Kyle Larson holds off Chase Elliott to capture FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan

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Talk about bookending: Kyle Larson started the race weekend by being fastest in practice, then qualified No. 1 and went on to win Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Larson has now won the last two Cup races at MIS, having scored his first career Cup win there last August.

Sunday’s win is the third career win for Larson, who won earlier this year at Fontana. That means Larson has won the last three races at NASCAR’s two 2-mile speedways.

Larson led a race-high 96 of 200 laps. The win also put him back into first place in the NASCAR Cup standings, overtaking Martin Truex Jr. Larson now leads Truex by five points.

“For us to withstand a few restarts there at the end with some tough competitors was pretty important,” Larson said in victory lane to FS1. “Cool to win it and a great Father’s Day present for myself, too.”

MORE: Results of Michigan 400

MORE: Kyle Larson moves atop points standings, but Martin Truex Jr. increases playoff lead

For the third consecutive race at MIS, Chase Elliott finished runner-up.

“From where we started the day to where we ended up, I was real proud of our effort,” Elliott told FS1. “I’m happy we could have a solid day, put ourselves into position … had a couple opportunities to get the lead, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. We’ll move on … and try to get ’em next week.”

Joey Logano finished third, his best finish since his April 30 win at Richmond. In five races between Richmond and Michigan, Logano hadn’t finished higher than 21st.

Denny Hamlin finished fourth, followed by Larson’s teammate, Jamie McMurray. Sixth through 10th were Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson

Truex won both Stage 1 and 2, giving him 10 stage wins for the season. Kyle Busch is second with four stage wins.

HOW LARSON WON: On the final restart with five laps to go, Larson bumped fenders with Denny Hamlin going into Turn 1, regained the lead and then sailed away to victory lane. He also had the most dominant car of the day, leading almost half of the race.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Joey Logano broke his five-race run of poor performances with a third-place finish. Likewise for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished ninth to earn his third top-10 finish of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Danica Patrick finished last in the 37-car field, but it was not her fault. She was involved in a late-race crash after Bubba Wallace ran into the rear of Daniel Suarez, who slammed into Patrick. Her Ford hit hard on the inside wall.

NOTABLE: Ryan Sieg finished 33rd in his first NASCAR Cup race. … Darrell Wallace Jr. finished 19th in his second career Cup race. … Trevor Bayne finished 17th and made a quick getaway as his wife is expected to give birth to the couple’s second child on Monday.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “We’ve been so close to so many other wins. This is our second Cup win of the year, but we’ve had (five) second-place finishes. All in all a good season so far and we’ll continue to keep building on what we’ve got.” – Race winner Kyle Larson.

WHAT’S NEXT: The series goes west June 25 at Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, the first of two road-course races.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

Xfinity Series Spotlight: Ty Majeski, the driver Mark Martin calls ‘the one’

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CONORD, N.C. — Ty Majeski‘s first NASCAR start isn’t for another two days, but Roush Fenway Racing already is commemorating the event.

In one portion of the museum and gift shop at the team’s headquarters hangs a shirt produced specifically for the 22-year-old driver’s debut in the Xfinity Series at Iowa Speedway.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

“I think Roush Fenway decided to do it,” Majeski told NBC Sports sitting in an office at the team’s headquarters. “I think they ordered 144 shirts. They were sold within an hour and half. I don’t think they understood what kind of following I have up in the Midwest.

“But once we posted it on our Facebook page it was, ‘Boom!’ And they ordered another 144, and I think it was a day, boom, they were gone again. Now they’re coming out with a ladies line of the same design. They’re selling like crazy.”

The shirt sits around the corner from one that honors Mark Martin‘s Hall of Fame induction in January. Majeski will be driving a Ford with the No. 60, the same numeral Martin drove to victory lane 39 times in the Xfinity Series.

In a prerace news release, Martin gave the native of Seymour, Wisconsin, all the praise one could hope for.

“With Ty Majeksi, I think Roush Fenway may have the one,” Martin said. “I think he is Roush Fenway’s next Matt Kenseth or Carl Edwards. I think they are sitting good with him as a young driver developing. I’ll be watching with great interest.”

More than a month before his Xfinity debut, Majeski and Martin bonded on Twitter over their shared experience of winning a race at Rockford Speedway in Illinois.

