Chip Ganassi says Ross Chastain still part of team, hopefully its future

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Team owner Chip Ganassi said Ross Chastain remains in his long-term vision.

But that vision won’t include the No. 42 Chevrolet during the 2020 season.

Chip Ganassi Racing announced Matt Kenseth as the replacement for Kyle Larson, who was fired two weeks ago for a racial slur.

Chastain was slated to drive full time in the Xfinity Series for Ganassi in 2019 before a sponsorship deal imploded and has remained under contract with the team. He was considered a leading candidate for Larson’s ride before Kenseth was named to fill the seat for the remainder of the season.

‘SUPER EXCITED’: Kenseth explains his feelings and expectations about returning

MORE: Highlights of Matt Kenseth’s career 

“I would say we’re on a plan with Ross,” Ganassi said in an interview Monday. “This plan was sort of not congruent to that plan, if you will. The fact that Matt was available gave us some options there. It’s not about who we didn’t find, it’s about who we did find.

“But (Chastain) is still a part of this team, and I hope Ross has a future with this team.”

Ganassi said the team’s deal with Kenseth is through the 2020 season, which could restart next month after being on pause for six weeks because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We said let’s just do something for 2020 here and make sure it’s the right thing for all of us,” Ganassi said. “I hope it is. But right now, it’s just 2020.”

Chastain has been driving full time for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series. He also has driven in both Gander Outdoors Truck Series races and had started every Cup series race this year.

He has driven the No. 6 in place of Ryan Newman since the Roush Fenway Racing driver was injured in the Daytona 500. Newman was cleared to return Monday by NASCAR, so that stint has ended

During Monday’s NASCAR America at Home episode (at the 2:00 mark of the video above), analyst Jeff Burton said it would have been difficult for Chastain to join a playoff-contending Cup ride at Ganassi while also contending for the Xfinity title with Kaulig.

“The speculation has been Ross Chastain,” Burton said.  He was at Chip Ganassi Racing and did a really good job there. His sponsorship deal fell apart. He did not get his Xfinity ride there, and so it seemed like a natural fit (to replace Larson).

“The problem with that is he joined Kaulig Racing, and coming into this year, many of us picked him to be the favorite for the Xfinity Series championship. So although Cup and Xfinity are at a different level, the commitment that you make to your car owner, sponsors and all those things, they matter. So if you’re going to run a full Cup Series, compete for points there, you can’t in Xfinity. You can’t do both. So I felt like that was going to get complicated for Ross. I don’t know that was the deciding factor, but I’m sure it played a role.”

Ganassi said the team would be requesting a waiver from NASCAR so Kenseth could contend for the Cup playoffs despite missing the first four races.

Kenseth, 48, also provides a stable, successful presence to Ganassi, who told the Associated Press that the veteran lacked any “baggage” as a family man, Daytona 500 winner and 2003 Cup champion.

“Well anytime you’re going through a transition, you want to make sure you cross off as many variables as you can,” Ganassi said. “It’s not only a transition from a driver point of view, it looks like it’s going to be a different season than we’re used to. How you adapt to that and how you meet that challenge is going to be important come year end when you start adding things up.

“And Matt’s the kind of guy, and (teammate) Kurt (Busch) for that matter, it’s good to have guys with that kind of history and playbook and racecraft available to you.”

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)


Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings



Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

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After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”