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Ty Majeski already getting advice from fellow Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth

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CONCORD, North Carolina — It’s only one call, but Ty Majeski is already benefiting from the return of Matt Kenseth to the fold at Roush Fenway Racing.

Majeski, one of three drivers competing for Roush in the N0. 60 in the Xfinity Series this season, reached out to the 2003 Cup champion ahead of last weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

It was the first time the two Wisconsin natives have talked since Roush announced Kenseth would share its No. 6 Cup car with Trevor Bayne for the rest of the year, starting this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

Majeski, 23, is from Seymour, Wisconsin, 120 miles north of Kenseth’s hometown of Cambridge.

“He just told me what to expect, what to look for in the car, what the car needs to feel like in practice to be good on race day,” Majeski told NBC Sports Monday during a break in the Xfinity test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

MORE: Long: Can Matt Kenseth help return Roush to glory?

The conversation came after Majeksi’s first two starts in the No. 60 this season, where he wrecked out of races at Bristol and Talladega.

Majeski felt he had a top-10 car at Dover after qualifying ninth. But Majeski lost fourth gear and wrecked on Lap 170 in an incident with Dylan Lupton.

Majeski was “for sure” that his call with Kenseth helped him despite his third DNF in as many starts.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but that was the best put together weekend I feel the 60 has had all season,” Majeski said. “We practiced well. We qualified well, and we were racing really well.”

So far, the No. 60 Ford is struggling with Majeski, Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric sharing the ride. None has finished in the top 10 or on the lead lap through 10 races. The No. 60 has five DNFs between Majeski and Cindric.

While Cindric also races for Team Penske and Briscoe with Stewart-Haas Racing, Majeski is limited to his races with Roush.

Majeski “was excited” when he learned Kenseth was returning to the team he raced for from 1999-2012 before departing for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Anytime you can get Matt Kenseth or any guy of his stature and his level of experience back into an organization it’s huge for everybody,” Majeski said. “It’s huge for me to lean on him. It’s huge for our engineers to get a guy that has experience to give us the feedback we need to make our cars better.”

Kenseth’s insight comes in addition to Majeski’s access to Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse helped shake down Majeski’s car for the Charlotte test before he took over.

But Majeski’s history with Kenseth didn’t start with his phone call.

His path has crossed with Kenseth’s multiple times on short tracks in their home state in late model races. It didn’t always end well for Majeski.

“Early in my career I wasn’t racing around him at all,” Majeski said. “Two years ago at (the) Slinger (Nationals at Slinger Speedway), I was leading the race with 50 to go and blew a right rear tire. I was pulling away from them, we were probably going to win the race, but he ended up winning. … He was driving for a different team so I wasn’t able to go and talk to him or anything like that. We actually got into each other for the lead on like Lap 20 and we both had to go to the back and we both had to make our way up through the field and he was actually following me up through the field. I was making the holes for him.”

 

Today’s Xfinity race at Talladega: Start time, lineup and more

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Round three of the Dash 4 Cash takes place today at Talladega Superspeedway. That means no Cup regulars will be in this race. Battling for the $100,000 bonus will be Elliott Sadler, Christopher Bell, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric.

Here is all the info for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Wayne Sternbergh will give the command to start engines at 3:02 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:14 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 113 laps (300.58 miles) around the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 9 a.m. Qualifying is at 11 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 12:45 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Calah Delaney, a 17-year-old singer/songwriter from Bethesda, Maryland, will perform the anthem at 2:56 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for sunny skies with a high of 75 degrees and zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Aric Almirola won this race a year ago. Elliott Sadler was second. Joey Logano placed third. 

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

Xfinity practice report at Talladega

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Practice 1

Cole Custer posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session for the Sparks Energy 300 with a speed of 194.125 mph.

Custer beat Spencer Gallagher (193.980 mph) by .037 seconds.

Ryan Truex (193.952), Brandon Jones (193.948) and Elliott Sadler (193.322) rounded out the top five.

Sadler is one of the Dash 4 Cash contenders this week.

The other three contenders all recorded top-12 laps. Matt Tifft (192.533) had the eighth fastest time, Christopher Bell (192.393) was 10th and Austin Cindric (192.197) 12th.

Jones had the quickest, 10-lap average of 191.887 mph with Bell (191.416) second.

Click here for complete results from practice one.

Final Practice

Only 17 cars competed in final practice with Shane Lee posting the fastest lap of 187.938 mph.

Truex (186.343 mph) was second fastest in the session with Ryan Reed (186.148), Ty Majeski (185.441) and Alex Labbe (184.951) rounding out the top five.

None of the Dash 4 Cash contenders participated in this practice.

No one ran 10 or more laps.

Click here for full results from Xfinity final practice.

Qualification will take place Saturday at 10:00 a.m.

Friday 5: Mark Martin still a dealmaker after all these years

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Matt Kenseth’s start with Roush Fenway Racing began with Mark Martin, and Kenseth’s return also was initiated by his former teammate.

It was Martin — two decades after he pushed car owner Jack Roush to sign the Wisconsin driver — who put things in motion for Kenseth to reunite with Roush Fenway Racing this week.

Kenseth will drive the No. 6 Ford in select races this season, sharing the ride with Trevor Bayne. Kenseth’s first race in the car will be May 12 at Kansas Speedway. Kenseth also will drive in the All-Star Race the following week. The rest of Kenseth’s schedule has not been announced.

