Fitness pals Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth in step and on cycle off the track

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CHARLOTTE – Locked in a tight struggle with Matt Kenseth for the 2013 Sprint Cup championship, Jimmie Johnson once ran 20 motivational miles in honor of his rival’s car number.

If the 2016 title again comes down to Johnson and Kenseth, that sort of near-marathon with purpose might get awkward – because Kenseth might be right alongside this time.

The NASCAR stars have become fitness buddies over the past years, taking weekly bike rides on Tuesdays on trails around the Charlotte area.

Wednesday, Johnson and Kenseth rode 130.4 miles in a 7-hour, 21-minute ride from Asheville, North Carolina, to Charlotte as part of a People for Bikes awareness and fund-raising event.

Johnson’s reputation as a workout maven is well established, but Kenseth admittedly avoided much physical activity outside the car. “It’d take me a week to run 20 miles, even if somebody was chasing me,” he once joked when told about Johnson’s feat.

But about a year ago, the 2003 champion began riding with Johnson and joined a group of team members who often go mountain biking on Saturdays near whatever track is being visited by NASCAR.

“I’ve been very impressed with his bike handling skills,” Johnson said of Kenseth. “I’ve taken race car drivers on mountain bike rides, and they’re scared for their lives. They’re going to wreck at any point. Growing up in Wisconsin, (Kenseth) had dirt bikes, he rode snowmobiles. He has a very good sense of where he is on the bike.

“He has some really good natural skills.”

Kenseth’s longest ride before Wednesday was a 60-miler in Florida during Speedweeks, but he was in good shape after more than doubling the distance. Riding in packs of several dozen riders greatly helps reduce the amount of exertion despite traveling at an average speed of 17.6 mph.

“It’s fun to ride with a group,” Kenseth said. “It’s a lot different. There’s drafting, strategy, knowing when to go and not. It’s a little more fun.”

He also went mountain biking last month in Phoenix, helping alleviate the cabin fever in his motorhome when his family doesn’t join him on the road.

“I’ve been doing it for so long that when Katie and the kids aren’t there, you’re just dying to get out of the motorhome,” he said. “Plus, it’s great exercise and keeps you in shape and all that as well. It’s been fun.

I started running a couple of weeks ago. When the kids are in school, I’ll put (youngest daughter) Clara in a stroller, and (wife) Katie and I will go for a run for a few miles. I couldn’t do 20. I could probably run 6 to 7.”

Kenseth, who recently turned 44, has three daughters under the age of 7, and the rededication to fitness has helped increase his energy level.

“I’m trying to spend a couple of days a week in a gym then try to cycle and run a few times a week,” he said. “Just trying to stay in better shape. As you get older, it’s not easier. It’s always harder. So I feel like you’ve got to work harder at it. The more physically fit you are, the more mentally fit you are as well. It all goes hand in hand.”

Matt and Katie Kenseth are entered next month in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 5K, and the event’s namesake already has been sought out for advice.

“So (Matt’s) asking me, ‘So this running thing, how does it happen?’” Johnson said with a chuckle. “I told him, ‘You put your shoes on and go.’ ”

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.