chip ganassi racing

Return to Indy provides another runner-up finish for Matt Kenseth

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INDIANAPOLIS — All around him, before one of the biggest restarts of his career, Matt Kenseth had no friends.

Maybe this was Kenseth’s final chance to win a Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Three times before Sunday he had finished second at this fabled track but the former Cup champion — who was brought back after not competing in 2019 — had never kissed the bricks.

Before the race, the 48-year-old said he was more focused on week-to-week than looking ahead on if he will return to Chip Ganassi Racing or the series after this season.

As he lined up next to leader Kevin Harvick for an overtime restart, Kenseth faced the challenge of trying to topple one of the sport’s hottest drivers and the reigning race winner.

And Harvick had help.

Behind him was Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Cole Custer. Behind Kenseth was Harvick’s teammate Aric Almirola.

Kenseth was surrounded by SHR cars.

“Aric was great,” Kenseth said. “He was ready and pushed me. I didn’t do the best job taking off. I didn’t want to get a penalty for jumping the start. I started going, he pushed me. 

“Didn’t look like Kevin was going, so I hesitated just that beat that kind of got Kevin out there.”

Harvick was waiting on Custer to hit his rear bumper and give him a shove.

“Cole got a really good restart, was able to get attached to my bumper,” Harvick said. “Being right on the front row, especially late in the race, everybody is going to try to push as hard as they can to put themselves in a position to have the best restart.”

Said Kenseth: “(Almirola) still pushed me up there pretty good. Couldn’t get going that fast.”

Said Harvick: “We were clear before we got to Turn 1. At that point you have clean air, and those guys were side‑by‑side. We were able to break away right there. Definitely Cole was a huge part of helping us win this race at the end.”

The result was a fourth runner-up finish at Indy for Kenseth.

But it was the previous restart Kenseth lamented. It came with 22 laps to go.

Denny Hamlin led and restarted on the outside lane. Harvick was on the inside of the front row. Kenseth was fourth and started behind Hamlin. The outside lane was the preferred lane and had allowed the car restarting fourth to move to second soon after the green waved again.

Kenseth could only manage one spot and ran third behind Hamlin and Harvick.

“Really the restart before that was our chance,” Kenseth said.

With Hamlin and Harvick ahead, they controlled the race. Harvick assumed the lead after Hamlin crashed when a right front tire blew with eight laps left.

Although he didn’t win, the runner-up finish was Kenseth’s best since he began driving the No. 42 after Kyle Larson was fired for uttering a racial slur during a sim racing event while the series was not competing.

Sunday’s finish followed an 11th- and 12th-place finish in the two Pocono races last weekend.

“I feel like we had done some stuff at Pocono that really seemed to work for me and directionally seemed to be better,” Kenseth said. “The car drove pretty good here the whole entire day, too. I’m hoping we can just carry that momentum into Kentucky, just keep moving forward with that. Hopefully get to the front like we did today, running up front where this team belongs.”

Kenseth said such finishes as Sunday’s helps confidence.

“Whenever you run well, you build more confidence, not just for myself but for the team and everybody involved,” he said. “Running bad has opposite effect. Certainly we had a good day starting off at Darlington. I was super sloppy and rusty, we still finished 10th.

“Just kind of downhill from there. We went back and were a little faster. I hit the wall, got a bad finish. Nothing was going really well. Like I said, we had a couple decent races last weekend with no mistakes, no problems, no issues, got decent finishes. Today we were able to be competitive, run up front.”

The question is was this his last chance to win at Indy or will he back next year?

Kevin Harvick powers to Brickyard 400 win in overtime

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INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Harvick pulled away on an overtime restart to win his second consecutive Brickyard 400 and third in his career Sunday night at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Harvick inherited the lead after Denny Hamlin blew a tire and crashed while leading with less than 10 laps left. The victory is Harvick’s fourth of the season and 53rd of his career. He previously won at Indianapolis in 2003 and 2019.