A week before his Xfinity debut, he notched his series-record 17th win in the ARCA Midwest Tour, where Majeski also has won three straight titles. He did that in a car sponsored by iRacing, Majeski is the top-ranked driver on the racing simulator, having won more than 830 races in 1,112 starts. iRacing will be on his car for both Iowa races this year.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What was the experience like getting into the Xfinity car for the first time (in a test at Iowa)?

Majeski: Obviously, it’s critical now that NASCAR puts such a limit on NASCAR testing as a whole. So any time a team can get a test is critical, for both the driver and the team. I adapted pretty quickly to the race track, to the Xfinity car. I did a lot of iRacing. So it didn’t take me too long to adapt to it, and I think the second or third run, we were already making adjustments on the car, trying to make it better and make the team better. I think it was critical to use our time to continue to improve the race car and not just me adapting to everything.

NBC Sports: What was it like for you when you saw the painted car for the first time?

Majeski: It was really cool. That’s kind of when it became real for me. Seeing it in the shop, seeing my name on it. Seeing all the guys working on it. I’m like, ‘Man, this is actually happening.’ Obviously, it’s something I’ve been working towards my whole career since I’ve been racing go-karts at 9 years old. This is what I wanted to do. Didn’t become I guess even feasible until just a few years ago. Before, it wasn’t just a hobby, but it just wasn’t realistic at that time. We started winning late model races, big late model races all over the country and it became a reality.

NBC Sports: You’re going to be working with (crew chief) Seth Harbour this weekend. When did you first get to interact with him getting ready for this?

Majeski: I do a lot of shocks for Bubba Wallace in the shop. I do a lot of work in the shop every day. I go to the racetrack with them when I can when I’m not racing my late model or don’t have other obligations to do. So I travel with him. The first time I really worked with them was at Las Vegas this year with Bubba Wallace. … I got to work with Seth and see how he acts and how he communicates with his drivers. I think that was big. Have somewhat of an idea going into the debut.

NBC Sports: Why the shock area, is that a specialty for you?

Majeski: No, it’s not a specialty for me. I actually had never saw the inside of a shock before I started working. I have some sense of what they do. I know what the adjustments do and I know what I need and I know what they feel like when you do a certain adjustment, but I never knew what the inside of one looked like. The reason we chose the shock department is because it gives me a wide range of, I guess, experiences.

NBC Sports: So when you’re getting to know Seth, what are you working on communication wise to know what you like, what he likes? How do you get your verbiage down for when you’re in the car?

Majeski: I think a big thing was having my crew chief Toby Nuttleman down at the test. I’ve been working with him; he’s the crew chief I’ve had most of my successes with. I’ve been with him the last, this will be the fourth full season now. He came down to the test, he can tell by the tone of my voice on how big of an adjustment he needs to change, just on how I react, what I’m saying. That just comes with time. He was able to translate a lot of that to Seth at the test. It definitely helps for sure.

NBC Sports: Will this be the longest race you’ve ever been in?

Majeski: Mileage-wise, yes. But I’ve done 300-lappers before in the late models, which at least at Iowa, you have some straightaways you can rest. I can argue that a 300-lap race at Pensacola for the Snowball Derby’s going to do more wear and tear on you than a mile racetrack. Mileage-wise, it’ll be my longest race, but I’ll be all right.

NBC Sports: Who all is going to be at the race this Saturday?

Majeski: A lot of people. My whole late model team is going to be there. Tons of friends and family. I know there’s buses going down from Wisconsin. There’ll be a lot of Ty Majeski fans there for sure.

NBC Sports: You’re from Seymour, Wisconsin.What’s the coolest thing about Seymour?

Majeski: The first hamburger was made in Seymour, ever. Seymour is the home of the hamburger. 

NBC Sports: What’s the best burger joint in Seymour?

Majeski: You know that’s the funny part. There isn’t a burger joint in Seymour. There’s a McDonald’s. There’s a Dairy Queen. But there’s no burger joint. Can’t believe it.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first NASCAR race you ever attended?

