Young Money Finishes 10th But He Raced Much Better

Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson scored a top-10 in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet left the first race in the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff knowing he should have done better with one of the fastest cars on the track.

Larson ran in the top five early on but missed his pit stall on the first pass down pit road, requiring a return trip and a resulting loss of track position. He recovered and climbed back toward the front.

Larson subsequently led Laps 268 through 279, but he lost 10 spots on pit road when his rear tire carrier tripped over the hose to an air gun during a stop under caution on Lap 327, and the tire changer had difficulty removing the lugs from the left rear.

A pair of less-than-stellar restarts late in the race—not to mention contact from Kurt Busch’s spinning car on Lap 335—relegated Larson to a 10th-place result that could and should have been better.

“I felt like I had a car to win,” Larson said. “I made a mistake on pit road early. We rebounded from that. And then we had a costly mistake late and somewhat rebounded; but then those last two restarts didn’t go my way…

“Disappointing, but we fought hard.”

Larson enters next Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway second in the series standings, but he’s 34 points behind points leader and Charlotte race winner Martin Truex Jr.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The Intensity Level Ratchets Up In The Round Of 12

Kyle Larson & Owen Larson
Kyle Larson was satisfied with his Round of 16 performance, but knows he has plenty of work left in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

“Even though we started the playoffs with a pretty nice cushion, and looked good to make the next round, I was glad to see our Chevys were strong throughout the first round and we had three solid finishes,” said Larson, who enters the Round of 12 third on the Playoff Grid, 24 points ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the cutoff line. “It’s great to have both me and (Chip Ganassi Racing teammate) Jamie (McMurray) through to the second round, but I know things are going to get more intense for us in this round.”

The intensity he mentioned starts with the Round of 12 opener – Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In eight career starts at Charlotte, Larson has one top five, two top 10s and a 19.8 average finish. He placed a career-track-best fifth in last season’s Charlotte fall race. Larson finished 33rd in this year’s May race after wrecking out of the competition.

“Charlotte has been kind of a hit or miss track for me, but I’m usually pretty good during the day there, so hopefully a day race will favor me,” Larson said.

The No. 42 Chevrolet driver has a 3.2 average finish when he’s finished the race at 1.5-mile tracks this year. He’s in the midst of a breakout season where he’s posted career bests in wins (4), top fives (14), top 10s (18) and laps led (1,109) with seven races remaining.

“We obviously want to win in each round and not have to worry about the points, but if we can continue to be consistent and finish around the top-five, we should put ourselves in a good position to move on.” We just need to stay focused and work to be mistake free this weekend.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Interesting New Hampshire Notes

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin will go for the season sweep of New Hampshire on Sunday. He led 54 laps on his way to the checkered flag there in July, beating out second-place Kyle Larson by .509 seconds. Martin Truex Jr. finished third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.

The No. 11 Toyota driver enters Sunday’s race carrying a ton of momentum. He has finished in the top five in 10 of his last 13 races and has scored four consecutive top fives.

In 23 career New Hampshire starts, Hamlin owns three wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s and a 10.0 average finish (second best among active drivers). His 104.0 New Hampshire driver rating tops the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Another driver performing well right now with little fanfare is Kevin Harvick – last year’s fall New Hampshire winner. The No. 4 Ford driver has eight top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts, including a third place showing at Chicagoland last weekend where he led 59 laps.

In 33 career starts at New Hampshire, Harvick claims two wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s and a 12.8 average finish. He has produced a top-five result in five of his last six starts at The Magic Mile. His 10.9 average running position at New Hampshire ranks third among active drivers.

Nine of the 16 playoff drivers have previously visited Victory Lane at New Hampshire. They’ll try to channel their experience to do it again and earn an automatic bid to the second round. Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson lead active drivers with three wins apiece at The Magic Mile. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have won at New Hampshire twice. Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski have each lifted the lobster in Victory Lane once at the New England track.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Dale Jr. Thinks He’s Leaving NASCAR Racing In Good Hands

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
There’s no debating that the highest level of NASCAR racing is witnessing a changing of the guard.