“This is like living out your childhood dream, being able to race and win here,” Harvick said. “I know how many times we’ve had fast cars here, come out the other end.  Now to have won it back‑to‑back, three times, is something that’s a little bit surreal. I kind of have to just laugh about it, think back to all of those times that you told somebody you were going to go win the Indy 500, race IndyCar, whatever the case may be. Now you’re in a stockcar, 20 years into your career, still going strong.”

Matt Kenseth finished second for his best finish since returning to the series in place of Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing. Kenseth was followed by Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and rookie Cole Custer, who gave Harvick the push on the restart.

MORE: Race results 

Hamlin appeared headed for his first Brickyard 400 win until he brought out the caution on Lap 155. A right front tire went down in Turn 1 as he led.  He was the second Joe Gibbs Racing driver to crash after a tire went down. Erik Jones was eliminated earlier in the race

“Just didn’t work out for us today,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “I had a fast car obviously. Was stretching it out there, but wasn’t pushing the left front (tire) at all. It’s kind of like roulette. Whether you get one that’s going to stay together or not and mine didn’t and you saw the end result.”

Said Harvick: “We weren’t going to get by him unless he made a huge mistake.”

Harvick then had to hold off Kenseth on an overtime restart after getting a timely push from Custer.

“We were clear before we got to Turn 1,” Harvick said. “At that point you have clean air, and those guys were side‑by‑side. We were able to break away right there. Definitely Cole was a huge part of helping us win this race at the end.”

Harvick’s win gave Stewart-Haas Racing a sweep of the NASCAR portion of this historic weekend at Indy that saw the series share the facility with the NTT IndyCar Series. SHR’s Chase Briscoe won Saturday’s Xfinity race on the road course.

Earlier in the race, Zach Price, rear tire changer for Ryan Blaney‘s team, was transported to a local hospital after he was struck by Brennan Poole‘s car on pit road. The incident happened as several cars crashed on pit road during the competition caution on Lap 14. Price gave a thumbs up while on a stretcher before he was loaded into an ambulance. He was transported to a local hospital. Those in the crash included Corey LaJoie, Ryan Preece, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Justin Allgaier, who was driving in place of Jimmie Johnson because Johnson has contracted COVID-19.

The race started about an hour late because of lightning within an 8-mile radius of the speedway.

STAGE 1 WINNER: William Byron

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kevin Harvick

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Aric Almirola’s third-place finish marked his fifth consecutive top-five finish. … Brad Keselowski finished fourth, marking his third top-four finish at Indy in the last four years. … Cole Custer finished fifth, becoming the first rookie to place in the top five at Indy since Juan Pablo Montoya did so in 2007.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Preece, Corey LaJoie, Martin Truex Jr. and Justin Allgaier were all eliminated because of a crash on pit road early in the race that injured a member of Ryan Blaney’s pit crew.

NOTABLE: Sunday marked the first time since 1958 that Daytona did not host a Cup race on or near July 4.

NEXT RACE: The series races at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 12 at Kentucky Speedway.

Kurt Busch to make 700th career Cup start

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Former champion Kurt Busch will make his 700th career Cup start today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports App).

Busch becomes only the 16th driver to amass at least 700 career Cup starts. Richard Petty owns the series record with 1,185 starts.

Busch, who starts second today at Indy, has the most career starts among active drivers. He has two more starts than Kevin Harvick, who is scheduled to make his 700th career Cup start July 19 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Busch made his first career Cup start Sept. 24, 2000 at Dover, finishing 18th.

He has 31 career victories, including the 2017 Daytona 500. Busch won the 2004 Cup title. He has 307 career top-10 finishes.

The 41-year-old marvels at making his 700th career Cup start today.

“It’s amazing,” Busch said. “To have this opportunity and to have been blessed to have raced with so many great race teams over the years, just making it past the local track was something that I thought was an achievement because my dad was a local racer. He won a lot. But it was like money, sponsors, and the whole challenge of even getting to like the Southwest Tour and Late Model division, that was even tough for us way back in the past.

