NASCAR America: Matt Kenseth tests unproven parts, finishes 18th at Kentucky

Leave a comment

Mid-pack racing is not something generally associated with veterans Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth, but circumstances at Kentucky Speedway last week forced them into heavy traffic.

Kenseth is becoming the consummate team player – and as it turns out, the No. 6 car is being used as a test car with him behind the wheel, according to NASCAR America’s Parker Kligerman.

“This 6 car has become – it was said to me – a test car to try things to help the other car and most importantly help the 17 car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. They are putting parts and things on this car they do not feel are race proven and therefore, if they see good things out of them, they can immediately put them … on the 17 car to hopefully help the 17 car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. make the playoffs.”

Kenseth finished 19th in the Quaker State 400, which was the first time in seven starts at Kentucky that he finished outside of the top 10.

Larson’s troubles were self-made.

“He missed driver introductions; has to start at the back of the pack,” ” Kyle Petty said. “He drives this thing from the back of the pack up through the field. Is passing them inside, outside – outside on a track where one groove is not very wide.”

And while he salvaged a top 10 finish in ninth, Larson’s average running position was outside that mark with an 11.45.

David Ragan’s 18th-place finish was also notable to Kligerman.

“This was an impressive run for David Ragan and Front Row Motorsports because it’s kind of what they’re trying to do from the start of the season,” Kligerman said. “Bob Jenkins, the owner, made a large investment in the off season, they got a closer aligned with Roush Fenway … and this is the kind of run they want: top 20s.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

What drivers said after Kentucky

Leave a comment

Martin Truex Jr. — Winner: “It feels good, you know? You never know how these races are going to play out. You never know quite what is going to happen and we had such a strong Toyota tonight they weren’t going to beat us. You never know how they’re going to turn out, so we just keep our heads down. We don’t get too excited. We keep working on the race car and trying to stay calm and not get ahead of ourselves, so we had to make a lot of adjustments tonight on the car and had to battle back a from a few times getting passed for the lead and coming out of the pits second or third, but this Auto-Owners Toyota was amazing tonight, so just thanks to everybody for their support and making all this possible.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 2nd: “It’s not a win. It’s a positive, that’s for sure. I hate it. I thought we were in a good spot there restarting fourth and Martin struggled a little bit the first couple laps and I thought I could get by him, but just couldn’t quite get a run on him. His car came in and mine kind of faded a little bit and he won the race. That stunk. I thought we had a shot at it tonight, but I’m really proud of the gains we made all race though, to be honest with you. I didn’t think we were a second-place car at the beginning of the race, and we got a lot better throughout the night so Jeremy Bullins and everybody did a great job. I can’t thank DEX Imaging and Ford and Menards enough for what they do. You said it, after the last few weeks we’ve had this is a very good positive for us. Hopefully, we can keep it going in the right direction.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 3rd: “It was a good call from my crew chief, Paul Wolfe. We had better speed than we’ve had at the mile-and-a-halves, but not enough to run with the 78. He eventually got by us there and I thought we might have had a shot at it if we could have restarted fourth there, but we kind of cycled back to sixth and it wasn’t enough to be able to make something happen there. All in all, a decent day. I hate that I kind of dug a hole early in the race with the speeding on pit road. We were just racing the 18 off pit road and tried to get a little bit too much, but we’ll take this and hopefully build off of it for the mile-and-a-halves in the Playoffs. It’s gonna be really important and I’m looking forward to next week in Loudon. I think we’ll be really good there.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 4th: “We look at the same sheet of paper the 78 (Truex) does every week, and we just didn’t have anything for them tonight. I don’t know what we were missing, but the SNICKERS Intense Flavors Camry was good, it was a top-five car. I thought it was a top-two car there for awhile, but the 12 (Blaney) was really strong. It kind of depended where people lined up on a restart. But overall a decent night for us; we made a few points on the 4 (Harvick) and lost some of our lead to the 78. We’ll just keep plugging along and try to hold onto this points lead.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 5th: “It’s just hard to pass. It’s hard to make anything happen. I think for us we got worse the last run and got loose into three and that really just killed everything, and then I hit the wall with 15 laps to go and that pretty much ended everything we had.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “I really enjoyed the way Billy Scott called the race because our lap times were really strong on the super-long runs, and that’s why he left me out there in Stage 1. We didn’t get points, but it put us in good position for Stage 2 and then we were ahead of the game to make a call again. It just kept us ahead the whole night. Even though we didn’t have the fastest car, we led a lot of laps tonight and it was fun to have the Monster Energy Ford out front. We probably would have ended up seventh and we finished sixth. It was a good battle.”

