Matt Kenseth confirmed for 10 more races by Roush Fenway Racing

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Roush Fenway Racing announced 10 more races in the No. 6 Ford for Matt Kenseth, who has been sharing the ride with Trevor Bayne since returning to the team in May.

After Bayne drives the car next weekend at Sonoma Raceway (June 24), Chicagoland Speedway (July 1) and Daytona International Speedway (July 7), Kenseth will return behind the wheel for the July 14 race at Kentucky Speedway. He also will drive the next three races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 22), Pocono Raceway (July 29) and Watkins Glen International (Aug. 5).

The remainder of the races announced Wednesday by the team for Kenseth are:

–Darlington, Sept. 2;

–Indianapolis, Sept. 9;

–Dover International Speedway, Oct. 7;

–Martinsville Speewday (Oct. 28);

–ISM Raceway (Nov. 11);

–Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18)

According to the release, “additional races for Kenseth are still under consideration.”

A Roush spokesman confirmed Bayne would be in the car at Sonoma, Chicagoland and Daytona. Asked whether Bayne would drive the No. 6 in the other eight races that haven’t been announced this season, the spokesman said the team “was still sorting through the remainder of the schedule.”

Bayne is expected to be in the No. 6 when it’s sponsored by AdvoCare, which will be on the car at Sonoma and Chicagoland.

AdvoCare also is sponsoring the races at Michigan International Speedway (Aug. 12), Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 18), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 16), Charlotte Motor Speedway (Sept. 30), Kansas Speedway (Oct. 21) and Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 4).

Kenseth has indicated he won’t drive in the restrictor-plate races, so Bayne likely will be in the car at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 14) along with Daytona.

 

Cup drivers on the rise

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While much of the talk this week has been about how Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have dominated this season, winning 11 of the first 14 races, they aren’t the only drivers on the rise.

Here’s a look at some drivers who have made gains since earlier in the season:

Kyle Larson

He enters this weekend at Michigan having won the past three Cup races there. He’s been talked about as the driver who could have the best chance of breaking into the club of Harvick, Busch and Truex.

Larson comes into Sunday’s race with four consecutive top-10 finishes, including his runner-up result last weekend at Pocono.

Harvick was complimentary of Larson on Tuesday night on his “Happy Hours” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“The best young driver in Cup right now is Kyle Larson by a landslide,’’ Harvick said. “He’s carrying a slower car and getting great results with it and he does it by just sheer talent. … He’s the best raw talented driver, and I’ve said this on this show before, that I think has come along since Jeff Gordon.’’

Jimmie Johnson

After scoring one top-10 finish in the season’s first seven races, Johnson has five top-10 finishes in the last seven races. Johnson comes to Michigan after back-to-back top 10s at Charlotte and Pocono. He has not had a top 10 in three consecutive races since his 2016 championship season.

Chase Elliott

He had an average finish of 18.1 through the first eight races of the season. In the last six races, his average finish is 8.3. Elliott has finished no worse than 12th in the last six races.

Matt Kenseth

He’ll make his fifth consecutive start in the No. 6 car for Roush Fenway Racing (including his All-Star appearance). Trevor Bayne returns to the car at Sonoma. Bayne and Kenseth will continue to share the car the rest of the season.

Kenseth has made progress since finishing 36th at Kansas. He was 17th in the Coca-Cola 600 and placed 13th at Pocono.

Kenseth told Dale Earnhardt Jr. last month on the Dale Jr. Download that there’s a good bit of work ahead to help the organization be more competitive.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Kenseth said. “I think, the potential is there, but certainly it’s going to take some work and probably a little more patience and a little more time than maybe I originally thought.’’

Chris Buescher

It has been a difficult year for Buescher and JTG Daugherty Racing teammate AJ Allmendinger. They’ve combined for one top-10 finish since the Daytona 500 when both placed in the top 10.

But Buescher enters Michigan having scored three top-20 finishes in the last five races , including a 17th last week at Pocono, for his best stretch of the season.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

He had an average finish of 21.0 though the first nine races of the season.

He’s scored five consecutive top-15 finishes and has an average finish of 11.0 during that stretch.

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NASCAR adds tire tests at Texas, Phoenix

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In an update to the rule book, NASCAR is adding tire tests Aug. 14-15 at Texas Motor Speedway and Oct. 2-3 at ISM Raceway in Arizona.

The Texas tire test is scheduled to have a team each from Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske and Furniture Row Racing. The test is to determine tires for the fall playoff race at Texas.

The Phoenix test is scheduled to have a team each from Chip Ganassi Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. That test is set to find a tire combination for the 2019 races there.

