the real heroes 400

Matt Kenseth: Tyler Reddick is ‘just incredibly talented’

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It’s no secret that Tyler Reddick is a talented stock car driver.

That’s backed up by him winning the Xfinity Series championship each of the past two years.

It also shouldn’t be surprising that Matt Kenseth knows talent when he sees it.

A day after Kenseth finished 10th in his first Cup start of the year, he was asked for his assessment of Richard Childress Racing’s rookie driver, who placed seventh in his first Cup start at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”

Kenseth recalled his thoughts on Reddick during last year’s Xfinity finale in Miami.

“I don’t know (Reddick) at all, but I watched that race with my dad and it was just incredible driving,” Kenseth said. “He went and won that race, and he was the difference maker in that. A lot of times, everybody is pretty good when you get to this level, and you feel like it’s more about the car, positioning, and a lot of different stuff. But when I watched that race at Homestead, he’s just incredibly talented. Especially at those tracks where you have to run high and get all that extra out of it, and just laying it on that line without making a mistake.”

Darlington is one of the tracks that would fall under Kenseth’s description.

“A lot of people can lay it on that line but typically or eventually make a mistake,” Kenseth said. (Reddick) really impressed me watching (the Miami) race, so I can’t say it really surprised me when I saw how fast he can run. Yesterday, particularly when he had nobody in his way in that top grove, he really got that working well.”

The praise from the 2003 Cup champion eventually found its way to Reddick on Monday afternoon.

Reddick’s seventh-place finish is his second top 10 through seven Cup starts dating back to last season. He looked to be on his way to a top-10 finish in the March 8 race at Phoenix before he was taken out in a crash (his third DNF for a wreck).

After Sunday’s race, Reddick was a guest on NASCAR America at Home, where he was asked about what areas he’s looking to improve in moving forward.

“The first area for me that I think of is trying to maximize (pit road) every single time, being as consistent as I can getting in and out of the box,” Reddick said. “From there, working on the mid-race adjustments. I’m used to only running the 300, 200, 250-mile races. Now we’re going further, and I’ve got to continue to keep adjusting on our car because the track’s going to continue to change further past what I’m used to.”

Erik Jones’s crew chief faces suspension over lug nut violation

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Six cars were found to have unsecured lug nuts following Sunday’s Cup Series race at Darlington, NASCAR announced afterward.

Among those violations was the No. 20 Toyota of Erik Jones, which had two unsecured lug nuts. The penalty for two unsecured lug nuts is a one-race suspension for the team’s crew chief and a $20,000 fine.

That means Jones will likely be without crew chief Chris Gayle for Wednesday night’s race at Darlington, three days after Jones finished eighth at the track.

Together, Jones and Gayle also won last year’s Southern 500.

The other five violations were for single lug nuts. They were on the cars of Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Matt Kenseth and race winner Kevin Harvick. The penalty for one unsecured lug nut is a $10,000 crew chief fine.

Matt Kenseth scores top-10 finish in NASCAR return

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After placing third in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Darlington, Kurt Busch exited his No. 1 Chevy and looked at the infield scoring pylon.

The pylon showed the top-10 finishers of NASCAR’s first race in 71 days. Seven spots below Busch’s number was the No. 42, representing Busch’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate.

On March 8, the date of the last Cup Series race, that number belonged to Kyle Larson. But 10 weeks later, it has a new owner.

“There’s old Matt Kenseth, No. 42, finishing 10th,” Busch said in a post-race Zoom press conference.

Sunday saw the beginning of the Matt Kenseth era at CGR as the 48-year-old driver made his first start with the team and his first NASCAR start since the 2018 Cup season finale.

Kenseth was hired by CGR to replace Larson, who was fired by the team on April 14 for his use of a racial slur in an iRacing event.

Kenseth called the first few laps of the race “kind of nerve-racking.”

“Then it was sort of back to racing and thinking about what we needed to be better,” Kenseth said. “Everyone on the team has worked extremely hard the last couple weeks to prepare for today, and I’m proud of what we accomplished today. I learned a lot throughout the race about the way the car handles and reacts to different situations, and it was nice to really get acclimated to the Camaro and the team in a real racing environment. It’s always a good feeling to get a top- at a place like Darlington, but to have done it under these circumstances feels that much better. I still have some room to improve, but today shows all of us we have a lot to look forward to as the season continues.”

Prior to the start of Sunday’s race, Kenseth expressed his gratitude to the team given the trying circumstances they’ve faced.

After the first caution for a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crash, Kenseth had a lot of info for his crew chief, Chad Johnston. The two traded humorous barbs over it.

Kenseth displayed more of his trademark wit during the first stage break.

Throughout the race, Johnston helped Kenseth out by relaying him info on how much drivers were on and off the gas in the turns.

In the end, Kenseth was able to crack the top 10 by Lap 210. He raced as high as ninth before settling into 10th.