Jeff Gordon retired from full-time racing at the end of the 2015 season. Tony Stewart followed a year later. Earnhardt is playing out his final year in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Danica Patrick has announced she won’t return to Stewart-Haas Racing next year. And veterans Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne are out of their current rides, with no concrete plans to announce yet for 2018.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is short on star power. With neophyte young guns like Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon and Erik Jones leading a parade of talented 20-somethings, Earnhardt believes he’s leading the competition in firm hands.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Earnhardt affirmed. “I think that these young guys are really crafty with social media and I think that’s a great direction for them to interact with not only current fans, but to find new fans. I think they do a great job at that.

“I had to learn what Twitter was and how to use it. These guys grew up in this generation, and they are sort of already masters of it. There’s a lot of great things going on on Instagram and Twitter, and I think that there’s a lot of opportunity there to capture an audience and make new fans and create new fans.”

Earnhardt also believes the drivers who will carry the sport for the next generation must accept the necessity of outreach—even if it’s an inconvenience.

“They need to push themselves, which is hard to do. I didn’t want to do any of this when I was young. But when NASCAR says we need somebody in New York to do morning shows this week to promote the playoffs, these guys need to jump on that wagon and go.

“It’s not a ton of fun, but once you’re in the middle of it, doing it, it’s really enjoyable meeting these people and these personalities and making these connections and networking with these people.”

So here comes the next generation of NASCAR super stars to carry the sport for the next decade or so!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Keselowski Continues His Twitter “War” With Kyle Busch And The Toyotas

Kyle Busch
Fresh from a Twitter war with Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch proved a point with his pole run at Chicagoland Speedway—and may just have proved Keselowski’s.

“We are all in for a rude awakening,” Keselowski tweeted two hours before Friday’s knockout qualifying session at the 1.5-mile track, site of Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400, the first event in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff.

“Haven’t let a manufacturer get this far ahead since the ‘70s.”

The tweet was a reference to Toyota’s recent dominance in NASCAR’s foremost series, and after a snarky social media exchange with Keselowski, Busch let his No. 18 Camry do the talking, leading all three rounds of qualifying and capping the session with a blistering 28.792-second circuit at 187.963 mph in the money round.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin (186.168 mph) was second in the final round, 0.277 seconds off Busch’s pace.

The Coors Light Pole Award was Busch’s first at Chicagoland Speedway, his seventh of the season and the 26th of his career.

“You’d like to be doing your talking on the race track, and they (Keselowski and Team Penske) were earlier in the year,” Busch said. “They were doing their talking on the race track and again, we kept our head down and went to work and did our job to make our stuff faster.

“Now he’s doing the opposite. As far as having Twitter wars or whatever else, I don’t know. I’d like to not have to. I guess somebody needs to take it off my phone.”

Ten of the 16 Playoff drivers advanced to the final round, with regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. qualifying third in the No. 78 Toyota. Kevin Harvick was the top Ford driver in fourth, followed by Keselowski in fifth. Kyle Larson in sixth had the fastest Chevrolet.

Joey Logano in seventh and Clint Bowyer in 11th were the only two non-playoff drivers to crack the top 12.

Kasey Kahne was bumped out of the top 24 in the final minute of the first round and was the only Playoff driver who failed to advance beyond that point.

The disparity between the third-round runs of Busch and Hamlin had the latter wondering where his teammate found such blazing speed when it counted.

“It wasn’t because his car was that much faster,” Hamlin said. “He must have done something inside the car better than I did, so I’ll have to look at the data and see what line he took and how much throttle he used, because I know there’s not three tenths between our cars, for sure.”

Busch had a ready answer.

“It’s because I’m in a Toyota—that’s why right?” he said, taking another not-so-subtle dig at Keselowski. “Just great adjustments there, because we were kind of free there the first couple of runs and were trying to get the balance there.

“And the last run, our balance was way better, and we were able to attack it and get the most out of it. That’s all she had.”

Note: Ryan Blaney qualified 12th, failing to make a qualifying run in the final round. The reason? His No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford was out of fuel. Trying to keep the car as light as possible, the team filled the car with just enough fuel to complete three rounds.

But a red flag for Erik Jones’ spin in the second round canceled one of Blaney’s laps in progress and forced him to run extra laps—and to run the car out of gas.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Harvick: Playoff Points Will Gather More Importance As Playoff Rounds Proceed

Kevin Harvick
No one knows precisely how the current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff format will unfold this season.

