FORT WORTH, Texas – After a questionable caution put a serious crimp in his championship chances, Kyle Larson called on NASCAR officials to step in after a spate of possibly intentional yellows.
“It’s B.S.,” Larson said after a 12th Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. “I’ve done it. We’ve all done it in those positions, but until NASCAR steps in, and whether it’s a fine or a penalty with points or something, people are still going to do it.
“It just sucks.”
After pitting from fourth under green for a four-tire pit stop on Lap 238, Larson was trapped a lap down when a spin five laps later by Bubba Wallace brought out a yellow.
Unlike Logano’s spin, which NASCAR said wasn’t reviewed by the scoring tower, a NASCAR spokesman said Wallace’s spin was reviewed, and officials determined it didn’t warrant a penalty.
Larson believes that was the wrong call.
“That was very obvious (Wallace) was spinning on purpose,” Larson said. “He turned right and left to spin out. So when it’s blatant and that obvious, I think it’s pretty easy for them to notice it and make a call on it.
Wallace was able to pit without losing as much time under green but still finished three laps down in 24th.
“I wasn’t the only one it affected,” Larson said. “It affected a few other guys that had a good shot to win. So yeah, it benefited (Wallace) and really killed our day.”
After restarting in 19th, Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet wasn’t the same mired in traffic over the final 86 laps of the 500-mile race when he felt he was headed for at least a top-three finish Sunday.
“The nose of the car felt like it was vibrating, and I lost a lot of speed, too, even with me running as much throttle as I was before we pitted,” he said. “I got really loose after we pitted. So something happened, I’m not really sure what. Hopefully, they can figure it out.
“I felt I was the best car to that point. Maybe we had issues with the car at the end, but I felt I was the best car to that point. I was able to pass people pretty easily. We were doing good, looking really good and had great stage points and were going to get a good finish, and it was going to be a totally different race until (the yellow for Wallace).”
Unless (third-ranked Kyle Busch) or Logano has major issues, we for sure have to go there and win,” Larson said. “Phoenix, we’ve run decent there. Had a shot to win once before. See if we can get it done next week.”
FORT WORTH, Texas — Kurt Busch and sponsor Monster Energy will remain at Chip Ganassi Racing. The team announced that Busch and Monster Energy have each signed multi-year deals with CGR.
Busch left Stewart-Haas Racing after last season and signed with Chip Ganassi Racing for this season, inking a one-year contact.
“I think he and Kyle (Larson) have had a great time being teammates,” car owner Chip Ganassi said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. “I think it has made Kyle a better driver having Kurt as a teammate. He brings a lot off the track. He brought a lot of guys on that 1 team their first Cup win. I’m very proud to keep him a part of this team for the foreseeable future.
“It means the world for this to come together,” Busch said Saturday. “There are still special moments ahead. There’s plenty of gas still in this tank.”
Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, made the playoffs with his win at Kentucky in July. It was his 31st career Cup victory. He enters Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) 13th in the points. He has six top-five and 17 top-10 finishes this season.
“We’re racing people at Monster Energy and we knew immediately that we had found fantastic racing partners in Chip Ganassi, Kurt Busch and all involved at Chip Ganassi Racing,” said Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing for Monster Energy, in a statement. “NASCAR is a major part of who we are at Monster Energy and to be able to compete at a championship level with Kurt Busch and Chip Ganassi Racing truly reflects who we are and fires-up our desire to not only win races, but to make a serious all-in run at the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series title.”
Ganassi lauded Busch’s connection to the No. 1 crew.
“We’ve all been in these situations where you bring one person in and it changes the entire complexion of the team and that’s exactly what happened here,” Ganassi said. “We brought one person in and it changes the complete complexion. … It was (Busch). It’s hard for a team owner in sports to tell you how hard teams work to get to this position. People in sports will tell you that you’re always looking for that right combination, that right mix of people.
“All of us in management were just kind of standing around early in the season going, ‘Man I can’t believe this guy. We sign him one day and the next day at 8 o’clock in the morning doing pit stop practice.’ … That’s the kind of spark the guy brings to the team. He’s in there working hard at it. A lot of what you get with Kurt Busch is not advertised within the media and it’s a lot of things that team owners like and crew guys like.”
