Kyle Larson keeps on rolling, wins at Kansas


Kyle Larson has earned his place in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Championship 4. But he and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team aren’t letting up before the title race in two weeks at Phoenix Raceway.

Larson led a race-high 130 laps Sunday at Kansas Speedway in claiming his ninth win of the season. He is now on his second three-race win streak of 2021. The last driver to have two three-race win streaks in a season was Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt in 1987.

Entering next Sunday’s Round of 8 elimination race at Martinsville Speedway, he’s the only one of the eight remaining playoff drivers that knows he’ll have a shot to win it all in Phoenix.

Larson’s win at Kansas was tinged with poignancy for his Hendrick Motorsports organization. It came 17 years to the day that an HMS-owned plane crashed while in route to a race at Martinsville Speedway. All 10 passengers aboard were killed, including team owner Rick Hendrick’s son, Ricky, and Rick’s older brother and team president, John.

“I want to dedicate this win to Rick and Linda (Hendrick),” Larson told NBC Sports after the race. “I didn’t get to ever meet Ricky or the other men and women who lost their lives that day. But I felt the importance of this race, no doubt.

“Crazy kind of how it all worked out there for me to win. I know they were all looking down, helping me out there on all the restarts and stuff and after getting in the wall.

“Again, thank you to Rick Hendrick. I know this means a lot to you and I’m glad I could get it done.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammate and reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott finished second to boost his hopes of making the Championship 4.

With the help of 17 stage points, Elliott went from eight points below the cutline to advance to 34 points above it going to Martinsville. Elliott won last fall’s playoff race there to set up his title-clinching victory the following week at Phoenix.

Non-playoff drivers Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch turned in strong drives to finish third and fourth, respectively.

Rounding out the top five was Denny Hamlin in fifth. He managed to score nine stage points, which helped expand his cushion above the cutline to 32 points at day’s end.

Below Larson, Elliott and Hamlin however, there’s little margin for error now.

Kyle Busch holds the final transfer spot to the Championship 4 by a single point over Ryan Blaney. Both drivers suffered poor results Sunday to put them in this situation.

Martin Truex Jr. (-3) and Brad Keselowski (-6) did enough Sunday to noticeably close their deficits entering Martinsville. At the bottom is Joey Logano (-26), who finished ninth Sunday but is still in a must-win situation for next week.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson

STAGE 2 WINNER: William Byron

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Martin Truex Jr. was one of several playoff drivers that got into the wall in the opening stage and had to pit for flat tires and damage repair. But Truex was able to recover for seventh place at day’s end. … Also salvaging his day from a run-in with the wall was Brad Keselowski, who recovered to finish 17th and draw within striking distance of a Championship 4 berth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Playoff driver Kyle Busch’s second run-in with the wall at Lap 133 forced him to pit under green and lose multiple laps for damage repair. He couldn’t recover and finished six laps off the pace in 28th … Austin Dillon got loose in Turn 2 with 44 laps to go, and his attempt to correct sent him into playoff driver Ryan Blaney, who promptly hit the wall. Blaney’s car was too damaged to continue. His 37th-place finish was made even worse due to having scored zero stage points.

POST-RACE INSPECTION: Christopher Bell‘s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was found with two lug nuts not safe and secure. That will mean a one-race suspension and $20,000 fine for No. 20 crew chief Adam Stevens.

Other notes:

  • Chase Briscoe‘s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and Joey Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford were each found with one lug nut not safe and secure. That will mean a $10,000 fine for crew chiefs John Klausmeier (No. 14) and Paul Wolfe (No. 22).
  • Logano’s car, as well as those of winner Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin, will go to NASCAR’s research and development center for further inspection.

NOTABLE: A pop-up rain shower led to an early red flag at Lap 12. During this period, a lightning strike within eight miles of the track initially triggered a 30-minute delay. However, as the inclement weather quickly moved away from the track, the delay was lifted and drivers were called back to their cars to resume the race. The red flag time was 15 minutes, 46 seconds.

NEXT: Round of 8 elimination race – Oct. 31 at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC)

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups


LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying


LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.


LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024


LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.