After being disqualified in an Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car race Saturday night at the Dirt Oval at Route 66, Kyle Larson came back to win the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series “Summer Slash” feature.
In the USAC National Midget race, Larson set a track record in his first visit to the 3/8-mile dirt oval and started the feature sixth. He was contending for the lead by the first lap and took the lead on the third circuit. His lead grew until Lap 10 when JJ Yeley flipped down the frontstretch. He was uninjured.
Larson and Logan Seavey then dueled for the lead after the race resumed.
“I felt like I was running good laps,” Larson told usacracing.com. “Then, Logan threw a slider on me. I guess I was running 90 percent. I was like, ‘crap, I got to step it up,’ and that’s when I started making mistakes.”
Larson withstood the challenge and went on to win. Tyler Courtney was second. Tanner Carrick placed third.
The victory was the first this year for Larson and the 16th of his career in the National Midget Series.
Consider it an early candidate for finish of the year in motorsports.
NASCAR Xfinity driver Christopher Bell, taking advantage of an off weekend for that series, and Jonathan Beason had a dramatic finish Sunday in the sixth annual Turnpike Challenge at Port City Raceway in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Beason nipped Bell in the POWRi Lucas Oil National/West Midgets race that saw them make contact at the finish line. Bell’s car climbed over Beason’s right rear tire and tipped over after the checkered flag waved, leading the race announcer in the video below to exclaim “Holy smokes!” The margin of victory was 0.020 seconds. It was Beason’s first series win.
“It is pretty neat, but I’m not real happy with myself on how that turned out,” Beason said in victory lane, according to the POWRi series website. “I was quite surprised that Christopher left the bottom open and of course it stuck for me and I got on the gas on exit and it just went right. I don’t want to ever wreck anybody. I’m happy to get the win, and I’m glad we are as fast as him and Keith Kunz Motorsports, but I would rather us both cross the line without hitting.”
Said Bell, according to the POWRi series website: “I needed more than a couple of laps to build my momentum on the top, and I knew that he was good on the bottom, but I didn’t feel like I could outrun him down low, so I felt like my best bet was to stay committed to the top. It’s really cool to come back home and run as good as we have this week, it’s a special feeling for me.”
Bell competed in four POWRi midget races in the Turnpike Challenge in Oklahoma. He won at Creek County Speedway in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, on Thursday. Bell finished second to Logan Seavey at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Friday. Bell finished third to Seavey and runner-up Tyler Thomas at that track on Saturday. And then there was Sunday’s spectacular finish.
Christopher Bell beats Kyle Larson to win Turkey Night Grand Prix
Christopher Bell passed Kyle Larson for the lead with 12 laps left and held off Larson to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix midget race at Ventura (California) Raceway.
Bell, who raced for the NASCAR Xfinity title last weekend in Miami, won the midget event for a third time. It marked his second consecutive victory in the event and he’s had to hold off Larson the past two times. Larson was seeking to win the race for a third time.
Chad Boat finished third. Logan Seavey, the 2018 USAC National Midget champion, finished 16th.
So why wasn’t Bell introduced as the driver of the No. 95 car?
“Between ourselves and Joe Gibbs Racing, we’ve been very intentional about Christopher’s development,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports. “Was there some conversation? Absolutely. But we collectively decided to stay the course and genuinely believe it will serve Christopher to invest another year (in Xfinity). It’s not going to hurt him.
“One of the challenges of this new alliance is next year we’re … starting from some respects from ground zero (with a new partner in Leavine Family Racing). I don’t think it’s fair to put a rookie driver in the midst of that. This is why Matt will be a good fit. His experience will lend itself to building this alliance and building the level of competitiveness.”
Leavine Family Racing replaces Furniture Row Racing, which will cease operations at the end of this season, in the Toyota camp. But the two teams are very different. Leavine Family Racing is behind where Furniture Row Racing was when it joined Toyota in 2016. Furniture Row Racing had already won in Cup. Leavine Family Racing has not. Even though both are single-car teams this year, car owner Bob Leavine said his team has 35 employees, about half the number that work at Furniture Row Racing. Leavine also said he doesn’t have the budget Furniture Row Racing has.
Wilson’s focus of building Leavine Family Racing is understandable.
Wilson confirmed that Toyota Racing Development will support five Cup teams next year — the four Joe Gibbs Racing teams and Leavine Family Racing — and no more.
But there’s still a way for Bell to run some Cup races next year. Leavine said he planned to ask Wilson about Toyota Racing Development providing an extra engine to run Bell from time to time.
“That’s for them to decide,” Leavine said. “We’re just going to be available if they want to do it to put it all together and make it all work.”