Friday 5: Kyle Larson focused on Texas and ‘best chance to get a win’
Kyle Larson hinted in September at what was to come in the Cup playoffs, but it was easy to overlook with the focus on Joe Gibbs Racing’s stable and if anyone could keep all four JGR drivers from advancing to the title race in Miami.
Even though Larson had yet to win at that time, he said in Las Vegas that he felt his cars were better than what he had in 2017 when he entered that postseason second in points and with four wins.
“I think this is as good of a shot, minus I don’t have as many playoffs points as that year,” Larson said a few days before this year’s playoff opener.
Larson was eliminated in the second round in 2017 but is among the eight remaining playoff drivers this year.
While Denny Hamlin won two weeks ago at Kansas, the most recent 1.5-mile track before this weekend, Larson led 60 laps before some sloppiness on pit road by him and his team and contact with a lapped car led to a 14th-place finish.
Even after that finish, Larson remained upbeat.
“Texas will be our best chance to get a win,” he said of the Round of 8 races at Martinsville, Texas and ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
Larson survived Martinsville, notable as one of his worst tracks. He finished ninth but scored the sixth-most points in that race thanks to crew chief Chad Johnston’s call not to pit shortly before the end of stage 2. That move gave Larson the lead and he finished the stage in second, collecting nine points.
After finishing the race, Larson said on the radio to his team: “Survived. It’s what we needed to do.”
A key for Larson will be have a clean race. He overcame a pit road penalty to finish eighth at Las Vegas. He was penalized one lap for pitting outside the box at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and placed 13th. A penalty for an uncontrolled tire at Kansas played a role in him finishing 14th.
While Larson acknowledged after Kansas that he had a points deficit to overcome, he noted “a win could fix all that.”
It could this weekend for him and his Chip Ganassi Racing team.
Gossage explained to NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan his hesitation with the traction compound previously:
“I was like, look, the asphalt will come in in time. You just got to stomach out the first couple of years. That kind of thing. I don’t know. I just didn’t see the need to do it. Others did and wanted to do it, and you’ve got to trust your people and listen to what they say. I’m talking from experience and pure gut instinct. They’re talking to me about all these friction coefficients and these devices they use to measure it. And so there’s a difference there.
“Most of the time they’re right when they use those devices. Sometimes they’re wrong. The key is to know when science is right and when your gut is right.”
Asked if the traction compound seems like a crutch that detracts from more important things, Gossage told Ryan:
“I look at it like there’s so much noise from a few people, the vocal minority, about so many things related to the sport, that it’s hard to know when to stick your fingers in your ear and ignore it. Because you want to listen to fans. It’s another one of those judgment things you’ve got to make. Yeah, I hear all the time from the detractors, and I thought Kansas was a watershed moment in NASCAR, but you hear these detractors, and you want to say, ‘Look, we’re not running a stock car off the showroom floor with an 8-inch bias-ply treaded tire anymore.’
“That’s not what we do. That’s not what this sport is. It’s evolved. It’s changed. The forward path is not a bad thing. It’s a tough line to straddle to stay in the old days where certain things were great because the way they were, and you also have to advance or die. So what do you listen to and who? The good old days for me are different from the good old days for you and somebody else. If I listen to most detractors, the good old days … the first Cup race I saw in person, Darrell Waltrip beat Bobby Allison by a lap. I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. Well if you did that today, they’d tear the place down. So you got to grow.”
As for Kansas being a “watershed moment,” Gossage said: “I thought Kansas was the first time where all the things that the playoffs bring about in every sport: Intrigue. Intensity. Mayhem. Nerves. Who’s in, who’s out. On and on. Great things. That was the story. That is what each playoff race needs to be like.”
3. Right tracks at the right time
Kevin Harvick enters this weekend at Texas having finished in the top 10 each of the past 10 races there, tying Greg Biffle for the longest steak of consecutive top 10s at that track.
No other drivers have had more than six consecutive top 10s at Texas. Since the track was repaved and reconfigured in 2017, Harvick has a 3.2 average finish in five races. He won two of those races.
But this is just the beginning for Harvick with some of his best tracks.
