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Matt Kenseth crew chief ‘not sure’ yet if he’ll be with No. 20 team next season

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Two days after it was announced Erik Jones would take over driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Cup car in 2018, crew chief Jason Ratcliff said he was “not sure” yet if he would be in his position next year.

Ratcliff has been paired with Matt Kenseth on the No. 20 Toyota since Kenseth joined JGR in 2013, earning 13 Cup wins together. He was also Joey Logano‘s crew chief in his final year at JGR.

“I’m not sure about that right now,” Ratcliff said Thursday on “Tradin’ Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think it’s pretty new, pretty early I should say in the planning stages.

“For me, I’m still focused on this season. I can only focus on one thing at a time and I got my hands full right right now trying to get the 20 car back up front and I think we’ve made a lot of progress, especially in the last month and a half. But we still need a win to lock ourselves in the (playoffs) and put ourselves in position for a championship.”

Eighteen races into the season, Kenseth, as well as the other three JGR teams, remain winless. Kenseth’s last victory came last July at the same track the series visits this weekend, New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kenseth is currently 11th in the points standings.

With JGR winless, Ratcliff admits the news of Kenseth’s departure at season’s end is “obviously a distraction” to his team. But his crew members have the experience to push through it.

“Thankfully, most of my guys, if not all of them, have been in this sport for a while and they’ve experienced this type of thing throughout their career,” Ratcliff said. “Most of them have been on really good teams before they came to the 20 car and they know what we’re all about and they know the expectations are not only for the 20 but at our organizations.

“Every week put your best car on the track and go out there and push hard to win races and pursue championships.”

Heading to New Hampshire, the No. 20 team has six top 10s, but only two – Charlotte, Pocono – in the last 10 races. He’s only led three times this year, at Richmond (164 laps), Talladega (four laps) and 21 at Daytona before wrecking out.

But at New Hampshire, Kenseth has led 288 laps in the last seven races and won three times in that span. He has finished worse than sixth once (21st, fall 2014).

“We’re going to a really good track this weekend,” Ratcliff siad. “We’ve had some success there and hopefully we can get the thing into victory lane this weekend and that will be a step in the right direction in staying focused on what we need to stay focused on.”

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Gotcha! Cole Pearn’s trick is a treat for Martin Truex Jr. at Sonoma

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Martin Truex Jr. took advantage of a strategy play by crew chief Cole Pearn and cruised to his third Cup win of the season Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

Truex’s team faked as if it was going to pit on Lap 73 — Pearn told Truex to pit on the radio — and that brought in Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Truex stayed out another seven laps. With fresher tires, he charged through the field and took the lead shortly before Harvick made his final pit stop on Lap 91. By the time Harvick completed his stop, he was too far back to challenge for the win.

Harvick placed second, finishing 11 seconds behind Truex. 

“That was awesome!” Truex said on the radio after crossing the finish line.

“Basically the 78 faked us out and decided to run seven or eight more laps,” crew chief Rodney Childers told Harvick after Harvick had made the pit stop on Lap 73.

With Truex winning, there remain just six different winners this season.

After the race, Childers apologized to Harvick.

“I kind of let everybody down there. I apologize,” Childers said on the radio.

“All good,” Harvick said. “Always want to win but stuff happens.”

Clint Bowyer placed third. He was followed by Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch.

Stage 1 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Stage 2 winner: Denny Hamlin

How Martin Truex Jr. won: Crew chief Cole Pearn’s decision to act as if the team would pit on Lap 73 but then hold Truex out seven more laps, put the race in Truex’s hands. With the race going caution-free to the end, the strategy worked perfectly.

Who had a good day: Stewart-Haas Racing placed all four cars in the top 10 for the second time in the team’s history, duplicating what it did at Phoenix in March. Kevin Harvick was second on Sunday, Clint Bowyer placed third, Kurt Busch was sixth and Aric Almirola finished 10th. … Chase Elliott’s fourth-place finish marked the eighth consecutive race he’s finished 12th or better. … Erik Jones‘ seventh-place finish marked his second top-10 result in the last nine races.

Who had a bad day: AJ Allmendinger won the opening stage but then missed a shift and finished last (38th). … The power steering went out on Ryan Blaney’s car with about 50 laps left. Blaney quickly fell in the standings, finishing 34th.

Notable: Martin Truex Jr.’s win snapped a streak of nine different winners in the last nine years at Sonoma.

Next: Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway at 2:30 p.m. ET on July 1 on NBCSN.

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Stage 1 winner AJ Allmendinger blows engine at Sonoma

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AJ Allmendinger lost the engine on his No. 47 Chevrolet on Lap 33 of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway, not long after winning Stage 1.

Allmendinger was running in 13th when the engine blew, a result of a bad shift. It is his first DNF at Sonoma.

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver, a favorite to contend in road course races, had started the race in fifth and made it to second before drifting back.

Once the race leaders pitted with four and three laps left in the stage, Allmendinger took the lead.

Allmendinger has started in the top five in the last five Sonoma races and not finished better than 14th.

“I haven’t missed a shift on a road course in 10 years,” Allmendinger told Fox Sports 1. “Just me. I was trying to be so patient, so smooth with it. It was unexpected. It’s on me. I let everybody down here.”

Jamie McMurray also experienced a mechanical issue that caused his engine to shut off and lose oil pressure, ending his day.



NASCAR community pays tribute to World of Outlaws driver killed in crash

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The NASCAR community paid tribute to World of Outlaws driver Jason Johnson, who died after a sprint car crash Saturday night at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway.

Johnson crashed after a restart racing for the lead. Witnesses said that Johnson’s car flipped and went through billboards outside Turn 3, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Johnson won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals. He finished sixth in the points last year in the World of Outlaws.


Today’s Cup race at Sonoma: Start time, lineup and more

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There has been a different winner in each of the last nine Cup races at Sonoma Raceway, site of today’s Cup race. Those nine winners have been Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.

Will there be a 10th different winner at the road course?

Here is all the information for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley will give the command to start engines at 3:01 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 110 laps (218.9 miles) around the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 10:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:20 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEMBroadway Under The Stars in Sonoma Valley, Transcendence’s Meggie Cansler will perform the anthem at 2:55 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: calls for a high of 80 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick led the final 22 laps to win last year’s race. Clint Bowyer placed second. Brad Keselowski finished third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for full qualification results.