New Hampshire-Kentucky Weekend Preview

Matt Kenseth (Getty Images)

Matt Kenseth (Getty Images)

Kenseth tries to become next to advance with third straight New Hampshire win

Matt Kenseth has to be one of the happiest drivers in NASCAR right now.

He currently sits seventh on the Chase Grid – 11 points ahead of Austin Dillon on the cutoff line – and gets to head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he has won the last two races, for Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Following New Hampshire, he’ll travel to Dover – where he won the May race – for the final event of the Chase’s Round of 16.

“It will only help us in the first round if we win at them again, but New Hampshire has been a really good track for us the last few years,” Kenseth said. “Dover has been a little up and down, particularly our performances in the dominating car, and it wasn’t last time either, we were just kind of in the right place at the right time and able to hang on. But that’s a track I really enjoy as well.”

Kenseth has excelled at New Hampshire over his last six starts there, recording three wins, a fourth-place showing, a sixth-place result, and a 21st-place outlier.

“We’ve had really good cars there since I’ve been at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Kenseth said. “It used to be a track that I sort of dreaded … but the last three years it’s been pretty good.”

Kenseth, 44, who won the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, explained the key to a second title does not simply entail going to tracks where you’ve seen success.

“There’s a lot of great race teams and drivers in it and we have to figure out how to beat those guys every week,” he said. “It’s a tough task.”

Gibbs teammates Jones and Suárez embark on NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones and Daniel Suárez should be considered among the drivers to beat for the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship.

During a Tuesday media availability at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, both described the challenges of racing as teammates, but also as individual competitors, when the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase playoffs kick off Saturday with the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

(L-R) Daniel Suarez, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Sieg, Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Reed, Erik Jones, Brandon Jones, Brendan Gaughan, Blake Koch and Brennan Poole pose for a picture during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Media Day at NASCAR Hall of Fame on September 20, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Getty Images)

(L-R) Daniel Suarez, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Sieg, Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Reed, Erik Jones, Brandon Jones, Brendan Gaughan, Blake Koch and Brennan Poole pose for a picture during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Media Day at NASCAR Hall of Fame on September 20, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Getty Images)

“The teammate deal is always tough in racing and it’s been tough since racing’s been around,” said Jones, who leads XFINITY Series regulars with four wins this season. “So there’s times when you have to race like teammates and there’s times you have to race like competitors and you can’t be teammates at times. It’s a tough balance for sure, but it’s also nice when you go to the race track and have other drivers to lean on and you can get information from them and better each other.”

Suárez didn’t agree with Jones’ sentiments, but didn’t totally dismiss them either.

“I don’t really agree with what Erik just mentioned,” said the 24-year-old Mexican, who has one win and 20 top-10 finishes this season. “I think it’s very helpful through the practice and qualifying having all that extra information of a good teammate to try to put a good race car together for the race. He just mentioned it though, it’s hard to balance that because both of us want to race hard for wins, but at the same time we have to take care of ourselves to not wreck each other. I think both of us have a shot to be competitive every single weekend of the Chase and hopefully both of us can make it to Homestead and have some fun in the second half of the race.”

Jones and Suárez should start the Chase off well. In the July race at Kentucky, Suárez finished third, while Jones placed fourth. Jones was leading the race on the next-to-last restart on Lap 180-of-201 when he failed to keep pace with the pace car, forcing him to fall back to third before the race resumed.

“Hopefully we’re in the same position where we’re up front and challenging for a win and we can get a win early on (in the Chase),” Jones said. “But Kentucky is a place I like. I really liked the old surface a lot, but I really like the new surface as well. It was pretty good to us earlier this year, so I expect to be pretty good.”

Byron hopes to win inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase

With 10 races left in the season, William Byron already boasts a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie-record five wins.

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

When the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase kicks off with Saturday’s UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1), the 18-year-old Liberty University student will attempt to join Erik Jones (Camping World) and Chase Elliott (XFINITY) as the only rookies to capture NASCAR national series championships.

“I think it’s going to be intense, especially with it being the first Chase race anyone has ever done in the Truck Series,” Byron said. “I think drivers will start out pretty conservative, but by the end the intensity is going to ramp up since winning is the only way to be locked into the next round. I think New Hampshire is one of my better race tracks. I really like it and hopefully that translates to some speed this weekend. We need to get our Liberty University Tundra fast in practice to make sure we qualify well because track position is pretty important there. We want to start out the Chase with a really solid run and just have the right focus and mentality as we get going.”

Byron registered one of his four wins at New Hampshire on the way to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship last season.

He explained he has to be aggressive during the Chase, but also needs to be careful if the opportunity isn’t there.

“I think you go for the win if you are in that position, but if your truck is not that good that day you can’t cost yourself a finish,” Byron said. “You just can’t make mistakes that way. If you do have a chance for a win, you go for it, but if you don’t, you have to get a top-five or top-10 finish. The important thing for us is to try and be solid.”

Race Weekend Preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Bad Boy Off Road 300

Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Date and Time: Sunday, Sept. 25 at 2 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 317.4 miles (300 laps)

What To Watch For: Martin Truex Jr. goes for his second win of the Chase. … Tony Stewart, who finished runner-up at New Hampshire in July, currently holds the final transfer spot to the Round of 12 as he goes for his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. … Joey Logano, from Middletown, Connecticut, tries for his third career win at his home track. … Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner Chase Elliott attempts to build momentum off his third-place finish at Chicagoland.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Race: VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300

Place: Kentucky Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)

What To Watch For: Twelve drivers will compete for the championship in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. … Regular season points leader Elliott Sadler embarks on his quest for his first career NASCAR national series championship. He finished second in the XFINITY Series standings in 2012 and 2013. Sadler is the only driver to earn a berth in both the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (2004) and the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase (2016). … Chase driver Brendan Gaughan won at Kentucky in 2014. … NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney takes the wheel of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. He is the defending race winner.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Race: UNOH 175

Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 181.5 miles (175 laps)

What To Watch For: Eight drivers will compete for the championship in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase. … Chase drivers Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Timothy Peters, John Hunter Nemechek and Daniel Hemric finished second through sixth, respectively, in last year’s New Hampshire race. … Kaz Grala, from nearby Westborough, Massachusetts, makes his seventh career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start. … NASCAR Next alum Cameron Hayley goes for his seventh top-10 finish in the last eight races. … Cole Custer, who became the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history in the New Hampshire race two years ago, attempts to visit Victory Lane for the third time in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career

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