Getty Images

Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray ready to make Chip Ganassi Racing a force in the Chase

Leave a comment

For one, it’s unchartered territory. For the other, it’s hoping that the second time around is better than the first.

That’s how the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup shapes up for Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray.

Larson is making his first playoff appearance. It comes in his third Cup season.

Larson, who won last month at Michigan, will start the Chase as the 10th seed.

McMurray is making the second consecutive Chase appearance. He’ll start the playoffs in the 16th and final position.

Larson has been one of NASCAR’s hottest drivers of late. Saturday night’s runner-up finish at Richmond International Raceway was his third straight top-three finish — He won at Michigan and finished third at Darlington.

It wasn’t easy, though. Larson struggled near the midpoint of the race with a loose wheel that caused him to pit on Lap 192. Still, he was able to come back for his best finish at Richmond.

The final restart, though, with two laps remaining was what sealed the deal for the northern California native.

“It felt like a video game on rookie mode, having fresh tires like that,” Larson told NBCSN. “It was a fun last restart and to get all the way to second. I felt I could get to fourth, but I got to second, so that was great.”

Given his hot streak, Larson hopes to ride into the opening race next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway and keep that momentum going as the Chase opens.

“The Chase tracks, most of them, are good tracks for me,” Larson said. “We start at Chicago, which is one of my favorite tracks and I really think we can make a good run.

“It’s been awesome and I’m looking forward to it, the first time in the Chase. There’s a lot of new guys in the Chase, so it should be exciting.”

McMurray, meanwhile, hopes to perform better in his second Chase than he did last season.

Like Larson, McMurray has had his own momentum of late, as well: His seventh-place finish Saturday was his ninth top-10 of 2016, including four of the last five races.

McMurray knew how much was on the line coming into Saturday’s race. Because he has yet to win a race this season, he was vulnerable. If a winless driver had won instead of Hamlin, McMurray could have missed the playoffs.

So he did something he typically doesn’t do — he drove defensively.

“I was racing so different than what you normally would, not taking any risk,” McMurray said. “Really good day, both our cars ran real great again today.

“The guys at our shop need to be really proud at what they have been able to build because it’s a lot of fun to drive and be able to run that quick. I looked up at one point and I think there was the four Gibbs cars and Kyle and I. We still have a little bit of work to do, but we’ve made some huge gains and I’m really proud of all those guys.”

McMurray was eliminated after the first round of last year’s Chase. He hopes that’s not the same case this year.

“I feel better about our chances this year vs. last year,” he said. “I felt like last year heading into the Chase that we didn’t really have anything in our pocket as far as little bit better cars.

“I feel like right now we have cars capable of winning. I look forward to getting (to Chicagoland), it’s been a good track for Kyle and I and would be a great way to start off the Chase.”

This marks the first time Chip Ganassi Racing has had two drivers in the Chase in the same year. Ganassi told McMurray before the race that if both he and Larson make the Chase, it would be the “biggest thing ever” at CGR in terms of NASCAR achievements.

“When you look at Chip’s organization, he’s been so successful in Indy cars, sports cars, we’ve won some big races at NASCAR, but the NASCAR side is really hard to keep on top,” McMurray said. “It’s like that for everybody. So when you get down, it’s really hard to climb your way back up.

“Earlier this year, we made some changes as far as personnel. He moved some people around. The crew chiefs and everybody is working really well together and they’ve been able to build some great cars. He’s proud of that because when you make those changes, there’s no guarantee it’s going to show up on the racetrack – but it has.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Larson posts fastest lap in Saturday morning practice

Getty Images
Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Saturday morning’s Cup practice at Kansas Speedway with a lap of 181.671 mph.

He was followed by Kevin Harvick (181.586 mph), Daniel Suarez (181.513), Paul Menard (181.269) and Clint Bowyer (181.178).

Ryan Blaney, who will starts last in the 40-car field after his car failed inspection after qualifying on Friday, was sixth on the speed chart with a lap of 181.038 mph.

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup session is scheduled from 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Six teams will be docked 15 minutes of time in that session, including playoff contenders Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray.

Six cars to miss time in final Cup practice session

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Six Cup teams, including playoff contenders Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray, will each miss 15 minutes of today’s final practice session at Kansas Speedway because of inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Three teams were penalized 15 minutes in Saturday morning’s first practice – Derrike Cope, Landon Cassill and AJ Allmendinger. Each were penalized for being late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Teams penalized 15 minutes in final Cup practice will be Elliott, McMurray, Cope, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.

Bayne, Elliott and Almirola were penalized for failing qualifying/race inspection twice at Talladega.

Cope, McMurray and Menard were penalized for failing qualfiying qualifying inspection twice at Kansas.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Today’s Xfinity race at Kansas: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Xfinity Series begins the second round of its playoffs with today’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.

Here is all the info you need for the race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Kansas Lt. Gov. Dr. Jeff Colyer will give the command to start engines at 2:56 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Qualifying is slated for 12:05 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:25 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Mary Ann Hotaling will perform the anthem at 2:51 p.m..

TV/RADIO:  NBC will broadcast the race at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. on NBCSN with Countdown to Green. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com, starting with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 76 degrees and a 15 percent chance of rain at race time.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch dominated this race last fall, leading 150 of 200 laps. Elliott Sadler finished second. Daniel Suarez was third.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is at 12:05 p.m.

Saturday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Kansas Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Today’s racing action at Kansas Speedway includes two NASCAR Cup practices, as well as Xfinity qualifying and race.

Today’s Xfinity race will be the first in the Round of 8, which will determine the four finalists for next month’s championship race.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All times are Eastern)

8 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Cup garage open

11 – 11:55 p.m. — Second Cup practice (NBC Sports App, MRN)

12:05 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (NBCSN)

1:15 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

1:30 – 2:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

2:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

3 p.m. – Kansas 300 Xfinity race (200 laps, 300 miles) (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)