Kyle Larson says heavy crashes led him to hit the brakes on running the Indianapolis 500 for now

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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s only a matter of time until Kyle Larson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be at the Indianapolis 500 – perhaps with the latter watching the former behind the wheel.

Larson said he has approval from team owner Chip Ganassi, who fields cars in IndyCar and NASCAR, to run the Greatest Spectacle in Racing when he’s ready.

“They are all waiting on me to say I want to do it,” Larson said Saturday between Cup practices at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I do, but when I see Scott Dixon’s and (Sebastien) Bourdais crash, it makes me think twice about it a little bit. I’ll get the courage up to do it someday.”

Dixon walked away from a terrifying airborne crash during the Indianapolis 500 while Bourdais was sidelined by a fractured hip and pelvis in a qualifying wreck.

Larson might consult with Dixon (“the best in racing,” he said of his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate) but was even more interested with talking to Kurt Busch (who finished sixth in the 2014 Indy 500 as the most recent NASCAR driver to attempt the race and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day).

“Maybe next year or the year after,” Larson said of attempting the Indy 500 (which Kyle Busch said Friday he nearly attempted in 2017). “I want to do it at the right time. I feel like the way IndyCar is, and the politics is of it, it seems like one manufacturer is good one year, and then the next one is good the next year, then the next one the next year…so I want to time it so at the right time to where whatever manufacturer Chip is with is the best at that time (Ganassi switched this season from Chevrolet to Honda).”

Whenever Larson tries an Indy car here, Earnhardt might be watching from the luxury suites of Gasoline Alley. The 14-time most popular driver is making his final start Sunday in the Brickyard, but he hopes to return for the first time in May.

“What I’ll miss the most is the feeling you get when you come into this racetrack,” Earnhardt said of his last start. “The feeling you get when you know what’s happened here, who’s raced here, who’s been here. I was thinking about that in practice going down the back straightaway of all the names that have gone down that straightaway. It’s so overwhelming. I don’t know how you explain it or put that into words. There’s not a lot of tracks that give you that feeling. Daytona, maybe.

(Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

“I’d like to be able to come here after my retirement, especially for the Indy race. I’ve never been to the Indy 500 obviously, so that would be a great experience. It’s an impressive place.”

IMS president Doug Boles presented Earnhardt with a farewell gift Saturday, the No. 8 from the track’s former scoring pylon. Earnhardt drove either the No. 8 or 88 in every start at Indy, and his late father (who won NASCAR’s second race at Indianapolis in 1995) started and finished eighth in his final start here in 2000.

Earnhardt Jr.’s best finish in 16 Indy starts was fourth in 2012, his only top five on the 2.5-mile oval.

It would be awesome to win one of the big, key races in the season,” he said. “It’s a race that I think all the drivers feel is very important to our series and a big milestone in your career. Ranks right up there close to the Daytona 500 in importance and pride to be able to come away with a win at this place. Considering how our season has gone, it’d right all the wrongs. We’d forget all the struggles we had to get a big win like that.”

 

NASCAR mourns Kobe Bryant

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Joining their brethren in other sports, the NASCAR world took to social media upon learning the tragic news of the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Bryant had met a number of NASCAR drivers in his career, including Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. They were among a number of NASCAR notables who took to social media to mourn Bryant:

 

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Chad Knaus and wife expecting second child

Photo courtesy Brooke Knaus official Instagram account
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Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Chad Knaus and wife Brooke are expecting their second child.

Brooke made the announcement Saturday on her Instagram account.

The couple, already parents to one-year-old son Kip, will soon be adding a daughter to their growing family.

Brooke Knaus’s Instagram post said the baby is due in July.

Kip figured prominently in the baby revelation, coming at the end of mom and dad’s ski run while vacationing in Telluride, Colorado:

 

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Kyle Larson flips, misses finals of Australia’s biggest sprint car race

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Kyle Larson’s hope of following up last week’s Chili Bowl win with a triumph in Australia’s prestigious Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic fell far short Sunday.

Larson’s bid to race his way into the 24-car finals of the three-day race at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia, ended when he flipped (uninjured) on the opening lap of a last-chance qualifying heat race earlier in the evening.

Instead of being one of the featured drivers in the Classic’s 40-lap finale – the largest and most popular sprint car race of the year in the land down under – Larson was left to watch the event from the pits and cheer on Dyson Motorsport teammate and fellow American Carson Macedo.

Even that didn’t go very well, as Macedo flipped his own sprint car on the first lap of the Classic, resulting in a last-place finish. The highest finishing American was Cory Eliason, who ended up fourth.

Meanwhile, it was an all-Australian podium, with James McFadden winning the Classic for the second time in his career, followed by James Veal and Kerry Madsen.

In eight days, Larson went from capturing what he called the biggest win ever of his racing career on all levels – the Chili Bowl in his 13th try last Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma – to nothing but bad luck and utter frustration throughout his Australian journey.

Larson’s first race on Wednesday in the King’s Challenge at Borderline Speedway was rained out.

Then, in the first night of the Classic on Friday, Larson wrecked heavily in his first heat race, including flipping (he was uninjured). After his team repaired his car, Larson went back on the track, only to suffer a blown engine that knocked him out of contention to race in that evening’s feature event.

After not being on the schedule to race in Night 2 of the Classic on Saturday, Larson had one last chance to make Sunday’s featured championship event.

A total of 80 drivers battled it out in the B, C and D Mains for the eight remaining spots in the A Main, but Larson would end up not being one of those — as can be seen in the second line of the following tweet by his team:

Larson now returns to the United States to prepare for the Daytona 500 on February 16.

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Kyle Busch feeling like ‘the new guy’ during his Rolex 24 debut at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch was looking forward to his first stint at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The two-time Cup champion was less enthused about his second turn behind the wheel in the IMSA season opener. Busch will climb back into the No. 14 Lexus RCF GT3 at 2 a.m. Sunday, just past the midpoint of the endurance race classic at Daytona International Speedway.

“That’s going to suck, yeah,” Busch deadpanned. “That’s exactly when I told them I did not want to run, and I got it.  Thank you very much.

“(I’m) the new guy.  I pulled the short straw.”

Click here to read more about how Busch felt about his AIM Vasser Sullivan car.