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Bump & Run: What are expectations for Matt Kenseth in the No. 6 car?


Matt Kenseth makes his season debut in the No. 6 car this weekend at Kansas Speedway. He’ll run a partial schedule this year, sharing the ride with Trevor Bayne. What are your expectations for Kenseth in the No. 6 car?

Parker Kligerman: I expect him to be roughly in line with the performance of the 17 car. I believe Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been driving at a very high level and extracting everything he can from those RFR cars. So Matt should be at that same level immediately.

Dustin Long: I expect better performances than the No. 6 team has had lately. I expect to see the car show the ability to finish in the top 15 and then top 10, but I believe Kenseth will need some time to help steer the team in the right direction.

Nate Ryan: He told us Tuesday that he could finish “fifth or 25th” at Kansas, and the smart money probably says somewhere in between, at least at the outset. As Parker notes, Kenseth should match Stenhouse’s results, and by the second half of the season, he could elevate the team’s performance to a new level.

Daniel McFadin: I expect Kenseth to have a noticeable impact, but it will take a few races. He’ll be consistently in the top 15 by season’s end. Bayne has an average finish of 24.7, so there’s not much Kenseth can do but improve.

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have combined to win seven of the first 11 races. At this rate, they’ll combine to win 23 Cup races this season. How many do you think they’ll actually win?

Parker Kligerman: Oh man, I’m terrible at these types of predictions lately, but I’m going to say that they will combine for 12 wins in the season. 

Dustin Long: I think they’ll combine to win six of the remaining 25 races (24 percent), giving them 13 wins for the season.

Nate Ryan: Let’s make it 18, an even half for the 2018 season.

Daniel McFadin: I think Harvick can get to 10 wins if some of the expected heavy hitters don’t catch up soon enough. Busch will likely peak with seven wins.

Who is a driver outside a playoff spot at this point that you’re keeping an eye on?

Parker Kligerman: Ricky Stenhouse, I believe, will be a thorn in the side of Hendrick Motorsports drivers through the summer months unless they win races because he will be constantly pushing them on that bubble spot of the playoffs. I feel Daniel Suarez will be in a similar situation but could win a race soon.

Dustin Long: I want to see what Paul Menard and the Wood Brothers do. Fords are fast. The Woods are aligned with Team Penske. That’s a combination that can get them to the playoffs. It’s just a matter of doing it.

Nate Ryan: If there are positions to be claimed on points — and it seems there will be — it’s hard to count out Ryan Newman.

Daniel McFadin: I want to say Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but unfortunately he can’t race at Bristol, Talladega and Dover every week. I’m going to go with Daniel Suarez. With two top 10s and a top five in the last three races he appears to be finally settling into a groove.

Daniel Hemric fastest in final practice; Kevin Harvick second

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Daniel Hemric turned the fastest lap Friday in the final Cup practice at Kansas Speedway, turning a 177.830 mph lap in his No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Kevin Harvick was second followed by Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski (who paced the first practice) and Ryan Blaney.

Hemric has yet to announce a ride for 2020 after RCR announced last month that the rookie would be replaced by Tyler Reddick next season.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10.

Here are the rankings speeds of the other playoff drivers: Denny Hamlin 12th; Alex Bowman 15th; Joey Logano 16th; Clint Bowyer 19th; Chase Elliott 20th; and William Byron 22nd.

Click here to see where things stand in the playoffs standings entering Sunday’s second-round cutoff race at Kansas.

Click here for speeds from the final practice at Kansas.

Click here for the speeds during the first Cup practice of the weekend at Kansas.

Ryan Preece praises team for its work after hauler fire

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ryan Preece praised his team for converting teammate Chris Buescher’s backup car into Preece’s primary car Friday after the hauler carrying Preece’s cars and equipment caught fire this week en route to Kansas Speedway.

“I know some of the guys haven’t had much sleep, very proud of them,” Preece said.

The team’s hauler pulled over near New Columbia, Illinois, on Thursday after a fire in the rear axle area that spread to the hauler. A team spokesperson told NBC Sports that crew chief Eddie Pardue and a couple of team members flew there to take what could be salvaged before driving to Kansas City.

The team spokesperson said that the lockers and uniforms in the hauler were heavily damaged. Both cars had damage with the backup car suffering smoke damage.

NASCAR allowed JTG Daugherty Racing to enter the garage at 8 a.m. ET Friday — five hours before the garage was scheduled to open — and allowed members from both JTG Daugherty teams to work on the car. Preece said he was there with the team when it arrived and worked on the interior as the crew converted the car.

“We’re in it as a team,” Preece said. “I wasn’t going to show up later in the afternoon. I wanted them to know that I was right there with them. I wanted to help in every way I could.”

Preece said his car was loose in the first practice session Friday at Kansas Speedway. He was 32nd on the speed chart in that session, making it on track about 10 minutes after practice began.

Brad Keselowski fastest in first practice at Kansas; Kyle Busch makes big save

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Brad Keselowski turned the fastest lap with a minute remaining in Friday afternoon’s first Cup practice at Kansas Speedway.

The 176.499-mph lap by the No. 2 Ford of Team Penske nipped a 176.389 mph lap by the No. 10 Ford of Aric Almirola.

Daniel Suarez was third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney. Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Daniel Hemric rounded out the top 10.

Here’s how other playoff drivers fared during the practice:

Kyle Larson 11th; Joey Logano 13th; Clint Bowyer 15th; William Byron 20th; Alex Bowman 21st; Kyle Busch (who had an impressive save; video below) 22nd; Chase Elliott 23rd.

Click here to see where things stand in the playoffs standings entering Sunday’s second-round cutoff race at Kansas.

Click here for the speeds during the first Cup practice of the weekend at Kansas.

Gray Gaulding out Friday after suspected allergic reaction

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A Stewart-Haas Racing plane made an unscheduled stop in St. Louis on Friday after Gray Gaulding had a suspected allergic reaction.

SS Green Light Racing confirmed Gaulding had an issue en route to Kansas City. A Stewart-Haas Racing spokesperson confirmed that its plane made the unscheduled stop, and that emergency personnel came on board after the plane landed. Gaulding remained in St. Louis while the plane continued to Kansas City.

SS Green Light Racing stated that after arriving at the track, Gaulding went to the infield care center and was not cleared to drive Friday. Gaulding will be re-evaluated Saturday. J.J. Yeley drove the car for Gaulding in practice Friday.