Kyle Larson

Photo courtesy All-Star Circuit of Champions

Kyle Larson dominates en route to Ohio Sprintweek feature win in Ohio

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It may be an off-weekend for the rest of the drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series, but not for Kyle Larson.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver won the feature event Friday night in the Ohio Sprintweek race at Ohio’s Attica Raceway Park. Larson won the All-Star Circuit of Champions Series race by more than seven seconds, having lapped half the 25-car field by the time he took the checkered flag.

Dale Blaney, uncle of NASCAR Cup driver Ryan Blaney, finished second, followed by Buddy Kofoid.

Larson has now won his last three sprint car race starts. He goes for four in a row tonight as Sprintweek continues.

 

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Bump & Run: Who really needs this weekend off in Cup?

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Who needs this upcoming weekend off the most in Cup?

Nate Ryan: Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 team has the opportunity to regroup of 15 races of frustration.

Dustin Long: Austin Dillon. He’s made the playoffs each of the past three years but is 21st in the standings, 58 points out of the last playoff spot. His last three races have gone 34th, 37th and 26th.

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Larson. The three weeks that have followed the elation of winning the All-Star Race have been miserable for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. He’s finished 33rd (Coke 600, crash), 26th at Pocono after winning both stages and 14th (Michigan). The No. 42 team is just not on the same page as Kurt Busch‘s crew through 15 races. Larson has one top five and four top 10s to Busch’s four top fives and nine top 10s.

Jerry Bonkowski: No doubt about it, Stewart-Haas Racing. How can the same organization that won 12 races last season still be winless through the first 15 races of 2019? SHR needs to rest and retool this weekend and prepare for the 11-race stretch leading up to the playoffs. In a perfect world, maybe Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez can combine for several victories in the upcoming 11 races.

Who is the driver in any of NASCAR’s national series who has impressed you the most this season?

Nate Ryan: Tyler Reddick has proven the 2018 championship was no fluke. In six months, he has gone from Xfinity title underdog to destined for a full-time Cup ride.

Dustin Long: What Tyler Reddick and his Richard Childress Racing team have done has been impressive.

Daniel McFadin: Tyler Reddick. It’s kind of bizarre to call the defending Xfinity Series champion the most improved driver, but that’s what he is. A year after he won twice – in the first and last races of the season – and had seven top fives, the Richard Childress Racing driver has surpassed those totals through 13 races and has finished fourth or better in the last 10 races.

Jerry Bonkowski: While a lot can be said about Kyle Busch and his Cup Series-leading four wins, the driver who has impressed me the most in 2019 is Xfinity Series points leader Tyler Reddick. Not only has he dominated the points (he’s been ranked No. 1 for the last 10 races), Reddick has 11 top five finishes – including three wins – in the first 13 races (84.6%). And add to that he’s only finished outside the top-10 just once. Another stat of note: he’s completed all but five laps 2,332 of 2,337 for 99.8 % this season.

 

What team without a win is one that you think could be on the rise and challenge for multiple victories?

Nate Ryan: It’s an obvious choice, but Harvick’s No. 4 Ford will win again soon.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick’s team. Once they overcome their gremlins, they have the speed to go on a run. Just need to clean up their races.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going with Chip Ganassi Racing via Kurt Busch. While the teams at Stewart-Haas Racing start out strong or peak mid-race, they can’t seem to close the deal, while Busch tends to surge at the right times or consistently run near the front. 

Jerry Bonkowski: It would be easy to say Stewart-Haas Racing, particularly Kevin Harvick. But I’m going to go with Chip Ganassi Racing and Kurt Busch. With his runner-up finish at Michigan, the elder Busch brother now has four top-five finishes (vs. six for all of 2018). I’ve been saying he’s a win waiting to happen. And once he gets that first win – it’s a matter of when, not if – I would not be surprised to see Kurt take three or even four checkered flags the rest of the season, including potentially capturing the Cup championship.