Majeski: Yeah, I was probably 8 or 9 years old, and it was at Bristol. I always wore, obviously I’m about 5-4, and I was always one of the faster runners growing up, and they always had shirts that said ‘I’m short and fast like Bristol.’ I would always wear those shirts to school and stuff. I thought it fit well.

NBC Sports: What do you remember about that race?

Majeski: I remember it was a Cup race and there was this Dale Jr. fan next to us, and she had little No. 8’s painted on her finger nails. Every single lap, 500 laps, she would wave them this way (motions to himself), and as he would go past the corner, she’s wave them back that way. Five-hundred times, every single lap. I’ll never forget it.

NBC Sports: What’s your favorite phone app to use that’s not social media?

Majeski: Probably Uber. I’m flying all over the place. I don’t have any games on my phone. I don’t have any music on my phone. Pretty simple guy. Other than social media, probably Uber gets used the most or The Weather Channel to see if it’s going to rain on race weekend.

NBC Sports: What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had in an Uber?

Majeski: I haven’t had any weird experiences. I’ve had silence for the whole drive. But I haven’t hadn’t any super weird experiences, which is good. Knock on wood.

Previous Xfinity Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

Kyle Benjamin

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Joe Gibbs Racing exec: Team will ensure Denny Hamlin Xfinity penalty ‘doesn’t happen again’

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A Joe Gibbs Racing executive addressed the penalty to Denny Hamlin’s winning Xfinity Series car, saying the team would “make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Crew chief Chris Gabehart was suspended two races and fined $25,000, and the team was docked 25 points because the No. 20 Toyota’s splitter didn’t meet a minimum thickness in its shape after Hamlin’s last-lap victory over William Byron at Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR ruled the win as encumbered, meaning it can’t count toward earning playoff points for the owner’s championship in Xfinity.

JGR senior vice president of racing operations Jimmy Makar said on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s The Morning Drive that the splitter wasn’t manipulated during the race weekend at Michigan.

“The rules on the Xfinity side say your splitter has to be perfectly flat,” Makar said. “There was some shape on the splitter that didn’t quite meet the rules the way it was supposed to be. It was an unfortunate thing that happened. We were a little off what we were supposed to be. We have to look back at that and how it happened and why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Makar confirmed the team won’t appeal the penalty.

“The rules are pretty clear,” he said. “It’s something where we were wrong with what we had there. We’ll take our penalty and move forward.”

Makar also addressed the team’s other significant news in the Xfinity news this week, installing Dave Rogers as its technical director. Rogers had been on a personal leave since March from his previous role as the No. 19 crew chief for Daniel Suarez in the Cup Series.

“We are shy on technical expertise in Xfinity and the burden is on the Cup side, so this was an opportunity to put Dave in as the technical director position on the Xfinity side,” Makar said. “It helps bring the Cup side and Xfinity side closer together.

“The way the cars are built and getting that in the Xfinity cars and also teaching younger guys the things they need to know and directions they need to be going. As we develop younger engineers and crew chiefs, this helps them to be more prepared if and when they make their step up on the Cup side.”

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Washington, West Virginia

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With only two days left in NASCAR America’s “50 States in 50 Shows” series, it’s time to double up on states with Washington and West Virginia.

The Washington track profiled is Deming Speedway, a dirt track in Everson, Washington, where native Kasey Kahne races sprint cars in his youth.

NASCAR America analyst Greg Biffle is also from Washington and he shared some of his memories of racing.

“If you can dodge the rain drops, the season doesn’t really get started until early to mid-April,” Biffle said. “I remember raining out eight weeks in a row to start the season.

Up next is the state of West Virginia, where Ona Speedway resides roughly an hour west of the Charleston.

This 3/8-mile track is the only asphalt oval in the state and was once owned by Dick Clark.

NASCAR America: Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle draft their dream four-car teams

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Of all the major national sports leagues, NASCAR is the only one that doesn’t have some sort of draft to fills its ranks of drivers at its top level.

With the drafts for the NBA and NHL coming up this weekend, NASCAR America decided to have its own mock draft.

Analysts Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle each selected drivers for their own dream four-car team.

Here’s who each analyst picked:

Jeff Burton

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Brad Keselowski
  4. Joey Logano

Greg Biffle

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Ryan Blaney

Which four drivers would you pick?

Watch the above video to hear why they picked each driver.