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Kyle Larson: Struggles were because team would ‘fall apart’


CHARLOTTE – As a first-time father who brought a newborn to 90 percent of his NASCAR races last season, Kyle Larson’s personal life significantly changed last season.

But professionally, the No. 42 Chevrolet driver said it had no impact on why he struggled through a disappointing sophomore season in Sprint Cup.

“I don’t think that stuff affects anybody, but I think a lot of people on the outside can point to stuff like that and make excuses on their own,” he said. “I personally think it doesn’t affect you at all. So I still know what my job is in the race car. Even if you’re up at 3:30 in the morning to change a diaper and back asleep at 4:15 (a.m.), I don’t think it affects you on race days.

“It makes the racetracks more fun for sure while you’re not in the car, because you know you have something to do when you go back to the motor home. So that part of it is fun. As far as the focus and keeping your eye on the prize, I don’t think my personal life came into play at all.”

The 2014 rookie of the year regressed in most statistical categories — points standings (17th in ’14 to 19th in 2015), top 10s (17 to 10) and average finish (14.2 to 19.3) – and failed to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup after many predicted he would earn his first win in NASCAR’s premier series.

Larson said his Chip Ganassi Racing team often had decent speed but struggled to execute with consistently strong finishes.

“We had top-10 or top-12 speed most weekends, but whatever the case was the last quarter of a race, we’d fall apart,” he said. “Either my (doing), or just decision-making on the box or pit crew or whatever, we would fall apart. Hopefully, we’ve all learned from that.”

The lessons won’t apply for much of a team, which was overhauled in the offseason starting at the top. Crew chief Chad Johnston, who took Martin Truex Jr. to the playoffs in 2012 and worked with Tony Stewart from 2014-15, has replaced Chris Heroy, who left for Richard Petty Motorsports and Brian Scott.

“I think 50 percent of our team is new,” Larson said. “I hope that brings consistent races and good finishes and some wins as well.

“Change is good. I had the same team pretty much for the first two seasons and loved them guys like brothers (and) still am really good friends with all of them. But NASCAR is a business, and when you haven’t had success the first two years, with that comes a change.”

Larson also has made changes since missing a March 29 race at Martinsville Speedway because of a fainting spell the previous day. He said the cause was dehydration, and he changed his habits as a result.

“Just trying to stay hydrated throughout the days,” he said. “I probably didn’t do a great job of that. NASCAR has a lot of early morning practices where I would just wake up 15 minutes before the first practice. After (Martinsville), I was up in time for breakfast, fluids and all that and was hydrated and ready to go.”

Johnston said missing the Martinsville race also might have compounded Larson’s difficulties because it closed off a points avenue to making the playoffs.

“I think they got into a place after Martinsville that they felt they needed to win, and they kind of got a little bit desperate and maybe had some missed opportunities,” Johnston said. “But he ended the year very well with speed and opportunities to win the last few races or had the speed to do it if circumstances would allow.”

After three runner-up finishes (at Fontana, New Hampshire and Kansas) as a rookie, Larson managed only two top fives (a third at Dover and fifth at Miami) last year.

The Elk Grove, Calif., native said a victory is a priority this season.

“For sure,” Larson said. “There was really no expectation when I first got into Cup and by the end of the season, everyone is waiting for me to win. I had that confidence in myself and the team last year, we just didn’t get it done.

“I want to be in the Cup series for a long time, so I feel if you don’t win in the first few years, you’re not the real deal and not going to be here for a long time. This is definitely a year I feel we need to get a win and show I’m capable of being a Cup racer for a long time.”


Xfinity Series playoff standings entering first round

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The Xfinity Series playoffs begin this weekend with a 12-driver field set to compete for the championship.

The playoffs start Saturday night with a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric start the postseason tied after they each earned 50 playoff points during the regular season.

More: Las Vegas entry lists

The last four drivers in the standings are Ryan Sieg (2,002 points), Michael Annett (2,002), Riley Herbst (2,001) and Brandon Brown (2,000).

Here are the full playoff standings entering the Round of 12.


Cup playoff standings entering Round of 12

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The Round of 12 in the Cup playoffs has arrived following Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Eliminated from contention were Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney, Cole Custer and William Byron.

The second round begins Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

More: Entry lists for Las Vegas

Kurt Busch begins the round last in the standings with 3,0001 points.

Here is the full playoff standings entering the Round of 12.

Drivers in yellow are those who will compete in the Round of 12. Drivers in red were eliminated at the end of the first round.

Cup playoff standings


NASCAR entry lists for Las Vegas

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The Round of 12 begins this weekend for the Cup Series and NASCAR’s entry lists for Las Vegas Motor Speedway are out.

