Kenseth aims to race hard but clean vs. Johnson in final races

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It’s all to play for between Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, who are tied atop the Sprint Cup championship standings heading into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

But despite the tense battle between them, Kenseth indicated that he’ll race Johnson hard but clean in the final three races – which include Sunday’s event at TMS, the Nov. 10 Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, and the season-ending Ford Ecoboost 400 on Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I think you always race as hard as you can, but at the same time you try to be as fair and clean as you can,” Kenseth said before qualifying sixth this afternoon for Sunday’s race. “I think you always throughout your career, you make mistakes and learn from them, all those kind of things. But, I think if you try to race people the way you want to be raced, it usually works out both ways.

“The goal is to always get your car running good where you can go pass and you can go out run other guys and not worry about that.”

Kenseth crashed during a test session at TMS last week, but has seen tremendous success on 1.5-mile ovals this season and would appear to have momentum after placing second last weekend at Martinsville Speedway – three spots ahead of Johnson, an eight-time winner at Martinsville in his Cup career.

The two rivals have each performed well over the years at TMS, and they’re expected to have another tight duel Sunday. As time runs out on the season, one could assume that a psychological battle may take shape in parallel with what occurs on the track.

But Kenseth said Friday that he won’t take part in any “head games” versus Johnson.

“My brain is over-capacity already with trying to figure out how to make my race car fast enough to be the best,” he said. “They always say, ‘If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man’ and [Johnson’s] always definitely been the man.

“[I’m] really just trying to concentrate on that and trying to figure out how to make our car fast enough to go out and be able to compete with not only him, but the rest of the field each and every week. It’s a competitive group.”

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup