Kurt Busch wants to break Daytona’s ‘ownership’ of him

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Kurt Busch wants to break the chains that bind him.

No, he doesn’t want to leave Stewart-Haas Racing or part ways with his sponsors.

Rather, Busch wants Daytona International Speedway to set him free and cut him a break or two.

“This track owns me,” Busch said Wednesday during Daytona 500 media day at DIS. “It doesn’t owe me anything, it’s just owned me over the years.”

Busch has made 31 career NASCAR Cup starts at the 2.5-mile tri-oval and has come away with 12 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes.

But he’s never reached victory lane there (nor at NASCAR’s other restrictor plate track, Talladega Superspeedway).

Yet, he keeps coming back to Daytona, twice a year, trying to tame the track that just won’t give him a break.

“You have to keep that optimism and show up each time with the enthusiasm to go after it as a fresh start and as a championship weekend all wrapped into one,” Busch said. “This is one of those tough races to win. It’s the most prestigious stock car race there is.

“It’s not easy and I’ve got to do a better job at being better in the clutch moments at the end of the race to capitalize on my track position to hold off the guys from behind and to win it this time, instead of figuring out what I need to do better finishing second.”

Indeed, the Las Vegas native has finished second three times in the “Great American Race” (2003, 2005 and 2008).

“I feel like 2005 I had a chance to make a move on Jeff Gordon going down the back straightaway,” Busch said of the final lap. “I looked in the mirror and I saw Dale Jr. behind me and a load of Chevrolets.

“This was when I was driving with Ford and I guess I just should have jumped out of line and made the move to see what would have happened through turns three and four, to see if I could have won it that year.”

Another Daytona finish that still eats at Busch is 2011, when he ended up fifth.

“In 2011, I had everything going my way,” he said. “I won the Clash. I won the qualifying Duel. I was in the same position on the last lap of the 500 and I didn’t pull it off.”

Could Busch’s 0-for-63 record in restrictor plate races finally come to an end this Sunday? Sooner or later, the law of averages will turn in his direction, Busch hopes.

“I’ve been close many a times,” he said. “I definitely want to try to get this big trophy.”

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Starting grid for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400

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With the second pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Kyle Larson will lead the field to green Sunday in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Joining Larson the front row is Denny Hamlin.

Filling out the top five is Brad Keselowski, Martin Treux Jr. and Ryan Newman.

Click here for the starting grid.

Kyle Larson wins pole for Auto Club 400, second Cup pole of career

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Kyle Larson ended a three-year drought by winning the pole for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400.

Larson won his second Cup Series pole with a speed of 187.047 mph around Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. His first pole came in the August 2013 race at Pocono Raceway.

The pole continues Larson’s impressive start to 2017. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver leads the point standings after earning three consecutive second-place finishes.

“I felt like messed up there in Turn 1 and 2 and I got a little bit loose off the wall on the entry and it got me to split the seam in (Turn) 1 and 2,” Larson told Fox Sports. “I was able to commit to (being) wide open off (Turn) 1 and 2. I hadn’t ran up high in (Turn) 3 and 4 at all in practice or qualifying here. Didn’t really know what I would have out there but ran a good ways and it stuck. … Our Target team has been really amazing to start the season and to get a pole is great. … Got a little team dinner tonight, so this will be a good thing to celebrate.”

Larson’s run knocked Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin from the top spot. As Larson drove down pit road, a Fox Sports camera caught Hamlin playfully showing his dissatisfaction by emptying a cup of ice in the direction of the No. 42.

“This is No. 1 on my list of track I want to win,” Hamlin told Fox Sports. “It’s bitten me mentally and physically … definitely one I want to check off.”

Filling out the top five is Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Newman.

Daniel Suarez qualified 10th for his best career Cup start.

No Hendrick Motorsports entries will start in the top 10. Kasey Kahne was the top qualifier in 12th, followed by Chase Elliott.

Five cars did not make qualifying attempts, with one of them being by choice. Jimmie Johnson’s team elected not to make an attempt following his accident in practice. He will start 37th.

Joining Johnson at the back of the field will be Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Matt DiBenedetto and Gray Gaulding. All of their cars did not make it through inspection in time to qualifying.

Click here for qualifying results.

Jimmie Johnson’s team elects not to make qualifying run after accident in practice

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Following Jimmie Johnson’s accident in practice early Friday, Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team chose not to qualify with a backup car at Auto Club Speedway.

Johnson, a six-time winner at Auto Club Speedway, will start 37th in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Four other cars, including those of Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne, will start in the back after they did not make qualifying attempts. Their cars failed to get through inspection in time. Rookie Gray Gaulding and Matt DiBenedetto also did not qualify because their cars failed to get through inspection.

Johnson explained his team’s decision.

“We had a tough practice session and mid-pack was probably going to be our goal anyway,” he said. “So, to take our lumps here, at a track that’s really wide with a lot of lanes, a long race; we’ll just take our lumps and get the car right where we can take advantage of the precious minutes that we have in Saturday’s practice session and go from there. Pit road is going to be a problem. We’re not going to have a great pick there. We’re definitely not in a position we want to be in, so we’d rather take the time now and make sure we get everything right and get this car right; and also kind of control our risk factor.”

With ACS being such a wide race track with plenty of passing opportunities, Johnson is not in as bad a position to start Sunday’s race as he would be at more narrow track.

Crew chief Chad Knaus told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Claire B. Lang he wasn’t comfortable forcing Johnson to “hustle” to qualify a car he hadn’t practiced in.

Joey Logano completes sweep of Xfinity practices at Auto Club Speedway

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Joey Logano was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session at Auto Club Speedway for the Service King 300.

Driving Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford, Logano put up a speed of 176.804 mph on his 19th of 35 laps in the session

The top five as made up of Erik Jones (176.744), Paul Menard (176.587), Brandon Jones (176.475) and Kyle Larson (176.039).

William Byron and Brennan Poole recorded the most laps in the session with 37 each.

Logan also had the best 10-lap average at 174.889 mph.

Click here for the full practice report.