Joe Gibbs Racing, which will provide the cars to Leavine Family Racing, also would have to be able to build cars for those extra races.
Wilson is open to the idea of a second Leavine Family Racing car running at times if it makes sense.
“We’ve not made any definitive plans along those lines but certainly it gives us some options,’’ he said. “The challenge in doing that is making sure that you do it in a manner, not that you expect to win per say, (but) you can risk spreading your resources too thin.
“Next year will be our first year with LFR and the priority needs to be building their capabilities and building their success, so if we have the opportunity to do something creative like that without compromising our primary mission, then we might take a look at that.”
The 17-year-old is fifth in the points in her first season in the series. Is her win and two runner-up finishes this season enough to have her run a Toyota Truck at Martinsville or Phoenix later this season?
“There’s no plans right now to put her anywhere this year,” David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports. “We’re still working very closely with Hailie and the family about the right steps, the next steps. I don’t think we’ve made any definitive decisions at this point.”
So what about a Truck next year?
“There’s not a plan,” Wilson said. “You need to put her experience in perspective. She’s literally only run 20-something races on pavement and is 17 years old. She just need mores races, more laps, more seat time. There’s not a burning urgency of we’ve got to get her in a truck.”
A possibility for her could be to move to the K&N Pro Series East next year and run the full season there.
Another Toyota driver looking to move up the development ladder is Seavey, who leads the USAC National Midget standings and seeks to become the third rookie to win that championship.
“We have a lot of faith and belief in Logan,” Wilson said. “What we’ll see with Logan is just more pavement time. We’ve got some great relationships across the Super Late Model ranks and I would expect next year that we give him some more opportunities with (those) races and maybe some K&N and ARCA. He’s definitely on the right track and we’re excited about his potential.”
3. Right from the start
Kyle Busch and wife Samantha have been open about their struggles to have children and that they had to go through in vitro fertilization to have son Brexton in May 2015.
Kyle and Samantha both recently announced that they are wanting to give Brexton a baby sister and said they planned to share all the ups and downs they go through during this process publicly.
“If we only showed the good times, and we only showed when it was a success and went well, that’s not fair to all the women that have (not had stories that have gone like that),” Samantha Busch told NBC Sports.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, and it is a little scary to know that things may come up down the road that may not be as easy as last time, but for all those couples out there that need to go through this or have gone through this and need to know that they’re not alone and need to understand that this can happen to anybody, I think it’s important to start from the beginning this time.’’
Samantha said she has begun taking a shot a night to prepare her body for the process and will be scheduled to have additional shots before the in vitro fertilization takes place.
“I think it was already done” by then, Knaus said of the decision.
Johnson was second and in a position to advance to this round of the playoffs but challenged Martin Truex Jr. for the win and spun in the final chicane. The result was that Johnson lost enough spots and Kyle Larson gained a spot on the last lap to forge a three-way tie among Johnson, Larson and Aric Almirola for the final two transfer spots. Larson and Almirola advanced based on their best finish in the first round was better than Johnson’s best.
“That was … heartbreaking,” Knaus said Thursday of the Roval finish, (but) that was not part of it. I wanted to win that race just as bad as he did.
“I beat myself up more than I probably ever blamed Jimmie for what happened there. I could have probably come on the radio and said one or two things and he probably would have maybe thought and checked up a little bit, but my last words to him was ‘go get his ass.’”
Said Johnson: “I was crossing the start/finish line watching the white flag wave when he said that… yeah, that is what we do, we are there to win.”
5. New frontier
With Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus splitting after this season, Knaus will become William Byron’s crew chief.
Byron is excited about the opportunity to work with the seven-time champion crew chief and knows it will push him to be better.
“I think Chad is going to be brutally honest with me, and I’m okay with that,” Byron said Thursday. “I want to succeed in this sport. That’s my number one goal, and I’ll do whatever it takes to do that.”
Although Knaus is 47 and Byron is 20, Byron says he sees similarities with Knaus.
“Probably attention to detail,” Byron said. “Type A personality. I don’t like excuses so that will fit well.”
Knaus said he’s “so geeked up” to be working next year with Byron and the No. 24 team, a team Knaus worked for when he started at Hendrick Motorsports in 1993.
Jimmie Johnson said he thinks the pairing of Knaus and Byron will be good.
“I am really excited for William,” Johnson said. “We have chatted quite a bit about it, and I feel that William is a lot like me. He likes to be coached along. I think there are some personalities that liked to be coached and others that don’t thrive or succeed in that environment. William is a lot like me in that he likes to be coached and with Chad’s wisdom and years and experience his intensity and desire to win, I think it could do a lot of good for him.”