenseth, 42, has become a rock for JGR and provided veteran leadership to Busch and Hamlin. The 2003 series champion credits much of his stability to Ratcliff.

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in matching up a crew chief,” Kenseth said. “We talked about it a little bit. I told them I would support anything they did unless they tried to take Jason away from me. They could have done it, but I would have been kicking and screaming.”

Team owner Joe Gibbs said it wasn’t considered, though, and Kenseth’s first win in the exhibition opener at the 2.5-mile speedway seemed to validate the decision.

“Obviously these two guys have worked together so well, there was no thought there,” Gibbs said. “We really felt like this is one team we wanted to leave matched up.”


Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race: Start time, TV channel

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs get underway with the Saturday Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The race is the first of seven to determine the champion.

Chase Briscoe is on the pole after his win last weekend at Bristol

Here is all the info for the Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:38 p.m by Cup driver Bubba Wallace. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:47 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 1 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Mackenzie Mackey at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: Coverage begins on NBCSN with Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 7 p.m.. and also can be heard at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the link.

FORECAST: The forecast calls for clear skies with a high of 98 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe beat Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric at Bristol.

LAST RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Chase Briscoe beat Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg for the win in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

race results
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

Austin Hill
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1


Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Decker provided this update Saturday morning.