California Kid is the man at Fontana: Kyle Larson wins to break runner-up streak

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After three consecutive runner-up finishes, Kyle Larson finally broke through to win his first NASCAR Cup race of the season, capturing Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Larson, who started from the pole and won Stage 1 of the event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, held off a number of drivers including Brad Keselowski (finished second), Clint Bowyer (third), Martin Truex Jr. (fourth) and Joey Logano (fifth) to earn his second career Cup Series win.

MORE: Results, stats for Auto Club 400 at Fontana; Kyle Larson scores second career Cup win

MORE: Kyle Larson extends points lead after California win

Larson winds up sweeping the weekend, having won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Fontana, as well.

“I was staying as calm as I could be, but also frustrated at the same time because it seemed like every time I get to the lead at the end of one of these things, the caution comes out and I have to fight people off on restarts,” Larson told Fox Sports.

MORE: Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Auto Club 400 at Fontana

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. has commanding performance in Stage 2 win at Fontana

Larson, nicknamed The California Kid because he hails from the northern part of the Golden State, had a nearly two-second lead when Gray Gaulding hit the wall with 21 laps left in regulation. While the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet came back out on-track in the lead, Truex had a slow stop and fellow Toyota driver Denny Hamlin became the next to challenge Larson.

On the restart on Lap 184, Truex tapped the rear of Matt Kenseth, spinning the latter hard into the inside SAFER barrier, bringing out yet another caution.

The race restarted on Lap 189 — 11 laps shy of the scheduled 200-lap event. But that lasted just three laps as Corey LaJoie spun on Lap 192. Three drivers stayed out on the ensuing pit stops — Hamlin, Truex and Jamie McMurray.

Hamlin took the lead on the restart but faced a furious battle with Truex, Larson, Keselowski and Ryan Blaney. Then, on Lap 196, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun, bringing out the caution yet again.

The race resumed on Lap 200 and Larson roared back to the lead for the two overtime laps, which he’d never relinquish.

“We had a good last restart, had some good clean air and came home with the win,” Larson told Fox.

There were 17 lead changes and seven cautions in the extended 404-mile event.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Brad Keselowski came back after two early race incidents – being involved in an accordion-like crunch on the first lap and then being spun by Jimmie Johnson on lap three – to finish second. … Third-place finisher Clint Bowyer earned his best Cup showing since finishing fifth at Bristol in August 2015 (his last third-place was at Sonoma, two months earlier).

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: In finishing 36th, Kenseth suffered his third DNF of the season (in just five races) after wrecking on Lap 184. He also had DNFs at Daytona and last week at Phoenix. Kenseth had a total of four DNFs in the entire 2016 season.

NOTABLE: Today’s race marked the fourth straight time that a Cup race at Fontana has gone into overtime. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 16th in his 600th career NASCAR Cup start.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is just amazing. We’ve been so good all year long. Three seconds in a row and I’ve been watching all the TV that ‘he doesn’t know how to win.’ But, we knew how to win today.” – Race winner Kyle Larson to Fox Sports.

WHAT’S NEXT: After three weeks on the west coast, the series moves to the half-mile paperclip at Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s (April 2) STP 500.

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Austin Theriault not medically cleared by NASCAR to race at Kansas

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Austin Theriault announced Thursday morning he has not been medically cleared by NASCAR to compete in this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway after his involvement in a wreck in Monday’s race at Talladega.

Theriault, 25, competes for Rick Ware Racing and was set to drive its No. 52 Chevrolet this weekend. Theriault said Garrett Smithley will take his place.

A NASCAR spokesperson said its policy is to not discuss a competitor’s medical information.

A spokesperson for Rick Ware Racing told NBC Sports all info on Theriault would be released by the driver on social media or by NASCAR. The team said “we expect to have Austin back in the car very soon.”

The native of Fort Kent, Maine, has missed races due to medical issues before.

In 2015, while racing part-time for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series, he suffered a 10% compression fracture in his back in a wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his HANS device broke.

Theriault missed several races before returning in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Since 2015 he has made five Cup starts, three Xfinity starts and four Truck Series starts.

Updated entry lists for Kansas Speedway’s playoff weekend

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The NASCAR playoffs continue this weekend with the second visit of the year to Kansas Speedway.

The Cup Series holds its second elimination race as the playoff field will be cut to eight drivers.

After a week off, the Xfinity Series will open its second playoff round.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races.

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

There are 40 cars entered.

Parker Kligerman is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

Reed Sorenson is listed for Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Austin Theriault  was originally entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 car. Theriault announced Thursday morning he had not been cleared by NASCAR to compete Saturday following his wreck in Monday’s Cup race at Talladega and that Garrett Smithley would take his place.

Chase Elliott won this race last year over Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski won the May race over Alex Bowman and Erik Jones.

Click here for the updated entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 39 entries.

Ryan Truex is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Ross Chastain is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet. It’ll be his fifth start with the team this season.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota for the seventh time this season.

Bobby Earnhardt, the oldest son of Kerry Earnhardt, is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Toyota. It will be his fifth career start and first since the Texas playoff race last year.

Joe Nemechek is now entered in Mike Harmon Racing’s No. 74 Chevrolet

Dillon Bassett is now entered in DGM Racing’s No. 92 Chevrolet

John Hunter Nemechek won this race last year over Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Harrison Burton to drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time next year

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Harrison Burton will drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time in 2020, the team announced Thursday morning.

Burton, the son of NBC Sports analysts Jeff Burton, will succeed Christopher Bell in the No. 20.

Burton competes full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He is set to make his seventh start in JGR’s No. 18 Xfinity car this Saturday at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Next year is going to be a really cool opportunity for me because I grew up watching my dad race in the Xfinity Series, Burton said in a press release. “Making my first start at Bristol this year was really surreal. I remember being a little kid and watching (Jeff Burton) race there and now, I will have the opportunity to compete for the Xfinity Series championship next year.

“On top of that I’ve got Dex Imaging continuing their support of me for a majority of races next season. That’s really cool because I’ve had them as a sponsor since I was 13 and to bring them from pro-late models all the way to the Xfinity Series is pretty wild. I want to finish this season strong, but I’m excited to get 2020 started. My time with JGR this season will really help me because I’ve already gotten to know so many people there and it’s such a great team and organization. They have a long history of helping to develop drivers and this is big for the next step in my career.”

In his six Xfinity starts, Burton has three top 10s and a best finish of fourth at Iowa Speedway.

In 35 Truck Series starts since 2016, Burton has 11 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes. This year he has seven top fives and 10 top 10s. He and teammate Todd Gilliland both failed to make the playoffs.

“As Harrison (Burton) moves up to the next level of his career, we’re happy to have him join JGR fulltime and go behind the wheel of the No. 20 Supra,” said Steve DeSouza, Executive Vice President of Xfinity Series and Development for Joe Gibbs Racing in a press release. “Harrison has continued to show progress this season in his limited starts and I know that will only continue to develop with more seat time while contending for the Xfinity Series championship.”

The crew chief for the No. 20 will be announced at a later time.

JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 hauler experiences fire on way to Kansas

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JTG Daugherty Racing announced on social media Thursday morning that the hauler for Ryan Preece‘s No. 47 Chevrolet experienced a fire on its way to Kansas Speedway for this weekend’s Cup race.

In a statement, team owner Tad Geschickter said both its hauler drivers were “okay.”

He said the team is “assessing the damage to our trailer and race cars and will have more information as it becomes available.”

More: Kaulig Racing hauler involved in accident on way to Kansas