Erik Jones — Finished 7th: “Kind of a long day. Got our Freightliner Camry better pretty much every adjustment, so that was a positive. We moved our way forward and got a solid finish out of it.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 8th: “We had a good car. I messed up in qualifying, got greedy and tried to go for the pole and qualified 12th. This place is so track position dependent that we ran eighth to 12th all night. We just kind of got stuck in that area of track position and we just never could jump ahead. I’m mad at myself really for not executing qualifying better because we had a really fast car. We could have run top five easily.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 9th: “It’s hard to say if I would have had anything to win. I drove by the No. 78 and then right after that we had our trackbar issue there and went plowing tight. Then we had to crutch it with wedge there the last run and it drove okay, just built being back really tight at the last 25 laps or so. So, yeah, it’s hard to say if I would have won or not, but I would have at least liked to have had the shot.”

Joey Logano — Finished 10th: “Honestly, I thought at the beginning of the race we were probably better than we thought we’d be and were able to gain quite a few spots, and then the track was wider than we expected it to be. It rubbered out and the track was wide so it was harder to hold everybody off on the older tires. We tried. I don’t think we got the best gain out of it. We didn’t lose any, so it was kind of a wash, and then after that it seemed we just kind of lost the handle the last run. … We’ve got to keep pushing hard. We’re close in the points and we’re hanging in on that part of it, but we’ve got to figure out how to get more speed in our race cars.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 13th: “We were better than we started the day, but when the sun went down the track started gaining grip – everybody moved to the bottom and we needed more front turn.”

David Ragan — Finished 18th: “Our MDS team did a nice job on pit road and we made the car a little bit better throughout the night, so that’s important on these 400-mile races. You can’t get behind much and I felt like we were decent when they dropped the green flag and as the track changed Seth and Angela made good calls. We would have liked to finish in the top 15, but there were a few cars that were just a little better than us at the end, but I’m encouraged by the effort on the mile-and-a-half track to see some improvement and that will be good for later on in the year.”

William Byron — Finished 20th: “I felt like at certain times we would gain a little bit on adjustments, but just didn’t have a lot of potential to run any higher than really where we were. I felt like if other guys made mistakes we could run a couple of positions better than where we were, but we were just kind of right around that 15th to 20th range and it seems kind of like when the other guys hit their adjustments right we were already kind of maxed out to where we could adjust. I felt like we fought really hard and had some good pit stops that got us some track position. I felt like we were always gaining spots on restarts, we just couldn’t hold that.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 21st: “Track position was the name of the game tonight. We started off with a really bad vibration. Fortunately, it worked itself out after we bolted on new Goodyear tires. From there, we focused on improving our handling. My biggest issue all night was Turns 1 and 2. Everyone talks about Turn 3, but it was neutral for us.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 22nd: “I hate that we had problems early. We had a vibration as soon as we started the race and we had no option but to pit for four tires on the AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. I actually started feeling it during the pace laps at the start of the race, but I thought it was just a cold set of tires. It must have been a bad set of tires. As soon as we pitted the vibration was gone and we were one of the fastest cars on the track. From there, it was a battle to earn the Lucky Dog, and then to keep up with changing track conditions with chassis adjustments during scheduled pit stops. Every position was hard-fought tonight. We have a lot of work to do.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 39th: “We are right in the thick of the points stuff, so we can’t afford this, this will hurt us quite a bit. It’s a big bummer for my guys and for Axalta and Nationwide and everybody that makes this deal happen. Really unfortunate, but it’s not something that we could prevent it’s nothing that we caused and there is not much you can do about it. You pop a right front and have a long time to star at the wall and then you hit it and then you’ve got to move on.”

MORE: Alex Bowman out of Kentucky race after Stage 2 incident

Erik Jones’ first Cup win fueled by father’s Corvette

1 Comment

At the age of 20, Erik Jones lost his father to cancer. At the age of 53, Dave Jones lost his life. More tragically, he lost the opportunity to watch his son race full time in the Cup series. He was not present to watch the sophomore driver win his first Cup race in his 57th start Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway – two years and one month to the day of his father’s passing.