Joey Logano wins at Michigan in overtime finish

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Joey Logano held off Kurt Busch in an overtime finish to win Monday’s rain-delayed Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

Logano claimed his second win of the year and his third Cup win at Michigan. He dominated by leading 163 of 203 laps. All three of his Michigan wins have come from the pole position.

The win continues Team Penske’s best start to a season in 25 years, with the team earning its fifth win in 15 races.

“You race this whole race, and you keep building that notebook up,” Logano told FS1. “What a great execution day. Our race car was obviously fast. Our pit crew was amazing. T.J. Majors, my spotter, worked his butt off up there. … We love coming up to Michigan.  Nothing like bringing a Ford to Victory Lane in their home turf, Roger Penske cars as well. This is a big win for us.”

The top five was completed by Martin Truex Jr, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch.

The overtime finish was set up by an Erik Jones spin.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Joey Logano

STAGE 2 WINNER: Austin Dillon earned his first career stage win

MORE: Race results and point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Kurt Busch earned his second runner-up finish of the season and first since Bristol two months ago … Martin Truex Jr. has finished in the top three seven times at Michigan without a win … A sixth-place finish by Brad Keselowski and a ninth-place finish by Ryan Blaney put all three Team Penske cars in the top 10 for the second time this year.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Jimmie Johnson finished 15th after he had to make multiple pits stops under separate cautions to repair damage suffered from contact on pit road … Defending race winner Clint Bowyer wrecked in Turn 2 with 71 laps to go after he made contact with Erik Jones. He finished 35th … Austin Dillon placed 26th after he made contact with William Byron and hit the Turn 2 wall with 65 laps to go … Chase Elliott finished 20th after he pitted with 45 laps to go after contact with the wall. It is his first finish outside the top 10 in seven Michigan starts.

NOTABLE: Joey Logano’s 163 laps led are the most ever by a driver at Michigan … Logano is now tied with Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson for most wins by active drivers at Michigan with three.

QUOTE OF THE DAY NO. 1: “Tightest I ever put my belts at the end of a race.  We got enough stage points today. We said, ‘Hell with it, we don’t need to get anything but the win.’ ” – Kurt Busch after his runner-up finish in overtime

QUOTE OF THE DAY NO. 2: “I mean, it is not racing. I am sorry. I am biting my tongue. I have never been penalized for trying to make a pass in my whole life since I was 4 years old. You get a run on somebody, and you can make a complete pass and by the time you get to the next corner, you have been passed by four people. It is really, really frustrating.” – Clint Bowyer on the racing at Michigan after being eliminated in a wreck.

WHAT’S NEXT: Toyota/ Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway at 3 p.m. ET on June 23 on FS1

Daniel Suarez paces opening Cup practice at Michigan

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Daniel Suarez posted the fastest lap in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

Suarez had a top lap of 188.882 mph. He was followed by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer (188.659 mph), Austin Dillon (188.501), Joey Logano (188.034) and Kyle Larson (187.901).

Click here for practice report

Jimmie Johnson ran the most laps at 44. Johnson was 16th on the speed chart with a top lap of 187.081 mph.

Bowyer, who won this race a year ago, had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 186.822 mph. He was followed by Kurt Busch (186.733 mph) and Erik Jones (186.126).

 

Friday 5: Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski add to their history of duels

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Kyle Busch’s victory last weekend at Pocono Raceway was more memorable for his disdain with being asked about the aerodynamic package raced there, but overlooked was that rival Brad Keselowski finished second.

The history between Busch and Keselowski is long, tense and filled with biting comments and bent sheet metal.

But it also is marked by how often they run next to each other at the front.

Pocono marked the 11th time in Cup that Busch and Keselowski have finished first and second in a race. Keselowski has won seven of those races, but Busch has been the victor in the last two instances (Pocono 2019 and last November’s race at ISM Raceway).

