chip ganassi racing

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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Alex Bowman to run two Xfinity races for Chip Ganassi Racing

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DOVER, Delaware — Alex Bowman, who will take over Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Cup ride next season, will get some extra seat time this year, driving two Xfinity races for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Bowman will drive the No. 42 car for Ganassi in Xfinity Series events at Charlotte and Phoenix. Kyle Larson was to have driven the car in those races.

HendrickCars.com will serve as Bowman’s sponsor at Charlotte with additional support from Vannoy Construction. A sponsor for the Phoenix race will be announced later. Ganassi and Hendrick Motorsports share a technical partnership.

Bowman’s work this season almost has been extensively in a simulator for Chevrolet or driving its wheel force car at tests. He has competed in one Camping World Truck race and no Xfinity and Cup races this year.

“We’re excited to welcome Alex to the No. 42 team for two races,” car owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He’s a great young talent, who can help us with our goal of winning an NXS owners’ championship. Initially those two races were earmarked for Larson but we wanted him to focus on the Cup playoffs so we appreciate Rick (Hendrick) and his team for allowing us to put Alex in our car. Hendrick Motorsports has been a tremendous partner of CGR for many years.”

Said Hendrick: “This is a terrific opportunity for Alex to get back into a competitive environment and work with a championship-caliber team. I think he’ll pick up right where he left off. It’s also a valuable platform for us to promote HendrickCars.com in our (Hendrick Automotive Group’s) home market. Chip is a great friend, and we’re looking forward to working with his team on and off the track.”

Alex Bowman said: I’m really excited to get back in a race-winning car with a team like CGR. A huge thanks to Chip and Mr. Hendrick for putting this together for me to get some valuable seat time heading into 2018. My goal is to win two races and help the No. 42 team win the NXS owners’ championship.”

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Tyler Reddick, Brennan Poole going for Dover Xfinity sweep for Ganassi

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For the last 11 years, Dover International Speedway has been really kind to the Xfinity Series team that won the spring race at 1-mile track.

Because in eight of the last 11 seasons, the team that won that race also went on to win the fall event at “The Monster Mile.”

Beginning in 2006, the only years this hasn’t taken place were 2007, ’09 and ’15.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the organization that’s set up to try to extend this trend after Kyle Larson won in June. Of its 13 Xfinity wins, it was Ganassi’s first at the track.

Piloting the No. 42 Chevrolet this weekend is the newest winner among the ranks of Xfinity drivers, Tyler Reddick. Joining him in the effort is playoff driver Brennan Poole in the No. 48. The duo delivered a 1-2 finish for Ganassi last weekend.

Reddick, who won at Dover in the Camping World Truck Series in 2015, is coming off winning last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

“We can’t get too caught up in Kentucky,” Reddick said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” on Wednesday. “Yeah, it’s the first win. Yeah, it’s exciting, but I don’t want to pass up another good opportunity at Dover, a place the 42 won already this year. I need to hunker down and get focused on it.”

When Larson won, he led 137 laps from the pole to beat Ryan Blaney, who will be back in the No. 22 Ford this weekend for Team Penske.

“(The 42) car was so good there,” Reddick said. “Kyle and the 22 of Ryan Blaney had the field covered by 15 seconds at the end of that race. So I know our car is fast. … We know what we need to do. My first time there in a Xfinity car, it will be a little tough at first. … I will just have to adjust what I do as I’ve done in the past. (Crew chief) Mike (Shiplett) has tried to make the car as close to what Kyle has. … I’m sure I’ll be fine. Dover is a track I love a lot. It’ll be an exciting challenge.”

Poole, in his second full-time season with Ganassi, will be making his fifth start at the high-banked oval. In his first four, he did not finish better than 10th (May 2016).

“Dover is a really tough race track, it’s definitely one of the most demanding tracks that we go to,” Poole told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” on Wednesday. “We’ll have to make sure our car gets through the bumps really well and make sure we don’t get tied to the 2/3-mark in the corners. That sounds strange, but the corners are so long at Dover you get where you’re carrying some maintenance throttle. So you’re half-throttle in the middle of the corner and the car will get tight on you as you’re trying to make the final turn up out of the corner.”

Unlike last weekend at Kentucky, a standalone race for the Xfinity Series, there will be six Cup regulars in the race.

Poole said that will have some impact on the potential pit strategy calls his team makes over the course of the 200-lap race.

“There’s some pit strategy and stuff like that that could put you behind on having an opportunity to get up there and win the race,” Poole said. “You just have to be smart on the pit strategy and decisions you make on keeping some of your track position and still making sure you’re going to get those stage points.”

Poole cited that although he came in second at Kentucky to Reddick, he lost a spot in the points after placing 12th in Stage 2.

“I’m sixth in points where I started fifth,” Poole said. “So I think you’ll see a lot of guys going after stage points.”

If either Ganassi driver is able to complete the Dover sweep, it would join Joe Gibbs Racing (five times), Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing (once each) in completing it since 2006.

The Use Your Melon, Drive Sober 200 airs at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN.

Kyle Larson: ‘Top fives will get us to Homestead’

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Kyle Larson has finished in second a lot.

His runner-up finish Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was his eighth of the year and his first in the playoffs.

In Sunday’s ISM Connect 300, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver started and finished second after failing to track down Kyle Busch in the closing laps of the race.

But Larson doesn’t mind, especially after he’s earned two top fives to open the playoffs.

“That’s a lot of second-place finishes this year, but I’m fine with second,” Larson told NBCSN. “Top fives will get us to Homestead (for the championship race), so hats off to everybody on our Target team. The pit crew was great all day. I think we gained spots every time. Normally I’m struggling on short tracks, but this year we were pretty good.”

Larson placed second in both New Hampshire races this year. Before this season, he hadn’t finished better than 10th in his previous four starts. He placed third and second in his first two New Hampshire starts in 2014.

Larson earned his first short-track win two weeks ago in the regular-season finale at Richmond Raceway. The rest of his five Cup victories have come at 2-mile speedways, of which there are none in the playoffs. But there is the short track of Martinsville and the 1-mile oval at Phoenix in the third round.

Any sting of finishing second once again is likely dulled by the fact Larson has already advanced to the second round based on points.

But Larson wants to make more trips to victory lane in the final eight races.

“You could probably point your way to (the championship race), but I would prefer to get a win in each of these rounds,” Larson later said in his post-race press conference. “If we can keep the good runs going, we should be all right.

“Obviously, I think as you get into the later rounds, wins are even more important than they are now. We had good regular season points, gave ourselves some good playoff points. This first round I knew would be fairly easy, but I think as we get into the next round and then the third round, a win would be great.”

Larson leaves New Hampshire second in the NASCAR Cup standings. He is 24 points behind Martin Truex Jr.

Larson’s next chance to win in the first round of the playoffs is next weekend at the 1-mile Dover International Speedway. In his seven starts at the “Monster Mile,” Larson has three top fives.

Two of those were runner-up finishes, including in the last visit there in June.

Results from Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway

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Tyler Reddick scored his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win, leading a 1-2 finish for Chip Ganassi Racing on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Reddick beat teammate Brennan Poole by 14.5 seconds in the playoff opener.

Reddick is the seventh different winner in the last seven series races. He led twice for 66 laps. Reddick had not led any laps until Saturday night.

Playoff contender Justin Allgaier rallied from two laps down after a right front tire went down early in the 200-lap race to finish third. Ryan Preece placed fourth. Rookie Cole Custer, who won both stages, finished fifth.

Click here for race results