Matt Kenseth says ‘no problems’ with Trevor Bayne after a ‘good conversation’

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CONCORD, N.C. — Matt Kenseth will return to NASCAR this weekend at Kansas Speedway, and the driver he is at least temporarily replacing in the No. 6 Ford will be there, too.

In a Tuesday morning interview at Roush Fenway Racing, Kenseth told NBC Sports that he expects Trevor Bayne will be at Saturday night’s Cup race.

The two met in person Tuesday at the team’s shop for the weekly debrief, which Bayne commutes to from his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“I talked to Trevor on the phone the other day for half-hour or hour; had a good conversation with him,” Kenseth said. “Look forward to seeing him today.

“I think that he’s fine with me. We had a really good conversation, actually. I’m looking forward to working with both of them. If you’re another driver filling in, it’s obviously not the driver’s decision, it’s an ownership thing. So certainly I don’t think Trevor and I have any problems at all.”

The 2003 champion, who also had lunch with Roush teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. last week, has been confirmed in Bayne’s car for Kansas and the next week at the All-Star Race, but Roush hasn’t announced the No. 6 driver lineup for the rest of 2018.

According to two people with direct knowledge of the schedule but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly, Kenseth will drive in at least the next five race weekends – Kansas, the All-Star Race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway.

In an April 25 news conference to announce Kenseth’s return, Roush unveiled Wyndham Rewards/Wyndham Hotels as his sponsor for select races.

There is a one-week break in the schedule after Michigan before the circuit returns June 24 race at Sonoma Raceway. In February, Roush announced the No. 6 would be sponsored by AdvoCare at Sonoma and in the July 1 race at Chicagoland Speedway. Because of his tight relationship with AdvoCare, it’s expected Bayne will be in the car for those races.

Asked about his upcoming schedule, Kenseth said, “I’m running a good chunk right in a row, then it’s sporadic after that.”

Kansas will mark Kenseth’s first Cup race since finishing eighth in last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He joked “what rust?” when asked how he is preparing after missing the first 11 races of 2018, adding he hadn’t spent any time in a driving simulator for this weekend.

“I haven’t done anything,” he said. “I was thinking about doing the Xfinity test Monday (at Charlotte), but everything is just so different other than driving anyway.

“I’m not super worried about that. I guess things you probably worry about is being in a different (team) than I’ve been the last five years. Just everything fitting right, feeling the same. That type of thing. I’m used to having the same brake system, steering, same guy doing my interiors. All that stuff is probably what I worry about more than ‘rust.’ That’s a few laps, and it feels normal.”

But it probably is the longest stretch between races in more than 20 years for Kenseth since the 46-year-old was running Late Models in Wisconsin in the mid-1990s.

Kenseth, who drove at Roush from 1998-2012 before spending the past five seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, also attended his first debrief with the team Tuesday.

“I’ve been reading a lot of notes and looking at a lot of stuff, so I’m somewhat up to speed,” he said. “As much as I can be without driving yet.”

A display of the car Matt Kenseth will drive at Kansas Speedway was in the Roush Fenway Racing museum Tuesday.

He said he wouldn’t be arriving with any setup or technical ideas from his last stop.

“I don’t have any of that stuff, and I wouldn’t bring it any way,” he said. “It’s not really the way I do things. Until you get in the car and get going and get a feel for everybody, I have no clue where we’re at until we get on the track and get going from there. So I don’t have a lot of ideas until we really get going and get through Friday.”

Kenseth also will be learning a new team this weekend. He said he worked an Xfinity race with crew chief Matt Puccia “many moons ago” but knows him well as a longtime Roush employee.

“I think the goals are the same as everywhere,” he said. “You want to win, you want to make everything better. I think Ricky is showing a lot of speed this year at a lot of different places. He doesn’t have all of them translated into finishes, but he’s been pretty fast at a lot of places. His team has been really good. Feels like they’re definitely on an upswing. It’s hard to evaluate a lot of that until I get really more ingrained in the system, and that’s hard to do until you get racing a few weeks.”

Though he won at Phoenix Raceway last season in his penultimate start of 2017, the expectations at Kansas will be modest for Kenseth, who joked he will “go around in circles as fast as you can. Some things never change.

“I can’t say I have a particular (finish) in mind,” he said. “Obviously I want to go there and learn as much as I can and be productive and not look stupid when you get back in the car the first time. You want the weekend to go smooth, and you want everything to go right. Especially Friday. Anything can happen on race day. I have a little bit anxiety about Friday just not being in the car and making sure everything is going to fit right, the dash is right, working with the spotter.

“All those things give you a little bit of anxious moments until you get through Friday. So I’m looking forward to getting through practice and getting qualified and getting ready to race from there.”

His record at Kansas – two wins and 13 top 10s in 24 starts on the 1.5-mile oval – also offers some confidence.

“I’d like to go there and start off strong and run strong, but it’s hard to know what to expect until you get in the car and actually drive it,” he said. “It’s impossible to even predict if we’re going to be 25th or fifth. I don’t have any idea until I get in the car and get to working on it and go from there and see where our speed is.”

Nashville Fair Board votes to terminate contract with operator of Fairgrounds Speedway

Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
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The Nashville Metro Fair Board voted Tuesday to terminate its contract with the operator of Fairgrounds Speedway, a track being eyed for a possible NASCAR race, according to The Tennessean.

Last December, Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway announced “an agreement to explore bringing major NASCAR racing events” back to the .596-mile track. The earliest Nashville could potentially be added to the schedule is 2021, though the schedule for that season is expected to be revealed in April.

