Kyle Larson understands Chase Elliott’s struggle to get first Cup win

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Kyle Larson has been in Chase Elliott‘s shoes.

Not too long ago, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver went 98 starts in NASCAR’s premier series without a trip to victory lane.

Then came start No. 99.

In August 2016 at Michigan International Speedway, a late restart with eight laps to go saw Larson get the jump on Elliott. Larson wound up celebrating with his steering wheel thrust out the window and Elliott was left lamenting, “I hate to let my guys down like that.”

It has become a common refrain from the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

More than a year later, Larson now has five Cup wins. After a crushing second-place finish to Kyle Busch last week at Dover, Elliott sits at 70 Cup starts and zero wins.

“(Elliott) has probably ran second as many times as I did before the first win and been close just as often as I have, maybe even in some cases more often,” Larson said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Larson finished second four times before his triumph. Elliott has had to settle for second five times. Two of those have been to Larson at Michigan.

“I put myself in a lot of positions to win throughout the first two-and-a-half years of my NASCAR career and I seem to kind of choke, I guess, late in the races,” Larson said. “But in each of those losses I had, I learned something from each of them and I became calmer at each of them.”

For Elliott, who is in the second round of the Cup playoffs, there’s far less, “I hate to let my guys down like that.”

The second-year driver is shouldering more of the responsibility.

“I appreciate my team and their efforts today,” Elliott said on Sunday. “The pit stops were great and they kept us in the ballgame. I didn’t.”

Larson has noticed the change.

“He seems extremely mature so I’m sure he’s dealing with it fine,” Larson said. “So far this year, he has dealt with all the close finishes way better than he had last year. I think that is a case of him learning from each of those losses and just becoming calmer and more mature. He will win, and when he wins one, he is going to win a lot, similar to kind of what I did this year.”

But before the start of the playoffs, Elliott disagreed with the notion that his reaction to close losses has “evolved.”

“The circumstances have been different,” Elliott said the week before the playoff opener and an encumbered second-place finish. “When a race didn’t end the way that I wanted it to end because it’s something that I did, I’m going to take a lot of blame, I’m just going to own up to my mistakes. I’m going to be frustrated with the fact that I know I didn’t do my job correctly. When it’s out of my hands, I can’t do anything about it, those are the days you just have to recognize I couldn’t do anything about it.

“But the ones that frustrate me the most are the ones I know I could have done something different to fix it.”

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AJ Allmendinger making return to Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2018

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After a one-year absence, AJ Allmendinger will return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

Allmendinger, who drives for JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will once again drive for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be held Jan. 27 – 28.

A winner in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger will split time in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 in the GTD class with Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher.

Allmendinger drove for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race from 2014-16. His best result during that stretch was fifth in the Prototype class in 2015.

“I am pumped to be back racing for Shank in the (Rolex) 24. I missed the race last year and I hated to, so I’m really glad to be back,” Allmendinger said in a press release. “His whole team did an awesome job with the Acura last year and it is awesome to be back with him for the Rolex. After racing for the overall win so many years in Prototypes, it will be a completely different experience to be racing in the GTD class, but I’m looking forward to it. Mike (Shank) always puts an awesome team together and this year is no different so I am counting down to get my first shot in this car.”

Allmendinger is coming off his fourth full year of driving the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. He finished the season 27th in the standings, his worst during his tenure with the team. He earned one top five and five top 10s.

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s to sponsor RCR in Cup, Xfinity in 2018

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Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will sponsor Richard Childress Racing in multiple races in the Cup and Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Monday.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in September 2017.

The outdoors brands will be on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet during the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and in several other races during the season.

Richard Childress Racing

They will also be a primary sponsor for Austin and Ty Dillon on the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series for several races.

“Our relationship with Bass Pro Shops dates back to the mid-1990s and we’re thrilled to be able to continue it during the 2018 season,” team owner Richard Childress said in a press release. “Austin, Ty and Ryan are terrific ambassadors for the great outdoors. They are all passionate about our hunting, fishing and conservation heritage which has made this partnership thrive.

“Next season will be exciting as we welcome Cabela’s, the iconic outdoor brand acquired by Bass Pro Shops, to the RCR family.”

Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by Johnny Morris, is also a primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota owned by Furniture Row Racing.

The store chain will be on the hood of the No. 78 in 16 races and on the sides of it in 14 others.

Here’s the eligible drivers for the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

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NASCAR has officially announced the 20 drivers who are eligible to take part in the Cup Series’ season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

The 75-lap exhibition event is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, the same day as qualifying for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

The race will be divided into two segments. A competition caution on Lap 25 will divide them.

Drivers become eligible for the Clash by winning a pole the previous season, being a Daytona 500 pole-winner who competed full-time the previous season or being a playoff driver the previous season.

Here are the eligible drivers.

2017 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (14)

Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (3)

2017 Playoff Drivers (3)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are not expected to compete in the race. Earnhardt retired from Cup competition following the 2017 season and Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for the 2018 season.

Danica Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, announced last month she was done as a full-time driver but that she planned to race in the Daytona 500. No definitive team plans have been announced for her.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram injury update: still in ICU, but continues to show progress

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram continues to show improvement from the serious injuries he suffered in a December 3 car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina.

In an update Sunday written on CaringBridge.org, Ingram’s daughter, Ingrid Jones, said her father remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Asheville’s Mission Hospital.

According to Jones:

“Daddy continues to hold his own, making healing steps forward and then a step back, which we fully expected-but he’s surprising us each and every day with his strength and courage to overcome this. Overall, he’s doing amazingly well.”

Ingram’s family had hoped he could have moved out of ICU and into the Trauma Unit as the next phase of his recovery, but he remains in intensive care.

Said Jones:

“For now, he’ll remain in ICU until he can go a full 24 hours without ventilator assisted breathing. We’re almost there … but may still be a few days.”

Ingram, who turns 81 on Dec. 28, was able to sit in a chair and watched part of Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings with his family. Jones wrote that Ingram also was surprised to learn that the mountain near the family’s Asheville-area home received a total of 16 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Jones added, “We continue to be optimistic for his health, and we also continue to appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.”