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.”

eNASCAR Pro Invitational Qualifier to be streamed online

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The qualifying race for Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway will be streamed on enascar.com/live, NASCAR announced.

The qualifier features Xfinity, Truck and regional series drivers looking to advance to the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race that will be at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports App. At this time, four drivers from the qualifier will advance. That number could change depending on any late additions or drops to the race featuring Cup drivers.

MORE: Roush, Greg Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

MORE: North Wilkesboro to make its comeback on iRacing 

MORE: eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series reminds Clint Bowyer of being a rookie

The qualifier is scheduled to take place at 11:02 a.m. ET and have 34 drivers battling for those four transfer spots.

The qualifier will be 30 laps at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway. The race will have no cautions.

Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying begins at 10:55 a.m., lasting five minutes, followed by the race.

Last week, six drivers advanced from the qualifier to the main event. They were: Anthony Alfredo, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Majeski and Ryan Truex.

Drivers scheduled to compete in Sunday’s qualifier at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway are (with car number):

02 – Spencer Boyd

7 – Justin Allgaier

08 – Jeb Burton

15 – Brennan Poole

16 – Justin Haley

22 – Austin Cindric

23 – Sam Mayer

26 – Tyler Ankrum

27 – Ruben Garcia

29  – Kaz Grala

29a – Trevor Bayne

33 – Anthony Alfredo

35 – Todd Gilliland

36 – Jesse Iwuji

40 – Ryan Truex

45 – Ty Majeski

46 – Chandler Smith

50 – Jeffrey Earnhardt

52 – Stewart Friesen

53 – Joey Gase

54 – Kyle Weatherman

63 – Scott Stenzel

68 – Brandon Brown

74 – Sheldon Creed

78 – Ryan Ellis

80 – Joe Graf Jr.

81 – Christian Eckes

90 – Alex Labbe

93 – Myatt Snider

98 – Chase Briscoe

99 – Harrison Burton

TBD – Derek Kraus

TBD – Drew Dollar

TBD – JJ Yeley

March 28 in NASCAR history: Texas Terry Labonte gets a home win

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Terry Labonte’s last two Cup Series wins were anything but forgettable.

The last one, in 2003, came in the Southern 500. That was the same race he earned his first Cup win in way back in 1980.

But four years earlier, the two-time champion got a home win.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, the driver nicknamed “Texas Terry” claimed a victory in the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was just the third Cup race held at the facility after it opened in 1997.

Labonte started fourth and would lead 124 of 334 laps around the 1.5-mile track, including the final 12 after he passed Dale Jarrett on the outside going into Turn 1 for the lead.

Jarrett wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the lead again. With four laps to go, Jimmy Spencer crashed on the frontstretch to bring out the caution. Labonte took the checkered and yellow flags together for his 21st Cup win.

“We picked places to go test this year and I said ‘I want to go here cause this is a race I want to win,” Labonte told CBS. “Besides Daytona, coming here to Texas is awesome.”

Making the day even better for the Labonte family was Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, placing third.

Also on this day:

1954: The premier series held two races on different sides of the country. Dick Rathmann won a 125-mile race at Oakland Speedway in California after starting last. In Georgia, Al Keller won his first career race at Savannah’s Oglethorpe Speedway.

1982: Sam Ard claimed his first career Xfinity Series win in a race at Martinsville Speedway. Ard would go on to win 22 Xfinity races and the championships in 1983 and 1984.

1992: Robert Pressley passed Harry Gant on the last lap to win the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

1993: Dale Earnhardt came back from a lap down to win at Darlington Raceway. It was his first win since the Coca-Cola 600 10 months earlier. Alan Kulwicki finished sixth in what would be his last race before his death in a plane crash on April 1.

2004: Kurt Busch won at Bristol for his third consecutive victory on the half-mile track.

Roush, Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

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After four years, Roush Fenway Racing and Greg Biffle are getting the band back together … digitally.

Roush Fenway Racing announced its former driver will compete in Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event on a digital Texas Motor Speedway.

Like he did in the Cup Series from 2003-2016, Biffle will pilot a No. 16 Ford in the race (1 p.m. ET on Fox and FS1).

“How exciting is it to get back behind the wheel of the No. 16,” Biffle said in a press release. “I watched the iRace last week on TV and I was really impressed with the overall quality of the broadcast and the racing. It was just a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to being a part of the show this weekend.

“We are running a really cool Castrol scheme on the car. I think it’s going to show up really well. My plan is to log a ton of practice time leading up to the race, so hopefully we can have a strong showing and you’ll see a lot of the Castrol green and red on the broadcast.”

This will be Biffle’s iRacing event debut.

After parting ways with Roush Fenway Racing after the 2016 season, Biffle returned to NASCAR last year for a one-off Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch Motorsports, which he won.

NASCAR teams impacted by North Carolina stay at home order

Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP
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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay at home order for the entire state of North Carolina, beginning at 5 p.m. ET Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order is for 30 days.

The move impacts all NASCAR teams based in North Carolina.

“These are tough directives, but I need you to take them seriously,” Gov. Cooper said in afternoon news briefing.

MORE: N.C. Governor enlists Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson for COVID-19 PSA

MORE: North Carolina stay at home order

The order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. The order requires all residents to stay at home except for essential activities. The order states: “non-essential business and operations must cease.”

The order also states that among the definitions for an essential business and operation is “Businesses that meet Social Distancing Requirements. Businesses, not-for-profit organizations or educational institutions that conduct operations while maintaining Social Distancing Requirements:

a. Between and among its employees; and

b. Between and among employees and customers except at the point of sale or purchase.”

Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County, which are home to such race teams as Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing, were already under a stay at home order through April 16.

By the end of the week, more than 20 states will have issued stay at home orders, including California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.