Bristol Motor Speedway released a statement Tuesday night saying it is still interested in pursuing future involvement with the Fairgrounds Speedway.

“We appreciate all that Tony and Claire Formosa have done to sustain local racing in Nashville over the years,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager for Bristol Motor Speedway. “Today’s news does not change our interest or belief that Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can be returned to prominence to help create a true renovation of the Fairgrounds. There is huge local, regional and national interest in the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. As Mayor (John) Cooper, the Fair Board and Council determine what’s next for the historic race track, we are ready to engage with them on the vision that we believe can deliver a bright future for the Fairgrounds.”

The vote to terminate the contract with Formosa Productions, operated by Tony and Claire Formosa, is in response to a claimed breach of contract, which was first raised by the city in April and includes unpaid concessions commissions and rent payments.

A fairgrounds spokesperson told The Tennessean that the Formosas would owe the city nearly $180,000 by the end of the year. The Tennessean reports the Formosas have 90 days to vacate the premises.

According to The Tennessean, Nashville Fairgrounds Director Laura Womack said she and another board member met Oct. 14 with the Formosas and asked that they provide specific contract changes and documents regarding attendance and revenue records from this year’s racing season.

A meeting where those documents were due to be delivered was rescheduled to Nov. 6 before it was canceled by the Formosas.

“This shows little to no faith that we will be paid by the end of the year,” said Fair Board member Caleb Hemmer, according to The Tennessean. “Which begs the issue that we need to start looking to the future and what we need to do as a board to ensure there’s racing next year if the (Formosas) can’t fulfill their obligations as put forth by (the contract).”

Jim Roberts, an attorney representing the Formosas, attended the meeting according to The Tennessean. Roberts believed the meeting, which was delayed two hours due to winter weather, was in violation of the opens meeting act due to it not being properly noticed.

The Formosas have operated the track since 2010 and entered into a five-year agreement in 2017 after the city chose its bid over one from Bristol Motor Speedway

The deal between Formosa Productions and Bristol Motor Speedway, which would need to be approved by the Fair Board, would focus “on a long-range plan of significant track improvements and high-profile race events that could include NASCAR events upon the facility meeting standards.”

In May, Bristol officials revealed a $60 million proposal to renovate the track.

The plan would increase seating capacity of the .596-mile short track from its current size of 15,000 to 30,000, as well as include an expanded concourse, premium seating, pedestrian tunnels and sound barriers.

 

Penalty report from ISM Raceway

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NASCAR has fined five crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts on their cars after last weekend’s playoff races at ISM Raceway.

Each fine was for having a single unsecured lug nut.

In the Cup Series:

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, and Mike Hillman Sr., crew chief on J.J. Yeley‘s No. 53 Chevrolet, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series:

Taylor Moyer, crew chief on Zane Smith‘s No. 8 Chevrolet, was fined $5,000.

In the Truck Series:

Joe Shear, Jr., crew chief on Johnny Suater’s No. 13 Chevrolet, and Trip Bruce lll, crew chief on race winner Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, were fined $2,500.

Preliminary entry lists for Championship Weekend in Miami

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NASCAR’s final race weekend of the year has arrived with the championship races for all three of its national series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three races.

Cup – Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

A full field of 40 cars are entered into the race.

Drew Herring is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota for his Cup debut.

John Hunter Nemechek will make his third start in Front Row Motorsports’ No. 36 Ford in relief of Matt Tifft.

Joe Nemechek is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

Joey Logano won this race last year over Martin Truex Jr. to claim his first Cup title.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Ford EcoBoost 300 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 39 cars entered. One car will not qualify for the race.

Jeb Burton is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

Tyler Reddick won this race last year over Cole Custer to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Ford EcoBoost 200 (8 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

There are 37 trucks entered. Five trucks will not qualify for the event.

K&N Pro Series West champion Derek Kraus is entered in Bill McAnally Racing’s No. 19 Toyota for his fifth start of the season.

Angela Ruch is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet.

Christian Eckes is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota.

NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman is entered in Henderson Motorsports’ No. 75 Chevrolet.

No drivers are listed for NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 87 Chevrolet and Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 33 and No. 34 Toyotas.

Brett Moffitt won this race last year to claim the championship.

Click here for the entry list.

JJL Motorsports announces new team owner

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JJL Motorsports, Jesse Little‘s Gander Outdoors Truck Series team, announced Tuesday it has sold its assets to Logan Puckett, president of Diversified Utility Group, a turnkey general contractor specializing in fiber optic telecommunications construction.

The company will sponsor Little in Friday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Puckett will re-brand the team as Diversified Motorsports Enterprises in 2020 with plans to compete part-time with Little as its primary driver.

Little, 22, has made eight starts in the Truck Series this year in his No. 97 Ford.

More: Jesse Little to compete full-time for JD Motorsports in 2020

The team announced in early September that its assets were up for sale.

“I’m honored to represent Diversified Utility Group this weekend at Homestead,” Little said in a press release. “Logan has been so excited about the opportunity to enter the Truck Series as an owner in 2020, but to have his company be a part of our last race under the JJL Motorsports banner as a sponsor is even more awesome.

“Hopefully we can have a good performance for him on Friday night before looking ahead to 2020.”

Said Puckett: “I am really looking forward to taking over an outstanding program that JJL has put together as it provides a great foundation to build on and hopefully grow. I think the growth potential is what excites me the most.

“I am certainly looking forward to the challenge that this provides, and I hope that I can bring some value to the team and ultimately it would be awesome if I can bring value to the sport as a young owner with a fresh outlook.”