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LOUDON, N.H. – Matt Kenseth has run well at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The 45-year-old has three Loudon wins between Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing. The No. 20 Toyota will start the Overton’s 301 on Sunday on the second row.
But after this season, if Kenseth wants to add more checkered flags from Loudon, he will have to do so in a new car.
The Overton’s 301 will mark Kenseth’s penultimate NHMS race with JGR. Erik Jones, driver of the No. 77 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing, will replace Kenseth in the No. 20 next year. Kenseth has driven for JGR for five years. His next employer is unknown.
“I certainly hope and would like to think Matt Kenseth can find a ride, because I think he’s got another whatever he wants to race in him,” said teammate Kyle Busch. “I’m sure he believes that’s probably another three years or so at least. So if he can find that, then I’d love to still have him out there and race against him every Sunday.”
Next year, Busch will be teammates with a driver he once considered an employee. Jones used to drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series. At JGR, Jones will join Daniel Suarez, also a KBM alum.
“I did have Erik. I’ve had Daniel come through our place as well,” Busch said. “If you look at it now, that’s me, Denny [Hamlin], Daniel, and Erik. So either myself or Denny are the next two out if I continue to feed them through KBM as quickly as I have been, so we’re watching our backs.”
In 2015, Jones moved up to the Xfinity Series with JGR. He became a full-time Cup driver this year as Furniture Row’s second driver alongside Martin Truex Jr. Whether the No. 78 will be Furniture Row’s lone team in 2018 has yet to be determined.
“I enjoyed working with Erik,” Truex said. “He’s a good teammate and a great kid. I love talking to him and hearing his point of view. It would have been nice to have him for a couple years.”
Jones will start the Overton’s 301 on the third row. The No. 77 was sixth-fastest (131.008 miles per hour) in Saturday’s first practice and 10th-fastest (130.238 m.p.h.) in the afternoon.
Kyle Busch doesn’t need any help in the Xfinity Series where his 89 wins are a NASCAR record — and 40 clear of second place. But when he is the recipient of a little good fortune, watch out.
Busch took home the checkered flag in Saturday’s rain-delayed Overton’s 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, notching his third Xfinity Series victory of 2017.
Busch’s break came with 29 laps remaining when leader Brad Keselowski incurred a pit road penalty for exiting the pit box with a gas can still attached to his car. Keselowski, who led for 102 laps, couldn’t recover, finishing fifth.
“It’s good anytime you get to Victory Lane obviously,” Busch said. “I’ve done it with a lot of different groups of guys. Cars change and things evolve and are different and we’re still able to put ourselves in the right positions at the right time.”
Whelen Modified Tour driver Ryan Preece finished runner-up, marking the best Xfinity Series result of his career. It came in his first Series start of the season in the the No. 20 Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing and bettered his 10th-place finish at Darlington last year.
“ To be able to finish second to [Kyle Busch] today was a great accomplishment and something to build on,” Preece said.
Bobby Santos restarted in second place for the green-white-checkered finish of Saturday’s Whelen Modified Tour’s Eastern Propane & Oil 100. He was not there for long. The Franklin native, restarting on the bottom, roared past race leader Preece on the restart and coasted to the win.
Preece was positioned to win before the restart. But the yellow flag flew when Cup driver Ryan Newman, who regularly runs the Modified races at Loudon, tangled with Doug Coby while sprinting for the lead.
“We had a good four-way battle there,” Santos said. “Something happened with Ryan and Doug and ended those guys’ race. Ryan Preece has done a great job. But I knew if I could get out front and down on the bottom, I’d found something down there.”
Kyle Busch recorded the fastest lap (130.950 m.p.h.) in Saturday’s final practice. The No. 18 posted its field-pacing lap under partly-sunny skies, the closest conditions to Sunday’s forecast. Saturday’s first session took place in cooler overcast conditions . . . Truex and Kyle Larson, currently 1-2 in the standings, should have two of the stronger cars Sunday. The No. 48 should also be good. Following NASCAR’s dismissal of Larson’s qualifying time because of an illegal rear deck fin lid, Jimmie Johnson moved up to the first row . . . New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will drive the pace car before Sunday’s Cup race.
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