Kenseth still in good Chase spot, but not out of woods yet

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Most observers think that Matt Kenseth is an assured lock to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. While his involvement in a crash last week at Michigan took a chunk out of his points cushion, he’s still firmly in the 13th Chase Grid position and 58 points up on 17th place.

But without a win, he’s not completely safe.

However, Kenseth said today at Bristol Motor Speedway that he feels no need to choose between the two extremes of going for broke to get a win or simply focusing on building a bigger points gap.

“You finish as best as you can every week and you hope that’s a win,” he said. “The days that you have cars that are good enough to be up front and to win with, you hope you have everything else that goes along with that – you don’t make a mistake on the track, you don’t get caught up in a wreck, you qualify good enough, you have good pit stops, good strategy.

“You do all of those things to have a shot to win, but you take what you have every week and make the best you can of it, and finish as high as you can every week. If you can win every week, you’d do it.”

Kenseth figures that making the Chase wouldn’t really change that stance. Additionally, he didn’t exactly agree with the theory of already-clinched Chase teams looking ahead to the start of the post-season in September.

“If guys have already won, you get more bonus points for the first round if you can win again,” Kenseth said, referring to the three bonus points that each regular season win gives drivers for the first round of the Chase.

“There’s a lot of incentives to win races, so I don’t really buy the fact that any one’s folding it in and getting ready for the Chase, saying ‘OK, we don’t care about the next three weeks, we’re just gonna get ready to go race in a few weeks at Chicago.’

“I don’t know if I buy that. Plus, at a place like this, there’s nothing you’re gonna learn here that’s gonna apply to anywhere else we go to the rest of the year.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”