Chip Ganassi Racing’s Matt Kenseth says he just excited as he has ever been to go racing as prepares to step into the No.42 Credit One Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet for Sunday’s Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to real life racing albeit behind closed doors.
Speaking ahead of the race he said:
I’m just as excited as I’ve been to go racing in many, many years and I’m really looking forward to getting to the track. “I really like this group of guys at Ganassi; the cars look nice and the Camaro looks like they’re really fast, so I’m really looking forward to this first race.
“The 42-team has run really well at Darlington in the last two years, so setup-wise, we’re probably not going to veer too far off of that. I think you’ll run those first thirty laps, see how the car feels and then be able to make some small adjustments and go from there.
“Everyone is going to be out there is ready to pounce on whatever spot they can, so you just have to be smart. Especially for me, I just need to be smart and get through those first bunch of laps to get in a rhythm, get a little bit of room to move around, breath, get kind of acclimated and go from there. I know that it’s going to be a big challenge and I’m going to do my best to try and take advantage of the opportunity.’’
Kenseth’s team mate Kurt Busch says it is huge for NASCAR that they are returning to racing this weekend for the first time since March 8 and speaking ahead of Sunday’s event he said:
To get the call and know that we are going back to Darlington is huge and great for the sport of NASCAR. “The industry has been collaboratively working together to make sure that this is done safely and properly to put on a good show. I’m excited to go to Darlington.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman in the No.6 Ford will be back in the car for the first time since he had his accident during the Daytona 500 on February 17. Newman had no hesitation about getting back in the car saying:
I had no apprehensions getting in the car. “I was excited to get in the car. It’s my favorite race track and just really wanted to get back in it and at it. I’ve been working really hard to do the things that I needed to do test-wise to pass my concussion test and protocol and things like that, so I could be down there with my team and Dr. Petty to establish the fact that I felt well and could prove I was well behind the seat of the race car, so I basically did that.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series are following strict COVID 19 health and safety protocols with teams only allowed to has 16 team members on site which includes drivers in accordance with the Center for Disease Control.
Chad Knaus, seven time Cup Series crew chief who works with Hendrick Motorsports said:
“It’s been a huge challenge and I really have to throw a lot of thank-yous and a lot of accolades to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports because it’s not been an easy process to get back in there in a very, very short period of time and get race cars ready to go to a very unique venue. “Darlington is quite a lot different than any other race track that we go to, obviously. But, we’ve got staggered work hours. We’ve got blocks of people that work. We’re not really alternating days. We’re going in blocks of days to try to keep the exposure down to a minimum.
“We’re thermal testing people as they come into the facility. You see everybody wearing their masks and practicing social distancing. We’re doing all that we can to be in accordance with the CDC regulations and what the governor has put out there, to make sure we’re doing what’s right and being smart. It’s not easy.”
Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney who drives the No.12 Ford said:
Even though it’s not a super-long race, you’ve still got time to work on your car, especially at the competition caution. “They’re (NASCAR) giving a lot of time to kind of make wholesale adjustment if you need them. So I feel like everyone will take it easy for the first little bit, but, honestly, the muscle memory of everybody is pretty good, so once you get one run in and things like that, I think we’ll be back to normal.”