Dave was diagnosed with lung cancer early in 2016 and an aggressive form of the disease took him three months later on June 7.

A piece of Dave lives on with his son’s career – a career that would not have happened without sacrifices to give Erik the best equipment possible during his formative days as a late model racer.

One of these sacrifices was a blue 1965 Corvette.

After winning the Coke Zero Sugar 400, Jones recalled the day his dad first sold the car.

“I was, I don’t know, maybe 12 or 13. We were just trying to get into late model racing around that time, whenever it was, and my dad was in the car business, specifically Corvettes at the time or selling reproduction parts and doing restoration, and he had bought a Corvette of his own when I was maybe five or six years old.

“One day he came home, and he had sold the car, and I was like, ‘man, why did you do that,’ and he’s like, ‘well, we’ve got to fund the racing somehow.’”

MORE: Erik Jones wins in overtime at Daytona

The relationship between Dave and Erik is an integral part of what makes Erik so special to his car owner Joe Gibbs and Toyota.

“I asked (Dave) one time if he raced,” Gibbs said following the race. “He said, ‘no, Erik just said, I want to do this.’”

That was enough for Dave to commit to his son’s dream.

“He was so supportive, and (his death) was just a horrible thing,” Gibbs continued. “It was just terrible. So that’s a part of Erik, I think, winning tonight. I think obviously it’s an emotional thing for him because his dad would have absolutely loved it.”

The early sacrifice paid dividends almost immediately. While Dave did not get chance to see Erik’s first Cup win, there was plenty that he did get a chance to witness.

A couple of years after the sale of the Corvette, Jones grabbed Kyle Busch‘s attention by beating him in the 2012 Snowball Derby, along with Chase Elliott and David Ragan. The next year, Busch hired Jones to race in his No. 51 late model. Jones won back-to-back Snowball Derbies as well as several other high-profile late model races that year.

Dave was there to see his son race for Busch in the Truck series. The pair won in their first season together in 2013. Jones went on to win six more Truck races and the 2015 championship. Dave saw Erik win four of his nine Xfinity races for Gibbs.

Six months after his father’s death, Jones tracked down the Corvette and repurchased it.

“That wasn’t the only thing that was sold along the way, and things that were – chances that were taken financially to get me to this point,” Jones continued. “But I was able to buy that car back actually about a year and a half ago, and that was pretty cool, same car, so that was pretty neat to get that back. I always wanted to give it back to him, but it sure feels good to have it in my hands now. … I definitely wish he could have been here to see this one.”

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

What drivers said after Daytona

2 Comments

Erik Jones — Winner: “What a day. I didn’t think we were going to have a shot to win this one about halfway. Got ourselves back into contention and our guys did a great job getting this thing fixed up and getting the buyatoyota.com into Victory Lane. I’ve never been that good on superspeedways and never thought this was our shot to win. But to get here tonight, that’s pretty awesome. It’s our first win and not much that has felt better than this one.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “Man, they destroyed some cars tonight. That was insane. Cool to get to the end. I wish I could have done a better job for my team. We had a fast car. I’ve got to get better at the blocking. It’s never been my strong suit, without a question. I struggle a little bit seeing the runs coming and me and my spotter are trying to figure it out together.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 3rd: “I think it was a destruction derby out there instead of a Cup race, but first of all congrats to Erik (Jones) and that whole team. I know what it’s like to get that first win, so he well deserves it, congrats to him. Yeah, see it from the left side of the car here it’s like sometimes you try to figure out what the plan is. We tried to run in the back and still got wrecked running in the back. So, you know it was just about survival and I thought the Kroger Clicklist Chevy was pretty good. Just had a lot of drag on it so I thought our chance to win was going to be tough, but I tried to make the right decision there. I missed about seven wrecks it felt like. Anytime you can walk out of here with a decent finish and to have a top five especially both cars in the top five, so great for our whole organization. It’s one of those things you would like to go get the win, it was close, but top three it was a good day.”

