Kenseth earns top seed in Chase for the Sprint Cup

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By virtue of his five regular season victories, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth will be atop the standings for the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kenseth, who finished sixth in last night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, holds a three-point lead (2015-2012) over Jimmie Johnson after the re-seeding of the 12 Chase contenders.

“I think we’re prepared,” Kenseth said when asked he and his team were ready to contend for a championship. “I mean, tonight was a little bit of a struggle, but yeah, it’s been an amazing 26 weeks, that’s for sure.

“[Crew chief] Jason Ratcliff and the whole team, [I] really can’t thank that group enough and everybody back at Joe Gibbs Racing. They give all three of us really good cars every week, and they’re a lot of fun to drive. Kind of a frustrating effort tonight. Happy about our finish and looking forward to going to Chicago and getting this thing started.”

Kenseth was exceptionally strong on the intermediate tracks this season, posting four of his five regular season wins on tracks between one and two miles in length.

All but two of the 10 Chase tracks fit that description, with only the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway and the half-mile paperclip at Martinsville Speedway as the anomalies.

Going further, five of the 10 Chase tracks are 1.5-miles long; in the regular season, Kenseth won three times at similar ovals in Las Vegas, Kansas (which will be visited a second time in the post-season), and Kentucky.

Kyle Busch has been seeded third, although he has the same amount of points as Johnson (each having had four regular season wins). Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are fourth and fifth respectively, each with 2006 points.

No. 6 seed Joey Logano and No. 7 seed Greg Biffle are next with 2003 points apiece, followed by the five remaining drivers that will start with 2000 points each – No. 8 seed Clint Bowyer, No. 9 seed Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 10 seed Kurt Busch, and the two Wild Cards, No. 11 seed Kasey Kahne and No. 12 seed Martin Truex Jr.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.