The Atlanta Motor Speedway tire test will now be Oct. 16-17. It was pushed back from Aug. 14-15.

Also in the rule bulletin:

Effective July 11 in the Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR will use owner points instead of attempts to qualify in determining provisionals.

Also, when Truck qualifying is canceled, two spots (positions 26 and 27 in the lineup) will be awarded based on the fastest combined practice speeds to vehicles not yet assigned a starting spot. The top 25 spots will be determined by owner points. Filling out the final spots will remain the same as stated in the rule book.

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Matt Kenseth discusses early progress for Roush cars on Dale Jr. Download

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Matt Kenseth shares parenting tips for Dale Earnhardt Jr., discusses their early days racing together and talks about his return to the car for Roush Fenway Racing in this week’s Dale Jr. Download.

Kenseth returned to the Cup Series earlier this month, driving the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing at Kansas. He finished 36th after he was eliminated by a crash. He won the pole for last weekend’s All-Star Race and finished 14th in the 21-car field.

Kenseth will be back in the car for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 and the next two races (Pocono and Michigan) before Trevor Bayne drives the No. 6 at Sonoma.

Kenseth and Bayne will split time in the car the rest of the season.

Kenseth, without a ride after Joe Gibbs Racing did not renew his contract last year, was brought to Roush Fenway Racing to help that organization improve its cars.

“It’s been really different for me because it’s a different role than I’ve ever felt like I’ve had through my racing career,’’ Kenseth said on the podcast.

After two races, Kenseth is learning what needs to be done to help the team. 

“I kind of now know where I feel like that they’re at and how much we need to do to get back to an extremely competitive environment,’’ Kenseth said, “so it’s just a lot different role and different feeling than I’ve ever had before, it’s more of a project.’’

In terms of that project, where do things stand after two races?

“Obviously, there’s a lot of room for improvement,’’ Kenseth said. “I think, the potential is there but certainly it’s going to take some work and probably a little more patience and a little more time than maybe I originally thought.’’

Listen to the show here and all that Kenseth had to say.

Matt Kenseth’s wit returns after pole-winning effort

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CONCORD, N.C. — The wit returned and the frustration departed for Matt Kenseth on Friday.

After winning the pole for Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kenseth was asked to recount his run.

“The whole thing?’’ he asked.

Yes, he was told.

“Well, I got on pit road and started the engine,’’ he said, displaying the dry humor that the sport has missed since he ended last season without a Cup ride.

Kenseth returned last weekend at Kansas Speedway, making his season debut in the No. 6 Ford that Trevor Bayne had driven for Roush Fenway Racing.

“Kansas was just a mess from start to finish, honestly,’’ Kenseth said.

Rain altered the schedule and Kenseth struggled with the car’s handling. He didn’t make a qualifying attempt because his car failed to pass inspection in time. He struggled in the race before he was collected in a late crash and finished 36th.

“We try to learn what we can do better and there is a lot of it that is going to be a work in progress,’’ Kenseth said Friday. “Some things are going to take some time and patience. Kansas was just a mess from start to finish, honestly. There just wasn’t really much that came out of that weekend for a positive. With that being said, it is nice to come here and have everyone on their game today and get that pit stop and work together to get both cars on the front row. That is a huge positive for all the guys, myself included. Tomorrow is a new day. We just have to keep working at it.”

Kenseth will be joined on the front row for the All-Star race by Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

“I think it is neat to have both cars on the front row,” he said. “We only have two cars coming out of that shop right now and the goal on qualifying day is to put the cars on the front row, and on race day you want to keep getting better and eventually be up there winning races.”

Still, teams are using restrictor plates and aero package this weekend that won’t be used the rest of the season. This event is a test for NASCAR to see if the package could work at other tracks next year.

So what kind of value is there to Kenseth — who has been brought to Roush to help the team improve its cars —to be in this race?

Kenseth, who will do five consecutive races before Bayne returns to the No. 6 car in at Sonoma in June, said there are still some benefits to racing this weekend.

“There are some things with ride quality and those types of things,’’ Kenseth said. “The rest of it, it is a team sport like anything else. It is another week to work together, work on our communication, try to work out some things that maybe we struggle with at Kansas or so far here. A chance to do more pit stops, get more familiar with the guys. Get on and off pit road. Call a race. It is still a race and you are racing with your team against the same guys.

“It will probably be a different type of race, but I think we need to get some momentum and continuity and get rolling so I think these first five weeks are all really important. They are all different race tracks and different types of races but they are all important for that.”

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