Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson finally put together strong joint effort at Phoenix

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After three races with opposite individual results, Chip Ganassi teammates Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson were able to enjoy a productive joint effort in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

Larson finished fourth, while Busch finished sixth on the one-mile oval. That was a far cry from how they finished in the first three races together:

Daytona: Larson finished 10th, Busch 33rd.

Las Vegas: Larson finished 9th, Busch 25th.

Fontana: Busch finished 3rd, Larson 21st.

With their joint Phoenix effort, Larson now has three top-10 finishes in the first four races while Busch has two. But added together, the No. 42 and No. 1 are starting to jell more productively as a pair.

“With Larson fourth and us sixth, that’s better than what we ran all day,” Busch, who recorded the 300th top-10 finish of his Cup career, said afterward. “I feel like we struggled quite a bit, so we’ll take that.

“Any time you can finish better than where you run, you have to cash those points. We survived all those last restarts, we just weren’t on offense. We just couldn’t attack. I was just kind of slip-sliding around a bit too much today.”

MORE: Joey Logano wins Phoenix Cup race in overtime

MORE: Phoenix Cup results, point standings

MORE: What drivers said after Phoenix Cup race

With the next three races on 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Homestead and Texas), followed by three of the following five races on short tracks (Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville), Sunday’s end result should help the two Ganassi drivers going forward.

“You just still have to find that right balance and I think we at Ganassi had some things that weren’t quite set right for anything,” Busch said. “I didn’t have short run speed, I didn’t have long run speed, but we finished sixth.

“So, I can’t complain. We have to put that in the bank, learn from it and then head to the short tracks later on at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond coming up. We were just inches away from another top five.”

Still, while the two teammates were happy with their respective finishes, they weren’t completely satisfied, either.

“I was just hoping that I could do something and maybe (race winner Joey Logano and runner-up Kevin Harvick would) mess up,” Larson said of the closing laps. “The 18 (Kyle Busch) went really low and I was just trying to run the bottom, and didn’t make up much ground.

“If they were to get bottled up at the top, I would have enough momentum I could drive in front of them. But it didn’t work out that way, obviously. We still got a top five, so it was a nice day for us. We fought back from a really bad car from the first run and tuned on it to come away with a top five, so that was good.”

Added Busch, “I feel like we battled the best that we could have. We didn’t have much for any kind of spectacular stat, other than perseverance. We didn’t have good short-run speed or long-run speed. Sixth is better than we ran all day, so we’ll take that. We really have to look hard at what we believe led to all of this. But at one point we were running 17th without a scratch on the car.”

Having gone in the first four races from a 2.5-mile track to a 1.5-mile track, back to a 2-mile track and then Sunday at a 1-mile track, returning to a 1.5-mile track over the next three races could potentially help both drivers make significant moves upward in the standings.

Larson leaves Phoenix tied with Aric Almirola for seventh in the standings – both drivers 43 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick – while Busch moves up to 16th, 74 points out of first place,

“Even though we finished sixth, we’ll cash that in,” Busch said. “But we have to learn from (it). Chip (Ganassi) has two really good drivers getting everything out of those two cars that we can.

“It’s fun. Larson and I have a really good read on each other on-track and we just have to get a better read communicated to the engineer staff to help our handling.”

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Coca-Cola 600 resumes after rain delay

Coca-Cola 600
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The Coca-Cola 600 is back under way following a rain delay.

The caution was issued on Lap 49 for rain and the field was brought to pit road. The red flag was issued at 7:07 p.m. ET and lifted at 8:16 p.m. ET.

The top five at the time of the stoppage was Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano.

Check back for updates.

 

Denny Hamlin team faces potential penalty after ballast falls off car

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Denny Hamlin was involved in an incident even before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 got underway that could result in a hefty penalty.

A chunk of tungsten ballast — which teams use to bring Cup cars up to minimum weight standards — fell off Hamlin’s car on a parade lap.

The incident puts Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart and several others on the team in violation of the NASCAR rule book, which means a hefty penalty could be in the offing.

According to the NASCAR rule book, the penalty is 12.5.2.7.4.d: Minimum safety penalty options — “Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle will result in a four Race suspension of the crew chief, car chief, and head engineer. If NASCAR cannot identify which series or vehicle the lost ballast originated from, all vehicles entered for that Event from and associated with the team organization identified on the lost ballast may receive the suspensions.”

If NASCAR implements the potential penalty, Gabehart and others could miss the following four races: May 27 at Charlotte, May 31 at Bristol, June 7 at Atlanta and June 10 at Martinsville.

Several of those tracks are good for Hamlin, including winning the Bristol summer night race last year, as well as was fourth at the Martinsville playoff race last fall and 11th at Atlanta.

NASCAR ordered Hamlin back to pit road where the No. 11 crew added a new chunk of ballast to Hamlin’s car. He returned to the race eight laps down.

Here’s what a fabricator from rival team Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted about the incident:

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Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

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Chevrolet drivers swept the top three rows for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600, led by Kurt Busch‘s pole-winning lap of 181.269 mph.

Jimmie Johnson was next with a lap of 181.214 mph. He was followed by Chase Elliott (181.002 mph), Matt Kenseth (180.923), rookie Tyler Reddick (180.905) and Austin Dillon (180.741).

Ford driver Joey Logano, who starts seventh after a lap of 180.451 mph, was the top qualifier not driving a Chevrolet.

TO THE REAR: Matt DiBenedetto (backup car), Brad Keselowski (unapproved adjustment), Aric Almirola (unapproved adjustment), JJ Yeley (unapproved adjustment) and Timmy Hill (unapproved adjustment)

Click here for Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Kurt Busch on pole for Coca-Cola 600

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Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 after claiming the pole Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It is Busch’s 28th career pole and first at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch is joined on the front row by Jimmie Johnson. Chase Elliott qualified third and is followed by Matt Kenseth and rookie Tyler Reddick. Austin Dillon was sixth, as Chevrolet drivers took the top six spots.

Click here for qualifying results

Aric Almirola spun coming to take the green flag to begin his qualifying lap. He grazed the wall with his rear bumper.

Matt DiBenedetto slapped the wall off Turn 4 during his qualifying lap and will go to a backup car and start at the rear of the field.