Kyle Larson on Kansas: ‘Another day where I lead a lot of laps and don’t win’

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Kyle Larson pointed the finger squarely at himself after a potential win got away Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

On the final restart with two laps to go, Larson lined up second on the outside lane behind Ryan Blaney, who was on the front row beside Kyle Busch.

But as the field worked through Turns 1 and 2, Larson turned Blaney sideways as they tried to catch Busch. Blaney saved it, while Larson went into the Turn 2 wall.

Busch went on to win. Larson and Blaney finished 19th and 21st, respectively.

Afterwards, Larson owned up to his mistake.

“I just lined up behind Blaney and my plan was just to push him as hard as I could and try to be with him on the backstretch to shove him and hopefully get those guys racing in front of me or potentially get inside or outside for the lead somehow,” he said.

“I just planned on pushing him really hard, and obviously, I did that and got him sideways and ended up getting us both in the wall. Probably should’ve just laid off once I got to the corner and, hopefully, a run came to where I could get to his back bumper on the backstretch.

“Hate that I screwed that up and cost ourselves a good finish.”

MORE: Kansas Cup race results

Larson had the strongest car on the afternoon, leading a race-high 132 laps.

He looked poised for his second victory this season when he pressured Denny Hamlin into tagging the Turn 4 wall and took the lead with 25 laps to go. Hamlin subsequently had a right-front tire failure and hit the wall again to bring out a caution with 22 laps to go.

He retained the lead through another restart, only to have another yellow ensue with 14 laps to go for an incident involving Austin Cindric and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Things started to unravel for Larson on the next restart with 10 laps to go. Busch got a jump on Larson to take the lead and Blaney also passed him for second before another crash slowed the race with nine laps to go.

Larson said he knew he was in trouble then.

“I didn’t want to be on the second row the final restart,” he recalled. “I had Brad (Keselowski) lined up behind me the one before, and he wasn’t able to get to my back bumper.

“He had to protect from the guys behind him trying to pull out of line, so just got our lane slowed up, and yeah, just didn’t work out.”

Since earning a playoff berth with his March win at Las Vegas, Larson and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team had already endured several setbacks before Sunday.

At Atlanta, Larson rolled the field to the tune of a race-high 269 laps led, only to have Blaney pass him for the win with nine laps to go.

The following week on the dirt at Bristol – a race where he was one of the favorites to win – he was swept up in an early crash and limped to a 29th-place finish with a heavily damaged car.

Last week at Talladega, he was knocked out after just three laps with a blown engine.

Then came Sunday, which ended up being his fourth finish of 18th of worse in the last five races. The outlier is a fifth-place run at Martinsville Speedway.

It all seems to have led Larson to dwell on the negatives more than the positives from his first 11 races with Hendrick Motorsports.

“We’ve got one win. Could have four or five,” Larson said on the subject. “Just another day where I lead a lot of laps and don’t win. Just got to figure it out.”

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.