Two innovations have injected considerable uncertainty into the stage-based racing, under which drivers can accumulate points at the end of defined segments of an event; and playoff points, which can give drivers a cushion that could help a driver survive a disastrous race in one of the rounds leading up to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With four race victories, 18 stage wins and a regular-season championship, Martin Truex Jr. has accumulated 53 playoff points he can carry forward into the first three playoff rounds. Kyle Larson has 33 playoff points and Kyle Busch 29.

On the low end of the scale, Jamie McMurray has three. But how the playoff points will translate into advancement through the playoff rounds is still a matter for conjecture.

“I think as you look at the points, in the first round I don’t think you’re going to notice it as much,” said 2014 champion Kevin Harvick. “I think it’s when you see those points start to roll in the second and third rounds and how they affect everything is going to be much more noticeable.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Young Money Takes It To the Bank In Overtime

Kyle Larson
A caution on Lap 397 of a scheduled 400 in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 turned what looked like a coronation for Martin Truex Jr. into an unexpected overtime victory for Kyle Larson, as the field of 16 drivers was set for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Truex, the regular season winner, had a comfortable lead over Larson when Derrike Cope brushed the outside wall with three laps left in regulation. Larson won the race off pit road after the lead-lap cars pitted for tires, and the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing pulled away from a restart on Lap 403.

One lap later, contact between the Toyotas of Truex and Denny Hamlin sent Truex’s No. 78 Camry rocketing into the Turn 1 wall, and the race ended under caution with Larson in the lead and Joey Logano, who needed a win to qualify for the postseason, rolling home in second place after making the most of a restart from the ninth position.

“I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew,” Larson said. “That showed tonight. I can’t thank those guys enough. They were money all night long to gain spots. This win is a huge congrats to them. The Target Chevy was pretty good all night. The No. 78 (Truex) was definitely the best, but I thought I was second best for most of the runs.

“It came down to the last restart there, and I got a good start. I spun my tires pretty bad, and I was a little nervous, but we cleared him (Truex) into (Turn) 1, and I was pretty excited about that. I’m really pumped for the playoffs. We’ve got a great shot at the championship, I feel like, this year. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Larson’s victory ensured playoff spots for three drivers fighting for berths on points – Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth. The night was particularly tense for Kenseth, who damaged the nose and radiator of his car beyond repair coming to pit road on Lap 255.

An ambulance stopped on the apron near the pit road entrance forced drivers to take evasive action, and Kenseth’s car plowed into the rear of Clint Bowyer’s Ford, doing irreparable damage. Kenseth fell out of the race after 257 laps and had to wait until Larson’s victory eliminated the possibility of another unique winner – a circumstance that would’ve eliminated Kenseth from the playoff.

Logano ran one spot short of the victory he needed to make the playoff, after his April win was encumbered because of a penalty for a rear suspension infraction.

“Yeah, you said it, came up a little bit short overall,” Logano said. “Yeah, it stings a little bit. Last time we were sitting here after a race, it was after a win, and this time it’s after a second, which overall if you look at our Richmond (record) for a season with the two races, you’d say, that’s pretty good, a first and a second.

“But just overall, obviously it stings to come up one spot short and not be able to get into the playoffs. It is what it is. It’s reality, and we will move on.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran consistently in the top 10 throughout his final run at Richmond in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet but fell to 13th in the melee of the final restart.

Ryan Newman came home third, followed by Kurt Busch, Hamlin and Erik Jones, who was trying to force his way into the playoff with a victory. Jones ran as high as third but lost positions on pit road on his last two stops and didn’t have the speed to make up the difference.

Elliott finished 10th and McMurray 14th. Based on those runs, both drivers would’ve secured playoff berths after Kenseth fell out, even if the race had produced a new winner.

Note: Truex won the second stage of the race and increased his playoff point total to a series-leading 53… Larson passed ninth-place finisher Kyle Busch for second place in the final regular-season standings and earned a 10-point bonus to bring his playoff point total to 33. Busch gets an eight-playoff-point bonus for finishing third in the regular season and enters the postseason with 29 playoff points.

Check out the unofficial results of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond.

TIL NEXT ITME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Chip Ganassi Racing Reveals Darlington Throwback

image016
Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) revealed yesterday the throwback paint scheme on the No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet SS, driven by Kyle Larson, for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The paint scheme will honor current CGR co-owner Felix Sabates. Credit One Bank will turn back the clock to 1995, and feature a scheme that was raced by Kyle Petty while driving at SABCO Racing for Sabates. The original design has been updated to include the Credit One Bank logo on the hood and quarter panel, but otherwise remains intact from when Petty was behind the wheel.

