Kyle Larson: NASCAR should encourage stars to race at short tracks

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Kyle Larson will race almost anything if you let him.

As one of the rising stars in the NASCAR Cup Series, Larson says his time indulging in his passion for sprint car racing across the country is beneficial to his full-time job.

Larson believes the NASCAR should “encourage” its stars to show up and race at short tracks in lower series, as he, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have done over the years in sprint cars. Larson says these efforts help shore up the “grassroots” fans he believes NASCAR has lost touch with in recent years.

“I get asked that question all the time when are they going to shut you down,” Larson said Friday at Martinsville Speedway. “But I feel like everybody needs to encourage me and others to go race at your local short track and all that because I feel like we’ve lost touch with our grassroots race fans. And, I really think with me going back and doing that stuff and Kyle Busch running Late Model races throughout the year, it really kind of gets the local fans back excited about NASCAR.

“I feel like the last decade or so they’ve kind of lost touch with it. Yeah, I feel like everybody should instead of making (team owners) Chip (Ganassi) and Felix (Sabates) feel like they have to shut me down, should encourage them because it helps our fan base out.”

Larson, who is allowed by Chip Ganassi Racing to compete in 25 sprint car races a year, knocked another one off earlier this week at Placerville Speedway in California. With his appearance, Placerville played host to the most recent Cup Series race winner after Larson’s Auto Club 400 victory three days earlier.

Even though he’s allowed those 25 sprint races, Larson’s owner isn’t comfortable with his star driver – who is first in the points standings – moonlighting on dirt.

“Let’s just say this: I do get concerned when he wants to do that,” Chip Ganassi told USA Today’s Brant James earlier this week. “I would say I’d be much happier if he said he wanted to go play golf. But also, at the same time, I don’t want to slow him down. If he thinks that makes him better, OK, great. If he thinks that’s slowing him down, I would think he would stop it. But for now, he thinks it makes him better.”

But as long as he’s allowed those 25 races, Larson says he’s “going to fill all 25 of those up.”

MORE: Felix Sabates doesn’t think Kyle Larson should run Indianapolis 500.

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NASCAR America: An emotional end to 2018 for Martin Truex Jr.

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The 2018 season was an emotional one for Martin Truex Jr.

Last year’s championship was a fairy tale for a team located in Denver, Colorado – far from NASCAR’s epicenter in North Carolina.

This season was much different. Furniture Row Racing found out midseason that its primary sponsor would not return after this year, which caused car owner Barney Visser to decide to shut down the team after the final race.

With that looming closure came the inevitable questions of if the No. 78 team would lose focus.

MORE: What went wrong for Kyle Busch in Miami?
MORE: Kevin Harvick failed to keep up with Miami

Then came late-race incidents at the Charlotte Roval and Martinsville when Truex was knocked out of the lead on the final corner by Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano respectively. 

“They just didn’t have that short run speed to beat the 22 (of Logano at Miami), but they put up a heck of a fight,” NASCAR America analyst Parker Kligerman said on Monday’s edition of the show. “They did all of this under the cloud of knowing that that organization was shutting down at the end of this last race.”

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America: Kevin Harvick’s team failed to keep up with Miami

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Under NASCAR’s current playoff format winning the most races means a lot. It doesn’t win the championship, however, unless one of those victories comes in the season finale.

After the race in Miami, Kevin Harvick was not ready to call his season a failure. He won eight times during the year, tying him for the lead with Kyle Busch. But he was noticeably disappointed by coming up two positions short of claiming his second Cup. Harvick finished behind the 2018 champion Joey Logano and last year’s champion Martin Truex Jr.

“When I look at the 4 team through the whole weekend, they just seemed a little bit off,” Parker Kligerman said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “You look at qualifying, it didn’t go well. And then Saturday practice, they had a short run to start off the first practice because he wasn’t happy with the car. He wasn’t able to find the feel in the car. It just seemed like they were searching a little bit.”

MORE: What went wrong for Kyle Busch in Miami?

Harvick started the race strong, moving up to the lead on Lap 43 after starting 12th. He won the first stage. When the field pitted, the team did not make any significant changes to the car and Harvick was never quite the same.

Jeff Burton said that indicates the team failed to adjust to the changing characteristics of the track.

“In this kind of race when it all comes down to one race and you just get off that little bit at the wrong time, there’s no time to recover,” Burton said.

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America: What went wrong for Kyle Busch in Miami?

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Kyle Busch was one of the dominant drivers of the season with eight wins during the season to his credit and an incredible number of bonus points as the playoffs began. Two of his wins came during the playoffs, which led many to consider him one of the co-favorites to win the championship along with Kevin Harvick.

Instead, Busch finished a distant fourth in the race and the championship.

“There was nothing in the 18 car that was magical,” Steve Letarte said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “The 4 (of Harvick) when they dropped the green drove right to the front. … The 22 (of Joey Logano) at times, you said ‘he’s got great short run speed; if it comes down to a short run, he should be good.’ The 78 (of Martin Truex Jr.) had great long run speed. The 18 had none of the above.”

Busch was forced to gamble in the championship race to simply have a shot at winning. Staying out longer than most of the competition, he entered the pits on Lap 248 as the leader and rolled off pit road as the leader. When the green flag waved on Lap 253, he fell back quickly.

“(Busch) wasn’t better in any category,” Letarte added. “And that’s what really surprised me: A team that didn’t have a lot of weaknesses coming into the race really raced with nothing but weaknesses. Average pit crew, average speed, I think decent pit calls by Adam Stevens was the only thing that kept them in the picture for that last restart.”

Letarte went on to describe what he was watching in the final laps. While Logano drove to the front, Busch fell four seconds off the pace.

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Breaking down Joey Logano’s championship

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Today’s NASCAR America breaks down Joey Logano and Tyler Reddick‘s championships plus the best moments from the 2018 season.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut. They are joined by Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte in the Charlotte studio.

On today’s show:

  • Coming off the heels of a memorable Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, we’ll recap Sunday’s thrilling season finale that saw Joey Logano become the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. We’ll break down the key points of the race and get reaction from Logano and team owner Roger Penske.
  • We’ll hear from Championship runner-up Martin Truex Jr., who finished second at Miami in his final start with Furniture Row Racing.
  • Take a look at Tyler Reddick’s championship performance in Saturday’s Xfinity Series finale and what it means for his career going forward.
  • And we’ll look back at some of the best moments from the 2018 NASCAR season.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.