Kasey Kahne — Finished 4th: “Well, get back to the lead from the time I lost the lead I needed to get back to the lead and I never got there. I just about cleared Martin (Truex, Jr.) off of (Turn) 2. But he just barely hung on my left-rear and pulled me back a bunch. From that point I needed to block the No. 20. I tried to slow him up, but he was coming fast. The gap was pretty big and he was coming fast and I didn’t do a good enough job of stopping him.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 5th: “Yeah, it was a wild night overall. Just proud of everybody on our Kleenex Wet Wipes Camaro ZL1. We fought hard today and stayed out of trouble and were there at the end with our teammate AJ (Allmendinger). We got a good run on the outside, we were able to give (Erik) Jones a good shove down the back there and got him clear. We just couldn’t quite clear with him. So, congrats to him on his first win. Proud of our operation and what we were able to accomplish today. Wish we could have lined up and tried to get it, but that’s always easy to say after Daytona you go back and would love to replay it, but a good day for us.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 7th: “I guess that was probably one of the craziest races I’ve ever taken part in. I’m glad we survived and we seem to always position ourselves in a spot to be up front and competing for the win at the end of these speedway races at Daytona quite often. We’ve got that down pat and I’m really, really glad we got a good run for Zynga Poker. They’re a huge part of our team. They’ve stepped up and helped us a ton this year, so I’m pretty proud of that.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 10th: “Yeah, that early damage definitely didn’t help things. It kind of made the car a parachute out front, but we tried all night. I made some bad calls and got put in the wrong spot a couple of times, but just kind of couldn’t put it together there at the end. Little bit of a bummer, wish we would have ended up a little better, but not a terrible day.”

Jeffrey Earnhardt — Finished 11th: “Just proud of all these guys. Nine Line Foundation, Black Rifle Coffee, Xtreme Concepts – they are the reason I am here with the cause that they are trying to push and its just an honor to get to be a part of it. It’s an incredible company and they support our country, our military and all of our veterans. I am so happy I got them a good run. Everyone kept asking me what it means to come here with the Earnhardt name at Daytona, and it does mean a lot, don’t get me wrong. But to show support to our veterans and be a part of what the foundation is doing…..that meant more to me than anything tonight. Proud of all the guys at Premium in giving me a good car tonight and keeping the car in one piece. Its my best career finish in the Cup series, so hopefully this will lead to some more sponsorship and get me back out here on the track more often.”

David Ragan — Finished 15th: “I felt like we were involved in about all the wrecks out there. It was a long night, but I can’t say enough about our pit crew. They just never gave up and kept fighting and to come out of here with a top 15 is really like a win. We very well could have been in the garage with a 35th-place finish, but they kept working on the car and patching it up. We dodged the other wrecks, so I’m grateful for them and the Shriners for coming out and having some fun.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 17th: “It was fun for a while. I was frustrated with myself causing crashes like that. You don’t ever really want to do that. For us, my car was a lot of fun to drive. Everybody else had a lot of handling issues and my car drove really good and had really good speed, so hat’s off to Jimmy Fennig and those guys and Doug Yates. We just didn’t finish it off.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 19th: “The night was crazy. The restart was really poorly executed and then teammates wound up side-by-side again trying to get everything situated and we crashed into each other. I just hate it for all my Jimmy John’s guys. I don’t really know what I could have done any different on the last restart.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 26th: “It’s just plate racing. We lost a little bit of track position and that just put us in the back there and everybody is fighting hard for the same real estate at the end. But I’m really proud of everyone at Front Row Motorsports because we had a really fast car. I was able to push Ricky to both the first stage and second stage wins and finished second in the second stage. We overcame a lot and got within a few laps of being in position and just didn’t execute.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 29th: “I think I cut a tire. It just spun out on me when I turned into (Turn) 3. A little bit unlucky there for Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.) for me to be… he had just blended on the track and then I drive around him and just unlucky timing on both of our parts I guess there. I am not sure how much damage he has, but I hate that for him. Just kind of a frustrating race for us. I was just patient all race long and got caught up in that first wreck down the backstretch a little bit. Got some damage and was just kind of riding around again there are a ton of torn up cars, so I was going to be able to salvage a pretty decent day, I thought. Yeah, just had a random tire issue there. When we made our green flag stop I didn’t wave off to the guys behind me because I just assumed everybody was pitting and whoever was behind me got my rear bumper and I guess it sounded like we had a little bit of right-rear damage there, so it must have gotten to the tire when we came back out and ultimately cut our tire.”