  • One of a Kind: Felix Sabates has been a fixture in NASCAR since he became a team owner in the late-1980’s after acquiring a research and development team from Hendrick Motorsports. The Cuban-born Sabates immigrated to the US at the age of 15, and held jobs at a furniture factory in Lexington, N.C. and City Chevrolet before working to import Nintendo and Teddy Ruxpin into American homes. Before partnering with Chip Ganassi in 2001, SABCO Racing fielded teams in NASCAR from 1989 – 2000. In addition to Petty, Sabates also raced with Kenny Wallace, Wally Dallenbach, Jr., Joe Nemechek, Sterling Marlin and Kenny Irwin, to name a few. SABCO netted seven wins at the Cup level, with 33 top-five finishes and 15 pole awards.

 

  • Second Helping: In a first for CGR, short vignettes featuring Felix Sabates and Kyle Petty will be produced and posted to the team’s social media platforms during breaks in the action from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Darlington Raceway, giving fans a second-screen option during commercial breaks. The videos will give fans an unique look into the No. 42 team as it was during the days of SABCO Racing as Sabates and Petty sit down and share stories from the good ‘ole days.

 

  • Yikes, Stripes!: While the red and white stripes around the wall at Darlington exude a feeling of nostalgia, the stripes that usually have everyone talking are those often accidentally added on the right side of the car by drivers who misjudge the dissimilar turns at the egg-shaped track. While admittedly the recipient of several stripes in his first attempt at the “Lady in Black” in 2013 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Larson has a fairly solid body of work in the MENCS. In three starts, Larson has three top-10 finishes and led 45 laps en route to a third-place finish in last year’s Southern 500.

 

  • Petty Parody Part Two: If you’re keeping score at home, this will mark the second time that Larson drives a paint scheme originally piloted by Petty. In the first throwback weekend at Darlington in 2015, Larson drove Petty’s No. 42 Mello Yello paint scheme that was raced in the early 1990’s and made famous in the movie “Days of Thunder.” Larson’s throwback paint scheme in 2015 was picked by the fans as the best of the weekend.

 

CGR QUOTEBOARD:

 

  • Chip Ganassi, Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing: “It’s great to have a chance to honor my friend, Felix Sabates at this year’s Darlington race. He has been a great partner over the years and was a huge help when I first came into NASCAR. We’ve shared many exciting races and events, and we’re hoping for more good things to come, especially in Darlington with our partner Credit One Bank.”

 

  • Felix Sabates, Co-Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing: “I have loved every minute of being a part of NASCAR, and have enjoyed the opportunity I’ve had to be a team owner with some great drivers. Kyle Petty is like family to me, and to be able to again see one of our cars from the SABCO Racing days out on track is pretty special. It’s great to have one of our newer partners in Credit One Bank honoring the past while we work to make a mark this season and beyond.”

 

  • Laura Faulkner, Vice President Marketing Communications, Credit One Bank: “We are thrilled to be included in this year’s throwback paint scheme. The design itself is an homage to the past, but with our logo incorporated into the layout, it’s also a celebration of our present partnership, an exceptional season together, and an even brighter future as Kyle Larson continues to excel in the No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet SS.”

  

  • Kyle Larson, Driver No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet SS: “I’m really glad Credit One Bank got on board with a throwback car this season. This car is another really neat looking design from the SABCO days, and I’m excited to get on track with it at Darlington. Felix is a fun and colorful guy, and that’s definitely shown in the paint schemes he put on track in the 90’s. He’s been a great guy to race for, and I’m glad we can highlight his contribution to NASCAR and our team with the car.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Larson “Lets The Big Dog Eat” In An Overtime Restart!

Kyle Larson
Sitting in his racecar during a red flag delay near the end of the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, “Young Money”, aka Kyle Larson, pondered the possible routes to an overtime victory. He was in fourth-place and would restart for the final two-lap shootout behind leader Martin Truex Jr. on the outside line.

Larson hadn’t had a fast racecar all day at Michigan International Speedway, but he thought with a gutsy move on the restart, he could steal a win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Ahead of him, Truex, the race leader, was in the opposite positon. He had had a fast racecar all day, and he figured he needed a strong restart to repel whatever move Larson or somebody else would throw at him. Like Larson, he was trying to figure out which scenario would be most likely to take him to Victory Lane.