“So, it’s amazing. Twenty years of racing at the top series level and now having 700 starts, I never would have guessed.”

Busch is 10th in points entering today’s race. He has yet to win his year but has three top-five finishes and nine top-10 results in 15 starts for Chip Ganassi Racing.

MOST CAREER CUP STARTS

1,185 – Richard Petty

906 – Ricky Rudd

890 – Terry Labonte

883 – Dave Marcis

882 – Mark Martin

829 – Kyle Petty

828 – Bill Elliott

809 – Darrell Waltrip

805 – Jeff Gordon

784 – Michael Waltrip

763 – Ken Schrader

748 – Sterling Marlin

729 – Bobby Labonte

706 – Rusty Wallace

700 – Kurt Busch

Jimmie Johnson uncertain how he got COVID-19

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INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson says he doesn’t know how he and wife Chandra tested positive for COVID-19 after being careful in interactions with others and wearing a mask, but that is just among the many questions he has.

Johnson revealed Friday that he had tested positive after his wife had tested positive. Both of their children tested negative.

The seven-time Cup champion will miss Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports App). It will be the first time in his career he will have missed a scheduled Cup start. Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 for Johnson.

When Johnson returns is uncertain. He must have two negative tests more than 24 hours apart and have a doctor’s release.

Johnson, who is in Aspen, Colorado, talked with the media Saturday morning. Here are details of the conversation:

WHAT WAS THE TIMELINE FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON AND WIFE CHANDRA ON TESTING POSITIVE?

His wife had some allergy-like symptoms earlier in the week and Johnson said that “being the rule follower and the ever-cautious individual she is, she felt she needed to go to the local hospital here in Colorado and have a test done just to be responsible and do her part and then we waited on her test results, which took a couple of days and those came in (Friday) morning at 9 o’clock (Mountain Time). From that point on, we were just dealing with the issues at hand and trying to understand if I was positive. I was lucky to get in and be tested and get a quick result for myself and my children.”

Johnson said that his wife tested positive on Wednesday (July 1)

WHAT IS THE FAMILY’S STATUS?

Johnson and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.

Both their children have tested NEGATIVE.

WHAT SYMPTOMS DOES JOHNSON HAVE?

He is asymptotic … They don’t know how many days he was positive before the test.

HOW DID HE GET THE VIRUS?

Johnson: “I have more questions, honestly, than I do answers at this point. I don’t think you can be careful enough. Clearly we weren’t. With our best intent we ended up positive somehow. We’re unclear how we ended up positive.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JOHNSON AND WHEN MIGHT HE RETURN TO RACING?

Jeff Andrews, vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports said this is what Johnson needs to have done before returning to the track:

— Two negative tests with a minimum of 24 hours between those tests followed by a doctor’s release.

JOHNSON SAID HE PREVIOUSLY DID AN ANTIBODY TEST AND TESTED POSITIVE.

Johnson: “Earlier this year, early into lockdown when I found out there was a semi-reliable antibody test, I did take that. I did test costive for the antibodies. There was a big gap in the rate of being positive … success rate or whatever it might be. … (he was positive and his wife was not)

“We didn’t know how much to trust the antibody test. … I was warned by my physician then although I did test positive for antibodies, there was a 20% chance rate of being incorrect.”

HOW IS JOHNSON DOING EMOTIONALLY?

Johnson: “Thankfully, I am asymptomatic. We don’t know how many days in that I am right now so there is some concern that my conditions could worsen. I literally have had zero symptoms. … I feel great.

“I think our biggest concern right now is for our children. They are negative as of (Friday) . We are being very responsible in our home to self isolate but at the same time we have to parent. That’s really the tricky hurdle we’re trying to sort out right now on top of managing their fears. … For a 9- and a  6-year old, trying to manage the fear right now, they can’t come around mom and dad. We’ve got to feed them. We’re concerned feeding them and passing them the virus. … On the homefront with our kids, we’re heartbroken right now to see the fear in their eyes and watching them try to manage what is going on right now.”

