Like father … Ross Kenseth will be sporting a familiar look for his Xfinity Series debut in June

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ross Kenseth will make his Xfinity Series debut with the same team, car number and sponsor his famous father has in the Sprint Cup Series.

How much impact did Matt Kenseth have in making it happen?

“Chances are he had something to do with it,” Ross said Friday, aping the deadpan delivery of his dad.

It will be a family affair in the June 20 race at Chicagoland Speedway, where Ross Kenseth will drive the Dollar General-sponsored No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in his first NASCAR national series start. With the Cup circuit off that weekend, Matt Kenseth will be on hand for the race after helping broker the deal to put his son in the No. 20, which is shared by JGR drivers and carried Erik Jones to victory last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Ross has been working really hard to get a good opportunity,” Matt Kenseth said before Sprint Cup practice Friday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I don’t think it can be any better than this. I feel the 20 is one of the best (Xfinity) cars out there. It’ll be a great shot for him. I really appreciate Joe and everyone at JGR giving him that chance, and Dollar General to sponsor his first ever NASCAR start.

“He’s never going to be more ready for the opportunity than he is now.”

The departure of Darrell Wallace Jr. from JGR for Roush Fenway Racing in the preseason opened some voids in the No. 20 schedule, allowing the team to follow through on discussions to put Ross Kenseth in the car.

“We’ve talked about it quite a bit over the last year,” Ross said. “It’s been trying to get the situation to be right. Everything came together with Dollar General, and Coach (team owner Joe Gibbs) taking a chance on me. Having everything line up where they had an open race, and it worked out to be Chicago, which I was excited about being so close to home.”

Kenseth, who will turn 22 on May 25, is a Wisconsin native like his father and has followed his footsteps in racing on short tracks around the Midwest the past few years (including a car fielded by his father in 2013). Last season, Ross Kenseth took on more responsibilities, sometimes driving his team’s hauler in between races.

“I probably ran 25 races last year, and for the amount of work I put in, it seemed like a lot more than that,” he said. “I think it worked out. We were competitive.”

Though he didn’t win last year, Kenseth turned heads with his second career ARCA start —  finishing third at Kansas Speedway last September.

He will run ARCA races for Ken Schrader Racing at Michigan International Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway to help prepare for his Xfinity debut, which he called “a dream come true. To get your first start with a competitive organization that’s won a lot of races, it’s everything a driver wants to have.”

NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.