Loudon Update: Matt Kenseth uses two-tire stop to take lead

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Matt Kenseth is threatening for another Sprint Cup victory this afternoon and currently leads the Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kenseth took over the lead following pit stops under yellow at Lap 123 after Denny Hamlin suffered a right front tire failure and slowed on the track. Taking two tires, Kenseth came out of pit road ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carl Edwards, all of which also took two instead of four in a bid for track position. Kurt and Kyle Busch, the early pace setters in the race, opted for four tires and were put back in seventh and eighth place at the subsequent restart (Lap 129).

At halfway (Lap 150), Kenseth led Stewart by about a second, followed by Kurt Busch in third, Stewart in fourth, and Kyle Busch in fifth.

Keselowski started on pole, but was quickly overtaken by Kyle Busch, who would hold the point until Lap 62. At that point, Kurt Busch took advantage of his little brother getting loose coming off Turn 4 and took the lead down the front stretch.

Roughly ten laps later, the first run of green flag stops began and eventually ended with Kurt Busch still up front. A caution for debris at Lap 79 bunched up the field again, but Kurt Busch re-opened a gap between himself and the field upon the return of the green flag at Lap 83.

Joey Logano suffered a left-rear tire failure in the opening laps and hit the wall to bring out the first caution of the day. Shortly after the restart at Lap 9, Marcos Ambrose was spun by Kevin Harvick coming out of Turn 4 and was hit by Casey Mears on the frontstretch, bringing out the yellow again at Lap 14.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.