Kenseth’s top 10 at the track “Too Tough To Tame” came despite him not getting any on-track preparation before the drop of the green flag Sunday, which put him in a similar position to the rest of the field.

“That’s what he will do everyday, all race tracks,” Busch said. “That’s Matt. That’s what he does. So for him to balance out with (crew chief) Chad Johnston, Ganassi and everybody first day out to get a top 10, that’s huge. That’s sets a big tone. I’ve yet to be able to call (team co-owners) Chip Ganassi or Rob Kauffman, but I’ll be calling Matt Kenseth on my way home. It’s really a neat day for us to be able to bounce back like that.”

The performance by Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, reaffirmed the belief of race winner Kevin Harvick that Kenseth shouldn’t have been out of NASCAR racing to begin with.

“Matt Kenseth was winning races when he (stepped away from full-time race in 2017),” Harvick said. “As you look at that whole situation when he got kind of moved out at (Joe) Gibbs (Racing), Matt Kenseth is going to be a huge part of that race team and making Chip Ganassi Racing better. He’s going to be great for the sponsors. … Experience and skill go a long way in our sport. If you have those two things, like Matt does, you’re going to be successful. You don’t just forget how to do that. Matt’s a pro and a very good one at that.”

Jimmie Johnson wrecks while leading at end of Stage 1

Fox Sports
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Jimmie Johnson was half a lap from winning the first stage of Sunday’s Cup Series race at Darlington when he was eliminated in a crash on the backstretch.

Johnson was attempting to pass Chris Buescher out of Turn 2 when he made contact with the left-rear fender of Buescher’s car.

The contact sent Johnson into a slide that ended when he hit the inside wall.

Johnson had taken the lead just a few laps before when he passed teammate Alex Bowman.

“Gosh, what I would do to get that corner back to do it over again,” Johnson told Fox. “Coming to the end of the stage, just trying to make sure I got a good run coming off Turn 2, I felt like I was going to be able to exit the corner side-by-side with him then things just went horribly wrong there.”

William Byron took the stage win. He then wrecked on his own on Lap 109 in Stage 2.

Johnson will have to start from the back of the field for Wednesday’s race at Darlington. Drivers that finish from 21st to 40th in today’s race will start in that same spot Wednesday.

Sunday’s Cup race at Darlington: Start time, lineup and more

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Racing is back!

After a 10-week break because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASCAR returns with the Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway.

There will be no fans. Teams will be limited to essential personnel and must adhere to NASCAR’s guidelines, which includes wearing a mask.

But racing is back today.

Here’s all the info for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Healthcare workers across the country will give the command to start engines at 3:42. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:53 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 7:30 a.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Engine prime and final adjustments at 1:30 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 2 p.m. and can be seen on NASCAR.com. Drivers report to their cars at 3:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 3:35 p.m. by Rev. Sam Turbeville from McLeod Regional Medical Center. The National Anthem will be performed at 3:36 p.m. by three-time Grammy winner Darius Rucker.

DISTANCE: The race is 293 laps (400 miles) around the 1.366-mile oval.

PACE LAPS: At the direction of race control, drivers will have the opportunity to run one pace lap down pit road before the green flag for a pit road speed check. If you stop in your box for any reason, pull over or slow down, you will start at the rear of the field.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 90. Stage 2 ends on Lap 185.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 30. The field will be frozen at the caution. When pit road is open, only the top 20 cars will be allowed to pit. Each car that pits must beat the pace car off pit road to retain its position. On the next lap, the other 20 cars will pit. Each car that pits must beat the pace car off pit road to retain its position. Then, the top 20 cars will be allowed to pit a second time. On the next lap, the other 20 cars will be allowed to pit again. After the second cycle for each team is completed, the lineup will be set and the race will resume.

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

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 85 degrees and 15% chance of rain at the race’s start.

LAST RACE: Joey Logano won at Phoenix on March 8 in the last Cup race before the season was suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was Logano’s second win in the season’s first four races. Kevin Harvick was second. Kyle Busch placed third.

LAST RACE AT DARLINGTON: Erik Jones won last September’s Southern 500. Kyle Larson was second. Kyle Busch placed third.

LINEUP (set by owner points and random draw): Darlington Cup starting lineup

TO THE REAR: Kyle Busch (car failed pre-race inspection twice)

PRERACE READING:

Nate Ryan: NASCAR return another sign of Darlington’s resilience, renaissance

Ryan Newman: “I feel like a complete walking miracle”

No time to wait: “We’re just going all in” on Lap 1 at Darlington 

NASCAR’s break from racing familiar to Kyle Busch

NASCAR’s Steve Phelps: “I don’t foresee any further shutdown for us”

Friday 5: Will iRacing grudges carry over to track?

Matt Kenseth not expecting “any kind of special treatment” at Darlington

Storylines: What will NASCAR’s top free agents do?

Storylines: New Procedures for drivers, teams in return to racing

Storylines: What’s changed in NASCAR Cup Series

Storylines: Where Cup series left off