After Texas, the series heads to ISM Raceway. Harvick has 12 consecutive top-10 finishes going into that race.
The season finale is in Miami and Harvick has scored 11 consecutive top 10s there.
4. Moving closer to record
Martin Truex Jr.’s win last weekend at Martinsville gave Joe Gibbs Racing its 17th victory of the season.
The record for wins in a season by one organization in the modern era (since 1972) is held by Hendrick Motorsports, which won 18 of 36 races in 2007.
JGR has three races left to tie or surpass Hendrick Motorsports’ accomplishment.
5. F1 announces cost cap for 2021
Formula 1 announced several changes this week for the 2021 season, including a cost cap. That’s something that could be in place in NASCAR by 2021.
The F1 cost cap will limit teams to $175 million for the calendar year and is based on 21 races. The cap will not include wages for drivers, the team’s three highest paid personnel, marketing costs and travel costs. A NASCAR team cap is not expected to include driver salaries.
Auditors will be appointed to provide independent oversight of the F1 teams. Penalties for exceeding the cap could be a financial penalty, loss of constructors and/or driver points, ban for a certain number of races, limitations on testing and/or reduction of the team’s cost cap. In the most serious cases, penalties also could include exclusion from the World Championship.
This has been something team owners have been working on with NASCAR and will be interesting to see in what ways a NASCAR cap might mirror the F1 cap and other ways it might not.
For the first time in F1 history, financial rules will be enshrined in the new regulations
Speed51.com streams a variety of short track races from across the country.
Speed51.com’s statement read:
“Speed51 confirms that it has been purchased by the Race Team Alliance. Post-acquisition, Speed51 will continue to operate in the manner as it always has and remains committed to providing the best in live, short-track racing to the racing fan base. The RTA, with its mission to promote North American stock car racing, is ideally suited to provide Speed51 with access to an overall larger racing fan base over time. Founder, Bob Dillner, will continue is his role as the President of Speed51.”
Cup teams in the Race Team Alliance are: Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Germain Racing, Leavine Family Racing, Go Fas Racing and Wood Brothers Racing.
The Race Team Alliance issued a statement to NBC Sports on the purchase of Speed51.com:
“Race Team Alliance confirms the purchase of Speed51, a leading live, short-track racing distribution company based in Concord, NC. The RTA, which represents the common interests of its 13 NASCAR Cup Team members, looks for strategic opportunities which both compliment the RTA’s core principles of promoting and growing the sport and advancing the common interests of the member Race Teams. The RTA identified Speed51 as a growing company with strong synergies to RTA’s commitment to the racing community and aligns with our fan bases’ enthusiasm for grass roots racing. The Speed51/RTA combination will explore ways to create and distribute to race fans exciting new Team related content, and allow the Teams to better connect directly with their fans.
“Speed51, which first started operating as a short-track news and information site in early 2000’s, has become a prominent player in the live, short-track world, streaming over 400 races each year to a dedicated fan base. Founded by racing and sports broadcasting personality, Bob Dillner, Speed51 has consistently grown throughout the years and the RTA identified the company as one with great potential. Post-acquisition, Bob will continue in his role as the President of Speed51 and report to RTA’s Executive Director, Jonathan Marshall.”
Rob Kauffman, chairman of the RTA said in a statement: “On behalf of our Member Race Teams, we are very excited about our new initiative with Speed51. Bob Dillner and his team have created a great platform to cover grass roots racing , which touches the core fanbase of our sport – as well as many of our past, current and future racers and team members. We are looking forward helping him grow the business and plan to work together to create even more interesting content for our fans.”
Bob Dillner, founder and president of Speed51 stated: “Speed51 has always had an intense passion for short track racing and the RTA shares the same desire to bring more attention to this style of racing. The RTA member teams are undoubtedly some of the most influential race teams in the world and at the same time understand grassroots racing because it’s where they came from. I am thrilled to be partnered with this group of owners and with their help, not only will Speed51 be able to grow, but so will the industry surrounding short track racing, from track owners and promoters, to series organizers and the racers themselves. This initiative will create better access for fans to witness the rise to stardom of some of the sport’s future prospects.”