William Byron — Finished 32nd: “The No. 17 car (Stenhouse) just kind of I guess hooked the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) into me. It seemed like he was being really aggressive and that is the second time we have kind of been on the wrong end of something with him. Unfortunate for us, but we had a good race going. We needed to really have a really good day because of the points position we are in, but that is just part of speedway racing I guess, but it stinks to be on that side of it. But at least we led some laps so that was good.”

KYLE BUSCH — Finished 33rd: “Disappointing to get crashed out by the same guy that caused the first crash. Our Interstate Batteries Camry showed some good speed and patience there in that first stage. We were able to come home second and grab some points there. You always come to Daytona waiting to crash and figure out when or where, and hope you can walk away from it. That’s really frustrating and disappointing to have to race these races like that on the fence or line of when are you going to wreck. But we’ll move on to next week.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 34th: “Yeah, I don’t know. I was watching the most recent wreck, we are not going to have anybody left before it’s over with. But, yeah, I don’t know, I think the best I can remember Brad (Keselowski) had a pretty big run on William (Byron) and I don’t think William was clear, but he didn’t know he wasn’t clear and then Brad tried to get on the brakes really hard to stop for him. We were getting really close to the corner so he couldn’t enter on the apron and whoever was behind him hit him and turned him up the track. Not really a whole lot you can do about that.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 35th: “I think that I didn’t get to race any. The first stage I had to start in the back to repair my car from qualifying and I was just riding in the back because we lost the draft and finally in the second stage we were able to get some track position back and I felt like we could pass enough race cars to drive to the front and that was exactly what I was doing. Just raced for two laps. Just a shame. Just not very smart for Lap 55 or so. Still a long ways to go. I don’t know. I mean half of the field is out so, it’s a real shame.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 36th: “Ricky was doing the best he could to give me a good push and had a great run to take the lead and the car in front of me just threw a late, bad block. I made the mistake of lifting instead of just driving through him and that’s my fault. I know better than that. I’ve got to wreck more people and then they’ll stop blocking me late and behind like that. That’s my fault. I’ll take the credit for my team and we’ll go to Talladega and we’ll wreck everybody that throws a bad block like that.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 37th: “I was running in the high lane and I just have to giggle, there’s no safe spot. I thought being in the top two or three is pretty safe, but we just got clipped from behind. Usually, there’s that danger zone that everybody knows about from third to 12th and we didn’t get strung out enough to get away from some of the action. It’s a bummer night for Monster Energy Ford. It was fast. We put her on the bottom at the end of stage one to gain some points, but now we’ve got nothing. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I do have to giggle. There’s no safe spot out there.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 38th: “The 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) turned the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and then that was it. Once cars get sideways on the backstretch, everyone just battles to try to get through the wreck. You know most of the strong contenders in front, they got taken out in that one, so we’re going to have a crapshoot from here on out.”

Joey Logano — Finished 39th: “It looks like they crashed a lot of cars. I was in the middle of it and I got hit from every corner really quick and it just seemed like they kept coming. I was like, ‘Stop, everyone.’ It was just so hard to stop when you’re going so fast out there, but it’s part of the game here. Sometimes you’re in the half of the field that finishes and sometimes you’re in half of the field that doesn’t finish it and we were in the bad 50 percent this time. That’s part of the game and we’ll come back to Talladega at the next superspeedway and hopefully do what we did there in the spring and get our Shell/Pennzoil Ford in Victory Lane.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 40th: “I don’t know what happened. By the time I looked up and started checking up I was already in it. I haven’t seen the replay, so I can’t really talk about it. It’s just one of those deals. When you come here everyone is really close and racing hard and sometimes you’re the bug as opposed to the windshield.”

NASCAR America: Driver odds for Coke Zero Sugar 400

Leave a comment

Chaos is all but a guarantee tonight for the Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC).

But that hasn’t kept the odds makers from coming up with race-winning odds for the drivers in the field.

The below odds are courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (defending race winner): 15-1

Aric Almirola: 15-1

Martin Truex Jr: 18-1

Jimmie Johnson: 25-1

Austin Dillon (Daytona 500 winner): 40-1

Jamie McMurray: 40-1

Bubba Wallace (finished second in Daytona 500): 50-1

Here are a group of drivers the Westgate has at 100-1 odds.

AJ Allmendinger

Chris Buescher

Ty Dillon

Matt DiBenedetto

Kasey Kahne

Michael McDowell

David Ragan