As it turned out, Larson and Truex both drew up the same plan—they both wanted Larson to hit Truex on the restart. They just had different ideas about what would happen after the push/hit.

Truex hoped the contact would push him forward and to the victory, and for a very brief second, that seemed possible. But Truex spun his tires, which played right into Larson’s strategy.

“I wanted to time it and get to his bumper and act like I was pushing him out to the lead and duck underneath him and get to his left-rear quarter and pull him back,” Larson said. “It’s crazy how when you get to someone’s left rear quarter how much it slows them down. It did just that.”

Larson bounced off of Truex as he passed him, and for a split second the race fanned out four wide. That never ends well—especially not on the penultimate lap when all four drivers are going for the win and nobody is willing to lift! But somehow they all stayed off each other, and afterward, rookie Erik Jones, one of those drivers, was at a loss to explain how. “I was pointed at the infield for half of (Turns) one and two,” said Jones, who finished third.

After the pass, Larson’s car was loose for the rest of the restart lap and the white flag lap. But he put enough distance between him and Truex that Truex couldn’t catch him and had to settle for second. Those were the only two laps Larson led all day. The thrilling win in a car that had no business doing so looked like a career defining move for Larson, the young driver from Elk Grove, California.

The win was an exclamation point on an already great week of racing for Larson. He (Larson) finished second late Saturday night in the Knoxville Nationals, one of the biggest dirt races in the world. His contract forbids him from running on dirt the night before he has to be on track for NASCAR, be it practice, qualifying or a race. But on Thursday, he talked team owner Chip Ganassi into making an exception.  It also didn’t hurt that thousands of sprint car fans inundated Ganassi’s Facebook page and emails asking him to let Larson race at Knoxville.

Ganassi harbored misgivings about the decision—he thought Larson, who didn’t get back to Michigan from Knoxville, Iowa until 2:30 a.m. Sunday might be too worn out for the 400 mile race, and those doubts grew bigger in the middle of the race as Larson languished in the middle of the pack. But after the win, Ganassi joyously shook team members on the pit box and planted a kiss on Larson.

It was Larson’s third consecutive win at Michigan. The only other drivers to accomplish that are David Pearson and “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville”, both of whom are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The race was slowed by five cautions for 28 laps.

Michigan native Brad Keselowski won the first stage. He dominated the first half of the race, leading five times for 105 laps. But he faded to 17th. Truex led three times for 57 laps and won the second stage. Truex kept his position atop the points race, but finished runner-up.

What Larson showed the NASCAR world at Michigan was that he willed himself to win that race.  He proved to all that he wanted the victory more than the rest of the field!

Check out the unofficial results of the Pure Michigan 400.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

“Young Money” Will Have A Full Weekend!

Kyle Larson
After a dominating win on Wednesday night at the Knoxville Nationals, Kyle Larson faced a dilemma. He had qualified for the prestigious A-main finals of one of the premiere dirt races in the world. The problem was the race was set for Saturday night, and his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series forbids him from racing on dirt the day before he has to drive the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, be it qualifying, practice or the race.

On Thursday, he appeared with Ganassi at an event in downtown Detroit unveiling the Camaro ZL1 as Chevrolet’s entry in next year’s 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. On the drive to the airport afterward, Larson tried to talk Ganassi into allowing an exception. The team owner voiced his concerns—the contract language exists to make sure Larson is fresh and to give the team time to find a replacement if he gets injured.

With Larson and other team officials pleading Larson’s case, Ganassi ultimately relented, and now Larson will race in the event in Knoxville, Iowa on Saturday to try to put an exclamation point at the end of what he calls his favorite week of racing of the year. He finished fifth in the event last year. “I’m thankful for Chip to even allow me to do what I get to do right now,” Larson says. “It’s especially nice that he’s making an exception for Saturday night.”

Larson expects to fly to Iowa after his responsibilities at Michigan International Speedway end on Saturday afternoon. He will race at night and fly back to Michigan after that. He doesn’t have to be anywhere at MIS until 11:30 Sunday morning. “I’ll still be able to get plenty of sleep and be ready,” he said.

Larson has won two races in a row at Michigan.

“Young Money” could be flying back to Michigan Saturday night $150,000.00 richer, if he wins the feature at Knoxville!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!