Matt Kenseth not expecting ‘any kind of special treatment’ at Darlington

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Of the 40 drivers who are entered into Sunday’s Cup Series race at Darlington (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox), no one is more familiar with the “Lady in Black” than Matt Kenseth.

Despite not having any starts since 2018, Kenseth remains the active Cup driver in laps turned around the 1.366-mile track with 8,455. Next on the list is his teammate, Kurt Busch (7,970 laps).

Since his first Cup start there in 1999, Kenseth has 25 Darlington starts, one win (2013) and three top fives. His only DNF in those starts was in 1999.

As for Sunday’s race, there’s plenty Kenseth is a stranger to.

He’s never competed in the high downforce, low horsepower package the Cup Series will utilize.

It will be his first race with Chip Ganassi Racing, his first race in a Chevrolet Camaro and his first race with crew chief Chad Johnston and spotter Tony Raines.

And like the rest of the field, the 48-year-old veteran doesn’t get any practice or qualifying laps.

“Kind of a few more unknowns and not sure you know how exactly everything’s gonna feel,” Kenseth said in Thursday teleconference. “So certainly there’s a little bit of anxiety for those first few corners until you kind of get rolling and get used to things.”

But eventually, Kenseth knows there’s going to come a time when “everybody’s gonna be ready to pounce,” and it’ll likely be a restart.

“Track position is very important,” Kenseth said. “You always want to get what you can get, when you can get it, so I don’t expect people to be taking it really easy or maybe giving you a whole bunch of extra room or anything like that. You certainly don’t expect any kind of special treatment. … So you’re just gonna have to try to be smart. Especially for me, just try to be smart and get through those first few laps and kind of hopefully get in a rhythm, get a little bit of room to move around and breathe and get kind of acclimated and go from there.”

Kenseth spent part of Thursday at CGR’s shop going over the “final details” of his No. 42 Chevrolet to make sure “the fit is good.”

As many drivers have, Kenseth has spent time in a simulator preparing for the first NASCAR race in 10 weeks. But Kenseth admits he didn’t devote too much time to it, simply because it can’t replace the real thing.

“Really didn’t spend an extended period of time there because in my mind it’s still not like driving the race cars,” Kenseth said. “A lot of things are very similar, but there’s a lot of things that are different as well.”

Even with the hurdles he faces going into one of the stranger races NASCAR has ever had to hold, Kenseth is embracing a “steep” learning curve with enthusiasm.

“I’ve got to admit, I’m as excited as I’ve been to go racing in many, many years,” Kenseth said. “I’m really looking forward to getting to the track. And I really like this group of guys. Cars look nice, Camaros look like they’re really fast. … I’m really looking forward to the opportunity. I just know that it’s gonna be a big challenge. I’m gonna have to work hard and do my best to try to take advantage of that opportunity.”

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.”