Kenseth told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider after Wednesday’s announcement that Martin was the first to reach out to him about returning to Roush Fenway Racing.

“I’ve heard a lot from Mark over the last couple of weeks, last few weeks,” Kenseth told Snider. “Jack has meant a lot to Mark. Mark has meant a lot to the organization. He was instrumental in trying to get all the parties together to make something happen.’’

An intermediary was needed. Roush admitted he struggled to get past the hurt feelings from when Kenseth left the team after the 2012 season for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I still had a little bit of a rawness over the fact that he left me when he did,’’ Roush said. “We had another championship out there, I thought, that we could have had in short order. I missed that, so it took me a little while to get over it.”

Martin was just as forceful in getting Kenseth in the beginning. Martin sought Kenseth two decades ago before a drivers meeting at Talladega in what is now the Xfinity Series. They talked for several minutes.

“I knew where I came from,’’ Martin said, referring to Midwest short-track racing. “I knew where Rusty came from. I knew where Alan Kulwicki came from. I knew what it took to do what we did. I knew that Matt had been doing what we did. That was enough for me. That was enough for me to seek him out.

“I talked to him. I went straight from him to the trailer with Jack and I told Jack right then — because I don’t mess around — I said: “You’ve got to get this dude, we’ve got to get this guy signed. I know you don’t have a place for him, I know you don’t have anything to do for him, (but) you’ve got to get this guy. He’s the guy.’ ‘’

Kenseth signed a testing contract with Roush before the 1998 season and ran five Cup races in 1999 for the team. He went on to win Cup Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and the 2003 Cup title.

“He delivered something I was never able to do – Jack Roush a Cup championship,’’ Martin said of Kenseth. “That means a lot. To me that is big. In other words, it feels good to be right.’’

Now, Martin looks to be right again.

2. Restrictor-plate nuances

After leading a race-high 118 laps in the Daytona 500 and finishing seventh, it would have been easy for Ryan Blaney to look back upon the season-opening race with regret.

Blaney, who also won his qualifying race at Daytona that week, admits he watched the 500 twice that night before moving on.

“You can’t dwell on things too much,’’ Blaney said. “If you dwell on that, you’re taking your mind off the important things like what’s upcoming.’’

But there’s one thing Blaney is looking back upon. Daytona Speedweeks was the first time for the no ride-height rule at restrictor-plate tracks and it made an impact.

“Honestly, we were learning new things because those cars drafted a lot differently with the no ride-height rule,’’ Blaney said. “It was harder to be the leader and block lanes and runs were massive and your car didn’t handle as good.’’

The three major crashes in the Daytona 500 all started in the top three and were a result of a car getting a big run or blocking. Cars made big runs throughout the race and that made it more difficult to time blocks.

“I’m sure some drivers talked about it was hard to make aggressive moves and make sharp turns because the cars were all over the place,’’ Blaney said. “Now I think they’re going to change that up a little bit to where our cars can drive better. You have to have speed, obviously, but you have to be able to make sharp turns and moves and we saw some wrecks in the 500 because guys couldn’t do that or they tried and it didn’t work. I think we will have a better idea of this package, things like that this weekend.’’

But Blaney also admits that leading still could be challenging at Talladega.

“Talladega is just a lot wider, there’s more room to make moves but that is tougher because if you’re the leader you’ve got to block more in spots so that is kind of hard, just depends on what spot you’re in,’’ he said.

3. Waiting to celebrate

Hendrick Motorsports continues to seek its 250th Cup win. This is only the third time since 2002 that Hendrick Motorsports has gone so deep into the season without a victory.

Hendrick needed 11 races to score its first victory of the season in 2012. The team needed 10 races to score its first victory in 2002. Sunday’s race at Talladega marks the 10th race of the year.

Hendrick Motorsports’ last win came in July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Kasey Kahne — 25 races ago.

4. For the cash

Saturday’s Xfinity race is another Dash 4 Cash race — meaning no Cup regulars in the field. This is the first time the Dash 4 Cash event has been held at Talladega

Those racing for the $100,000 bonus are Elliott Sadler, Christopher Bell, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric.

5. Five winners

So far only five drivers have won in Cup this season — Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer.

This is the fewest number of winners in the first nine races of a season since 1997 when the winners were Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton and Mark Martin.

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Cole Custer wins pole for Xfinity race at Richmond

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Cole Custer will start first in tonight’s Xfinity Series race at Richmond Raceway after earning his second consecutive pole.

Custer won the pole for the ToyotaCare 250 with a lap of 121.332 mph. He earned his first career pole last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will be joined on the front row by Christopher Bell (120.881 mph). He has started on the front row in four of the first eight races this season.

The top five is rounded out by Austin Cindric, Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek.

Cindric will start in the top five for the first time this season.

Hemric is the highest qualifying of the four Dash 4 Cash drivers. Justin Allgaier will start seventh and Elliott Sadler will roll off eighth. Spencer Gallagher will start 17th.

Noah Gragson will start 11th in his Xfinity debut.

Tyler Reddick suffered some cosmetic damage when he scrapped the frontstretch wall in Round 2. He will start 10th.

Click here for qualifying results.