Matt Kenseth goes on to Phoenix after ‘mediocre’ Texas race

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The opening laps of the AAA Texas 500 on a green Texas Motor Speedway were “fast. Really fast” for Matt Kenseth.

But the rest of the 293-lap, rain-shortened race was “mediocre” for the Chase driver. Kenseth finished where he started the night, in seventh. He was the third-highest placing Joe Gibbs Racing driver, following winner Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch in fifth.

“We just didn’t run good enough this weekend to get it done really,” Kenseth told NBC Sports after his seventh top-10 run in nine races.

“We were just sort of mediocre, a little better than where we finished. I couldn’t keep the track position or get a lot of it back. It was really hard for me to pass cars today. When we had a clean track, we could run some decent lap times, but I was just kind of stuck where I was most of the day.”

Kenseth had an average running spot of 7.63 while getting as high as second.

“(Crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) did a good job,” Kenseth said. “One time we pitted early and got a few spots and got up to fifth, but then we just got behind on the second-to-last pit stop and when I got behind people we were just kind of mediocre. I just couldn’t really pass anybody, but if you put me in line in fifth I could run fifth. Unfortunately, a couple of those guys got in front of me and I couldn’t get back around them.”

Kenseth is fifth in the Chase standings, one point out of the top four. His last chance to cement a spot in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

The 2003 Sprint Cup champion has one win at Phoenix, but it came in 2002 when the track had a different configuration. In 27 starts, he has six top fives.

To join Edwards and Jimmie Johnson in the title race, Kenseth can either win, which would be his first since the July race at Loudon, or be one of a possible two drivers who get in on points.

The obvious road block to a Phoenix win is Kevin Harvick, who has won six of the last eight races there. That makes Kenseth slightly resigned to having to get in on points. Should Harvick win, he would take a third spot, leaving only one spot available in the championship round via points.

“Kevin is dominant is an understatement at Phoenix so you almost have to pencil him in for that third spot,” Kenseth said. “So, really I feel like the rest of us are fighting for that fourth spot next week. You know, we’re just going to have to go there. It hasn’t necessarily been our best track but we’ve ran pretty well there lately, so we just have to go there with the idea to try and win the race, try to lead some laps, get some bonus points and hopefully get a good enough finish.”

NASCAR Open starting lineup at Bristol

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Michael McDowell will start on the pole for the NASCAR Open at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw. Aric Almirola joins him on the front row.

Click here for NASCAR Open starting lineup

The winners of each segment advance to the All-Star Race, along with the fan vote winner. Last year, Kyle Larson won a segment in the Open to advance to the All-Star Race and then won that event. Other segment winners last year were William Byron and Bubba Wallace. Alex Bowman advanced through the fan vote a year ago. Bowman has already qualified for this year’s All-Star Race.

 

NASCAR Open at Bristol 

Race Time: 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 85 laps over three segments, 45.3 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 35 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 15 laps.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Martin Truex Jr. to start on pole for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Martin Truex Jr., who is seeking his first All-Star Race win, will start on the pole for Wednesday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway after a random draw.

Truex will be joined on the front row by Alex Bowman.

Rookie Cole Custer, who earned a spot in the All-Star Race with his win Sunday at Kentucky, will start eighth.

Click here for All-Star Lineup

  • Positions 17-19 will go to segment winners from the NASCAR Open. The 20th starting spot goes to the fan vote winner, which will be announced after the NASCAR Open

Among the special rules for the race:

# The Chose Rule will be used. As drivers approach a designated spot on the track, they must commit to the inside or outside lane for the restart.

# The car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give sponsors more exposure.

# Cars that have automatically qualified for the All-Star Race will have underglow lights on their cars.

 

NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol 

Race Time: 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 140 laps over four segments, 74.6 miles

Segments: Segment 1 is 55 laps. Segment 2 is 35 laps. Segment 3 is 35 laps. Segment 4 is 15 laps (only green flag laps count in this segment).

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Texas (200 laps, 300 miles), 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Saturday at Texas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 8 p.m. ET on FS1

Xfinity playoff grid after Kentucky doubleheader

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The Xfinity Series went to Kentucky Speedway for a doubleheader and Austin Cindric left the track with two wins and a spot in the playoffs.

Cindric, who claimed the first oval track NASCAR wins of his career, is now third on the playoff grid among the six drivers locked into the postseason. He has 15 playoff points.

Noah Gragson, who is second on the grid, won three of four stages in Kentucky and has 18 playoff points.

Six spots remain to be filled on the playoff grid. The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Ryan Sieg (+57 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+14).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-14 points from cutline), Jeremy Clements (-30), Alex Labbe (-42) and Jesse Little (-47).

Cup playoff grid after Kentucky Speedway

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Cole Custer delivered the first curveball to the NASCAR Cup Series’ playoff chase Sunday when he won at Kentucky Speedway.

Custer entered the race 25th in the points, nine spots back from the cutoff line for 16-driver field.

Now, Custer is one of nine drivers locked into the playoffs, meaning the cutoff for the postseason is 15th in points.

Among those currently in the playoff grid who are not locked in, the last two are William Byron (+30 points) and Jimmie Johnson (+24).

The first four drivers sitting outside a playoff spot are Austin Dillon (-24 points from cutoff), Tyler Reddick (-41), Erik Jones (-42) and Bubba Wallace (-84).