Kyle Larson gets permission to race in Knoxville Nationals on Saturday night

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The night before he tries to defend his first career win in the NASCAR Cup Series, Kyle Larson will get the chance to win one of the biggest sprint car races of the year and his career.

Larson announced on Twitter he has received permission from Chip Ganassi Racing to compete in the main event of the 57th annual Knoxville Nationals in Iowa, which he said is the “Daytona 500 of sprint car racing.”

Larson won his A-Main race on Wednesday night, which qualified him for Saturday night’s race. It is the first time Larson has locked himself into the main event with a win. He will start ninth in the race.

“Winning the NASCAR championship this year is my main focus and my main goal but I’m also extremely happy that (owner) Chip (Ganassi) is allowing me to go back to Knoxville on Saturday and try to win a Knoxville Nationals championship as well,” Larson said. “To have the opportunity to go back and win that is very, very special to me. I can’t thank Chip enough for that.”

Ganassi himself also shared a video message on Twitter about the race.

“I’ve been hearing all of you the last few days, my phone and my Twitter account (are) blowing up,” Ganassi said. “I’ve been hearing all the comments. OK, OK, OK. We’re going to let him race at Knoxville!”

Larson said Friday at Michigan that he talked with to Ganassi about Knoxville on the way back from the reveal of Chevrolet’s 2018 Cup car.

“I didn’t know he was going to be in Detroit yesterday with us,” Larson said. “I rode back with him to the airport and we talked about it a little bit. He voiced his concerns about it, but I think more than me asking, I feel like Steve Lauletta (President, Chip Ganassi Racing) and John Olguin (Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications) at our race shop probably had the most impact probably on me being able to run, so, got to thank them, but ultimately, it’s all Chip’s decision. I know my fans really appreciate it. All my sprint car fans and NASCAR fans, so Chip is a hero today and this weekend.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is third in the Cup Series standings and has won the last two Michigan races.

One reason Larson had to get permission to compete in Saturday night’s race is Ganassi has contractually allowed him to compete in 25 sprint car races this year. Wednesday’s race was supposed to be the 24th race the year. Saturday’s race won’t count toward the 25-race cap.

Larson said the deal with Ganassi also restricted him from driving a sprint or midget car the night before a Cup race.

He’s made his limited races count, at one point winning six races in a row.

“I’ve never been this good in a sprint car in my career,” Larson told the the Des Moines Register Wednesday night.

The question of whether Ganassi would give the 25-year-old driver the chance to race Saturday night was immediately raised.

“I hope he understands how important this event is to me,” Larson told Speed Sport. “I’d love to race on Saturday. Obviously, I know the Cup stuff is the No. 1 priority throughout the year. But this is a big deal, and I feel really fast.

Sunday’s Cup race doesn’t start until 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.


NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s greatest Bristol wins

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Bristol Motor Speedway has been on the NASCAR schedule since 1961 and for the first 18 years, no one managed to record their first NASCAR Cup win there. Until Dale Earnhardt Sr. came along.

On April 1, Earnhardt started ninth and drove through the field to take the lead for the first time on lap 139. He would lead the pack twice more, including the final 27 laps en route to victory.

Before his career was over, Earnhardt would win nine times on this bullring and forever etch his name in the track’s history.

“Bristol is a driver’s track,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “If I had to pick where dad would win his first race, it would be a short track.”

“I was there,” Kyle Petty said. “And I remember this, because this was a big moment. … I had started racing when Ricky Rudd came along, when your dad came along, when these younger drivers came along … This was a new breed of driver.”

Earnhardt’s ninth and final win came in 1999 and it’s one that will forever be part of Bristol’s highlight reel.

Terry Labonte took the lead from Earnhardt on the white flag lap, but was not able to get away from the No. 3. Coming off Turn 2, Earnhardt bumped Labonte and spun him out, saying later that he didn’t intend to wreck him, but only “rattle his cage.”