Only one other matchup among active drivers has had more 1-2 finishes. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have finished first and second 14 times with Johnson winning 12 of those races. After finishing second to Johnson at Auto Club Speedway in 2010, Harvick memorably said: “Jimmie is a good friend of mine, but there’s no denying how lucky they are. They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their a–.”

Of course, the gold standard in 1-2 finishes is Richard Petty and David Pearson. They ran first and second 63 times. Pearson won 33 times to Petty’s 30.

Here’s a look at most 1-2 finishes among active Cup drivers heading into this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway:

14 — Jimmie Johnson (12 wins) vs. Kevin Harvick (2)

11 — Brad Keselowski (7 wins) vs. Kyle Busch (4)

10 — Kyle Busch (5 wins) vs. Kevin Harvick (5)

7 — Jimmie Johnson (5 wins) vs. Kyle Busch (2)

7 — Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins) vs. Kevin Harvick (3)

7 — Denny Hamlin (4 wins) vs. Jimmie Johnson (3)

2. Optimism for a better race

The belief among some in the garage is that this weekend at Michigan could provide some of the same type of racing that fans saw last month at Kansas Speedway – racing that drew more positive reviews than last weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway.

“I think it’s going to look somewhat like Kansas,” said Alex Bowman, who finished second to Brad Keselowski in that race. “I think Kansas and Michigan are the two tracks that complement this package the most.

“It’s probably not going to be as double-file as Kansas, just because Kansas has widened out so much more than Michigan has. If you look at the Xfinity race last year with that package, it was a pretty good race I thought. I think it was very interesting how you had to work the air. I’m looking forward to that; I think it’s going to be a really good race for the fans.”

Erik Jones placed third at Kansas and also thinks the racing this weekend could mirror what took place at Kansas.

“Obviously the track is not as wide groove-wise, but as far as the throttle you’re going to carry and the racing you’re going to see, I’d say similar to Kansas,” Jones said. “I feel like it’s going to be really packed up a majority of the time. You’re going to see guys getting big runs and making big moves. There’s probably going to be some big wrecks. I don’t know. It’s going to be fun.

“By yourself, you’re probably going to be pretty easily wide open, which is kind of unexciting, but as you get into the race and get into a pack, it makes it pretty eventful.”

3. Preferable schedule

While the focus on schedules often is on where NASCAR is or isn’t or where it should be, there’s been a change the past couple of weeks.

Last week’s Pocono schedule was changed to have both Cup practices Friday and qualifying moved to Saturday. That meant that Cup cars were only on the track Saturday for their qualifying effort.

Michigan has adopted the same schedule this weekend.

“I think it’s great,” Chase Elliott said last weekend of the change at Pocono. “We’re supposed to be the best at what we do, and I don’t know why we practice for hours on end, anyway. So, whatever they want to let us do is great.

“It just separates the guys who belong and the guys who are good and the guys who aren’t, you know? Again, you have a certain amount of time. Everybody has the same about of time. And, you just make the most of whatever you have and try to get it as good as possible for Sunday.”

4. Streak ends

Ross Chastain will see his record streak of consecutive starts across NASCAR’s top three national series at the beginning of a season end this weekend.

The streak will end at 36 after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Michigan International Speedway. He is not entered in Sunday’s Cup race (Garrett Smithley is in the No. 15 Premium Motorsports ride Chastain has been in this year).

Earlier this week, Chastain announced that he was declaring Truck points instead of Xfinity points. Drivers are allowed to declare for only a series at a time but can switch however often and whenever they want.

Chastain enters tonight’s Texas Truck race with zero points — because he didn’t declare Truck points earlier. He’ll likely need to win to make the playoffs (his Kansas win doesn’t count toward playoff eligibility since he hadn’t declared for Truck points at the time) and be in the top 20 in points when the regular season ends.

5. Streak buster?

Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske enter this weekend having won 13 of the 14 points races in Cup. Neither organization has won in the past five races at Michigan. Kyle Larson has three wins for Chip Ganassi Racing during that time. Stewart-Haas Racing won the other two races, both last year, with Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

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