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

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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.”

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Family affair: Harrison Burton celebrates first K&N Pro Series East win with parents

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Harrison Burton has been to NASCAR’s Victory Lane before. But that was when his dad, NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, raced.

Saturday, Harrison Burton was in Victory Lane after winning his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. Both his mom and dad were there to celebrate his first NASCAR win.

The 16-year-old Burton dominated Saturday’s rain-shortened Zombie Auto 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway, earning praise from current and former NASCAR competitors.

“One of my favorite races I can recall of my dad winning was here at Bristol,’’ Harrison Burton said of his father’s victory in 2008. “Me and my sister were jumping up and down when he won. I was really, really excited to win, and I’m sure he was excited to watch me win.

“It was really cool for me and him both to share a moment like that together. Obviously, my mom, as well, who has traveled the country with me while my dad was racing.’’

So what was the family celebration like this time?

“I didn’t say much,’’ Harrison Burton, a sophomore in high school, said. “I was just kind of laughing and smiling. I gave my mom a big hug and my dad a big hug as well. I think I lifted my mom off the ground. We were just pretty excited.’’

Harrison Burton led 68 of the 70 laps run before rain ended the race early. Ruben Garcia Jr. finished second. Spencer Davis was third, Hunter Baize placed fourth and Chad Finchum was fifth.

“Me and my crew chief were kind of talking like we wanted to run the whole race and win it that way,’’ Harrison Burton said. “We were confident enough to where we felt like our car was good enough that we could win the race. I felt like it would have been kind of cool to cross the line under dry conditions and do it that way. (But) I’ll take it. I was pretty happy when it started raining to be honest. I never wanted it to rain so bad in my life.’’

Harrison Burton leads the series standings with 129 points. He’s followed by Baize (114 points), Todd Gilliland (113), Ronnie Bassett Jr. (111) and Garcia (105).

The race will shown on NBCSN at 11 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 27.

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Jeremy Clements receives swollen left eye after punch from Ross Chastain

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Jeremy Clements said he was stunned when Ross Chastain “socked me” during a red flag delay during Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinty race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Chastain and Clements had contact during the race and then Clements hit Chastain during a caution for rain. The race soon was stopped and drivers exited their cars. Clements came up from behind Chastain.

“I put my hand on his back and turned him around,’’ Clements said. “I had no intention of hitting him, and he turned around and socked me. I had no intention of fighting the guy.’’

Said Chastain: “Somebody grabbed me and turned me around and I saw red eyes and a face that wasn’t going to talk.

“It was a reaction on my part. I’ve never punched anybody in my life. I don’t know what I’d do if I could do it all over again. I can’t let people come up and grab me. It’s happened before in NASCAR and out of NASCAR. I felt like I had to stand my ground.’’

Clements went to the infield care center to ice his left eye.

“It was swollen up pretty good,’’ Clements said. “He did punch me.”

He returned and finished 17th. Chastain finished 31st after he was later involved in an accident.

NASCAR met with both drivers after the race and will review the matter to decide if there are to be any penalties.

Chastain and Clements both said they’ve had run-ins with each other through the years.

“I’ve talked to him before and it doesn’t get us anywhere,’’ Clements said after the race and before meeting with NASCAR. “I don’t know what to do. I try to race him clean all the time. He cuts you no slack and sometimes we’re running for 22nd and 23rd and (he) just door slams you. It’s uncalled for.’’

Chastain said they talked it out in the NASCAR hauler and shook hands.

“I feel bad,’’ Chastain said. “We run against each other. We work together. We buy motors from them. They build our motors, so it’s not good for me to do that. We’re good and on to Richmond.’’

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Elliott Sadler leads top-three sweep by JR Motorsports in Xfinity points

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With a season-best fourth-place finish Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Elliott Sadler increased his lead in the Xfinity Series points standings.

Sadler leads JR Motorsports teammate William Byron by 16 points.

Justin Allgaier, who trails Sadler by 60 points, gives JR Motorsports the top three spots in the standings.

The top five is completed by Ryan Reed (76 points behind Sadler) and Daniel Hemric (80 points behind Sadler).

Click here for the full points standings.

Results and stats for Xfinity Series race at Bristol won by Erik Jones

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Erik Jones led the final 21 laps in order to win the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver outran Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez for his second win of the year and his second in a row.

The top five was filled out by Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric.

Click here for full race results.