All three national series will compete at the 1.5-mile track as the Xfinity Series begins its playoffs and the Truck Series holds its second playoff race.

More: Bristol winners and losers

Here are the preliminary entry lists for Las Vegas:

Cup – South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

Thirty-nine cars are entered for the first race of the Round of 12.

Joey Logano won at Las Vegas in the spring over Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This race was won last season by Martin Truex Jr. over Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

Click here for the Cup entry list.


Xfinity – Alsco 300 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-four cars are entered in the Xfinity playoff opener.

Daniel Hemric is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Austin Hill is entered in Hattori Racing Enterprises’ No. 61 Toyota.

Chase Briscoe won at Las Vegas in February over Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg. This race was won last year by Tyler Reddick over Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones.

Click here for the Xfinity entry list.


Trucks – World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

Thirty-six trucks are entered.

Ryan Truex is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 40 Chevrolet.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly will make his Truck Series debut in Niece Motorsports’ No. 42 Chevrolet.

Travis Pastrana is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 45 Chevrolet for his second start of the season.

Kyle Busch won at Las Vegas in February over Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill. Austin Hill won this race last year over Ross Chastain and Christian Eckes.

Click here for the Truck entry list

NASCAR 2020 schedule: Times, TV channels, stream info and tracks for Cup series

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The second round of the NASCAR 2020 Cup series playoffs will begin on Sunday, September 27 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

William ByronCole CusterMatt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney saw their championship hopes end last Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway where Kevin Harvick stole the show with his ninth win of the season. Harvick’s victory at Bristol marked a career-best milestone as his previous best was eight wins back in 2018.

Click here to see the NASCAR entry lists for Las Vegas 

    RELATED: Bristol Cup results, driver points report

NASCAR 2020 Schedule Playoffs – Round of 12

Sept. 27 – South Point 400

Time: 7 p.m.
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Oct. 4 – YellaWood 500

Time: 2 p.m.
Track: Talladega Superspeedway

Oct. 11 – Bank of America Roval 400

Time: 2:30 p.m.
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL

Playoffs – Round of 8

Oct. 18 – Hollywood Casino 400

Time: 2:30 p.m.
Track: Kansas Speedway, 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 25 – Texas 500

Time: 3 p.m.
Track: Texas Motor Speedway

Nov. 1 – Xfinity 500

Time: 2 p.m.
Track: Martinsville Speedway

Championship – Round of 4

Nov. 8 – NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Time: 3 p.m.
Track: Phoenix Raceway


Daytona 500

Date: Feb. 17
Winner: Denny Hamlin

Pennzoil 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Date: Feb. 23
Winner: Joey Logano (video)

Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway

Date: March 1
Winner: Alex Bowman

FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway

Date: March 8
Winner: Joey Logano (video)

The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway

Date: May 17
Winner: Kevin Harvick

Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway

Date: May 20
Winner: Denny Hamlin (video)

Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Date: May 24
Winner: Brad Keselowski

Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Date: May 28
Winner: Chase Elliott  (video)

Supermarket Heroes 500 – at Bristol Motor Speedway

Date: May 31
Winner: Brad Keselowski

Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Date: June 7
Winner: Kevin Harvick

Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Date: June 10
Winner: Martin Truex Jr. (video)

Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Date: June 14
Winner: Denny Hamlin (video)

Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

Date: June 22
Winner: Ryan Blaney

Pocono Organics 325 at Pocono Raceway

Date: June 27
Winner: Kevin Harvick

Pocono 350 at Pocono Raceway

Date: June 28
Winner: Denny Hamlin

Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Date: July 5
Winner: Kevin Harvick

Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway

Date: July 12
Winner: Cole Custer

NASCAR All-Star Race

Date: July 15
Winner: Chase Elliott

O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

Date: July 19
Winner: Austin Dillon

Super Start Batteries 400

Date: July 23
Winner: Denny Hamlin

Foxwoods Resort Casino 301

Date: Aug. 2:
Winner: Brad Keselowski

FireKeepers Casino 400

Date: Aug. 8
Kevin Harvick

Consumers Energy 400

Date: Aug. 9
Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Cup Series Race at Daytona Road Course

Date: Aug. 16
Chase Elliott

NASCAR Cup Series Race at Dover

Race 1

Date: Aug 22
Denny Hamlin

Race 2

Date: Aug. 23
Kevin Harvick

Coke Zero Sugar 400

Date: Aug. 29
William Byron

Playoffs – Round of 16

Date: Sept. 6 
Kevin Harvick

Date: Sept. 12
Brad Keselowski

Date: Sept. 19
Kevin Harvick

For more on the NASCAR 2020 schedule, news and information, read NASCAR Talk