JOHNSON’S RECENT TRAVELS (other than Cup races)

— Has been in Aspen, Colorado the last few weeks.

— Said they went back to Charlotte about 8-10 days ago

— Was in Indianapolis on July 2 at Dallara to drive their simulator to prepare for July 8 IndyCar test.

— Was preparing to head to Indy on Sunday morning

— He has been at Chip Ganassi Racing for a seat fitting for IndyCar test within the past 14 days.

BACKUP PLAN

— Crew chief Cliff Daniels said that Justin Allgaier had been set as the team’s backup driver since the season resumed in May.

WHAT ABOUT JOHNSON’S HOPES TO TEST AN INDYCAR?

Johnson: “That IndyCar test will be there. Hopefully I’m cleared soon and can get back to the track. To get in the 48 car is my first priority of course. … As long as I’m healthy and the world stays open, I really believe there will be that (IndyCar) opportunity. IndyCar has a high priority to help with driver development. So with the interest I have from teams and the relationships and friendships I have in various teams, I do feel that opportunity will be there later in the year.”

Jimmie Johnson tests positive for coronavirus

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Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first NASCAR Cup driver do so.

Johnson, a four-time Brickyard winner, will miss Sunday’s Cup at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and next week’s IndyCar test on the Indy road course for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Hendrick Motorsports said in a statement Friday that Johnson will not return until he is cleared by a physician.

Johnson, 44, has not experienced symptoms of COVID-19, according to the Hendrick Motorsports statement.  He was tested upon learning Friday morning that his wife Chandra tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms.

Justin Allgaier will drive for Johnson in his absence.

“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said in a statement from Hendrick Motorsports. “I’ve never missed a race in my Cup career, but I know it’s going to be very hard to watch from the sidelines when I’m supposed to be out there competing. Although this situation is extremely disappointing, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, has the longest streak for consecutive starts among active drivers at 663. He was to have started fourth in Sunday’s race.

Said car owner Rick Hendrick in a statement: “Jimmie has handled this situation like the champion he is. We’re relieved he isn’t showing symptoms and that Chani is doing great, and we know he’ll be back and ready to go very soon. It’s going to be difficult for him to be out of the car and away from his team, but it’s the right thing to do for Jimmie and everyone involved.”

NASCAR announced that it has granted Johnson a playoff waiver should he win a race before the playoffs begin. NASCAR also stated:

“Following the guidelines outlined in the Event Operations Protocol manual, Jimmie Johnson has alerted NASCAR that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

“NASCAR has outlined the steps for Johnson’s return, in accordance with the CDC’s current guidelines, which includes that Johnson is symptom free and has two negative COVID-19 test results, at least 24 hours apart. NASCAR requires Johnson to be cleared by his physician before returning to racing.

“Jimmie is a true battle-tested champion, and we wish him well in his recovery. NASCAR has granted Jimmie a playoff waiver, and we look forward to his return as he races for an eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that as a precaution, it identified one member of the No. 48 traveling crew to self-quarantine due to close contact with Johnson.

Last month Stewart-Haas Racing confirmed that two employees had tested positive for coronavirus. Team Penske confirmed last month that one of its employees tested positive.

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it has implemented detailed procedures to protect the health of its team members. That includes daily COVID-19 screenings at the team facilities; the separation of facility operations and traveling personnel; split work schedules; stringent face covering and social distancing requirements; and an increased level of disinfecting and sanitization of all work areas.

The announcement about Johnson came shortly after Major League Baseball announced Friday that 31 players have tested positive. Nineteen different teams had at least one player test positive.

This comes as the nation sees a surge in coronavirus cases. The United States reported more than 55,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a daily global record. Global coronavirus cases exceeded 11 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

This weekend’s Cup, Xfinity and IndyCar races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be held without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.