“That was a weird deal, because dad never got booed,” Earnhardt said. “But that night, he got booed. He got out of the car and the fans were really split down the middle. They were either cheering or booing. There was nobody sitting there silent. … And I could tell, in his eyes, that it made him a little uncomfortable. He wasn’t quite comfortable with being booed and what he did to Terry.”

Labonte joins Earnhardt on the Dale Jr. Download today on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m. ET to discuss the 1999 race.

Rusty Wallace (1986), Ernie Irvan (1990), Elliott Sadler (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002) would join Earnhardt in getting their first Cup win at Bristol.

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Kasey Kahne retiring from full-time racing in NASCAR

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Kasey Kahne announced Wednesday morning that the 2018 Cup season will be his last full time in NASCAR.

The driver of Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Chevrolet made the announcement on his Twitter account.

“Racing in Cup full time for a few more years was just something that I couldn’t commit to,” said Kahne, who had been racing on NASCAR’s premier circuit since 2004. “I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I know I’m at ease with the decision that I have made.”

Kahne, 38, was the 2004 Cup rookie of the year with Evernham Motorsports and scored his first victory in May 2005 at Richmond Raceway. He has 18 victories in 527 starts during 15 full-time seasons and posted a best finish of fourth in the points standings in 2012, his first year at Hendrick Motorsports.

Kahne also has eight Xfinity Series wins and five Camping World Truck Series wins.

In the wake of Elliott Sadler’s announcement Tuesday, Kahne is the latest of several drivers to walk away from NASCAR in the last three seasons. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all have walked away since 2015.

Here is Kahne’s announcement.

NASCAR America: NASCAR to Fernando Alonso, “come join us”

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A 17-year career in Formula 1 that started at the age of 19 will come to an end for Fernando Alonso when the final race of 2018 is run.

Immediately upon the announcement of his retirement, speculation began about what he might be doing next. Most of the conjecture surrounds IndyCar.

Alonso climbed behind the wheel of an Andretti Autosport Honda in the 2017 Indy 500 and led 27 laps before engine failure sent him behind the wall.

But NASCAR would like to see him transition to stockers instead of open wheel cars and they sent Alonso an invitation via twitter.

“I was surprised by that,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I don’t think he’s coming. I think he’s going to IndyCar.”

Recently retired, Earnhardt thinks Alonso should just enjoy any races he runs. He should cherry pick them and “just play.”

If a ride is found, however, the soon-to-be former F1 driver might run only the Daytona 500.

“Not a full season. … That to me is a realistic situation – his coming just to run the Daytona 500,” Earnhardt continued.

Kyle Petty is skeptical even that will happen.

“It is tough to come into this series – the NASCAR series – on a one-off race and be competitive against the guys we have,” Petty said. “You just can’t do it. … Why put yourself in that position?”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Weekend schedule for NASCAR at Bristol Motor Speedway

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NASCAR brings the thunder back to “Thunder Valley” this weekend as all three national series return to race under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The three-day schedule is topped off by the Cup Series’ 500-lap race around the half-mile track, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN.

Here’s the full weekend schedule for Bristol, with TV and radio info:

(All times are Eastern)

Thursday, Aug. 16

7 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

7:30 a.m  – Truck Series garage opens

9:05 – 9:55 a.m. – Truck practice (Fox Sports 1)

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. – Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

11:05-11:55 a.m. – Final Truck practice (FS1)

1:35 – 2:25 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

4:10 p.m. – Truck Series qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (FS1)

6 p.m. – Truck Series driver-crew chief meeting

8 pm. – Truck Series driver introductions

8:30 p.m. – UNOH 200; 200 laps/106.6 miles (Fox, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Friday, Aug. 17

7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Cup garage open

9 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

10:35 – 11:55 a.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN)

12:40 – 1:50 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN)

3:40 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN

5:15 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

5:40 p.m. – Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

7 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

7:30 p.m. – Food City 300; 300 laps/159.9 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Saturday, Aug. 18

11 a.m. – Cup garage opens

5:30 p.m. – Driver-crew chief meeting

6:50 p.m. – Driver introductions

7:30 p.m. – Cup race; 500 laps/266.5 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)