Chip Ganassi

Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson discuss Auto Club incident

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Kyle Larson said he knew Denny Hamlin didn’t intentionally wreck him in last weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway and was appreciative of car owner Chip Ganassi’s defense on social media.

Hamlin and Larson were both on the Barstool Sports podcast “Rubbin is Racing” with Dave Portnoy and Clint Bowyer. The podcast was released Thursday morning.

Portnoy talked to Hamlin and Larson about their incident on the track at Auto Club Speedway, Hamlin’s social media video later that night of running into the back of Larson with a shopping cart and Chip Ganassi’s response on Twitter, calling Hamlin’s video #badtaste.

Hamlin explained on the Barstool Sports podcast his contact that caused Larson to hit the wall early in the race.

He knows that I’m not trying to do it intentionally,” Hamlin said of Larson. “He knows that I’m trying to help him. I just screwed up while I was trying to help him.”

Said Larson on the podcast: “Obviously, I also knew that it wasn’t on purpose, the wreck anyways. I was mad. I got put into the fence and my day was done, and I had to ride around way off the pace for two-and-a-half hours, so that wasn’t fun.

“We talked after the race. Like I said, I knew it wasn’t on purpose. I spent all race already being mad. I knew we were going to hang out all week in Phoenix, so why keep things awkward or make them more awkward than they should be? We race 38 weekends together a year. (Expletive) is going to happen every now and then.

“I think stuff that happens on the racetrack shouldn’t get in the middle of what you guys do off the racetrack, especially if it is not on purpose. It is what it is. I support Chip having my back. I think that is pretty cool. Like I said it wasn’t on purpose. At least I can get (Hamlin) back maybe someday and have an excuse.”

Bowyer then asked Larson if he thought about wrecking Hamlin after the incident.

“I did joke,” Larson said on the podcast chuckling, “I joked with him after the race, I said ‘Crazy how much stuff will run through your mind in a split second.’ I was ready …

Bowyer added: “You had such a good opportunity.”

Larson continued: “I was going to put him in the fence and then I’m like it’s a long drive to Scottsdale, I’m supposed to fly with him, I want to golf at all these nice courses this week, so I ended up not turning him into the fence, which I’m glad I didn’t.

“Yeah, because that would have hurt,” Hamlin interjected.

Larson continued: “Even if we didn’t have plans this week, we’re hauling ass into (Turn) 1 and he’s already broke his back once there, I wouldn’t want to do it again.”

Hamlin suffered a fractured L1 vertebra in a last-lap crash in 2013 at Auto Club Speedway.

As for the video, which has been viewed more than 450,000 times on Twitter, Hamlin said: “From my standpoint, we were just trying to make light of a bad situation and that was probably it. I understand Chip’s point of view, but I also think that saying bad taste, I don’t know, I was just tying to make a joke. Evidently 10,000 people that liked it thought it was funny too.”

Hamlin said Larson had no idea what Hamlin was going to do in the video.

“He didn’t see it coming,” Hamlin said on the podcast. “He didn’t see it coming. Ricky Stenhouse is there pushing the second cart and we were going down the aisle because we were grocery shopping for the house we’re at and I said, ‘Ricky get your camera out and give me that cart.’

Said Larson: “I could see them scheming something and they were kind of whispering to each other away from me, so I thought it was about me, but I didn’t know what was going on.”

NASCAR America’s MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET: Harrison Burton, Greg Ives

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NBCSN
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Today’s episode of MotorMouth airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan.

Harrison Burton, the newest winner in the Xfinity Series, will join the show via FaceTime. Greg Ives, crew chief for Alex Bowman, speaks with Dave Burns. We’ll also discuss Chip Ganassi expressing his displeasure with a video Denny Hamlin posted on social media after his incident with Kyle Larson on Sunday.

You can call into the show via 844-NASCAR-NBC or submit your questions/comments via Twitter using #LetMeSayThis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Kurt Busch: Aggression ‘ramped up to another level’ at Auto Club

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Two days after he placed third at Auto Club Speedway, Kurt Busch described the aggression by drivers on restarts at the 2-mile track as “ramped up to another level.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver credited the frenetic restarts to the rules package and the stage lengths.

“(With) the package and the draft, you want to be that leader,” Busch said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track.” “You want to be the guy putting on the blocks and you don’t want to be caught in that dirty air. (You can’t race anymore with a) mindset of, ‘Oh, this is a 400-miler or this a 500-miler, we’ll take our time.’ With the way the stages are set up this year, it was a quarter, a quarter and a half of a race. Now it’s a third, a third and a third.”

The stage lengths for Sunday’s 200-lap race were 60 laps/60 laps/80 laps, just like last season. But many races this year feature shorter final stages from last season 

“You have three mini-races all in one and you’ve got to gain points from the drop of the green flag,” Busch said. “So everybody’s aggressive, pushing hard. It’s got to be a good show to watch because of how hard everybody’s driving each lap.”

One area Busch noted a change in Sunday is his desire to at least contemplate wanting to race in “dirty air,” which is usually the last thing you’d expect to hear from a driver.

“The race had a feel of when you were in the draft, the lap time felt like it was so much faster,” Busch told SiriusXM. “Because you would go down the straightaway so quick with the draft. Then of course we’d all have to fan out in the corner and grab the fresh air and make sure the handling is underneath the car. Then what’s crazy, on a green flag stop, we’d come in put tires on and go back out. If we were by ourselves, the lap time was so slow. It was dramatically different.

“It was like, ‘I need to be back in the dirty air. At the same time, I don’t want those guys around me in the corners. That takes away that tenth of a second. That quick, small reaction. ‘Is this guy going to go high? Is this guy going to go low?’ Then you end up battling that much harder now in the draft. Bottom line, the draft is twice as intense. By yourself it’s simple, it’s almost wide open, very easy all the way around the track. Two big contrasts that (were) really prevalent at Fontana.”

Busch’s third-place finish Sunday was the best result at Auto Club Speedway by Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 team after three previous sixth-place finishes by Busch and Jamie McMurray.

That couldn’t be said for Busch’s teammate, Kyle Larson, who placed 21st after his early-race incident with Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was bump drafting with Larson heading into Turn 1 when Larson lost control and smacked the wall.

A few hours later, Hamlin posted a video on social media of he and Larson in a grocery store with Hamlin re-enacting the incident on the track with a shopping cart.

Team owner Chip Ganassi took to Twitter to call the the video #badtaste.

“I was confused by why they were grocery shopping together to begin with,” Busch said, adding that the incident on Sunday itself was “weird.”

“That’s what we saw a lot at Daytona, guys bump drafting on the straightaway and getting the other guy sideways and wrecked,” Busch said. “I mean you have to be aware all the time, whether Larson was starting to lift because he was catching (Erik Jones) as quick as he was, or because (Kevin Harvick) was pushing Denny. Those guys were definitely in a hooked up draft on the front straightaway, but for what reason, I don’t know. It just seemed a bit aggressive on my side. I can joke with Denny, yeah, but maybe that (video) was too soon. I would go with #toosoon on that one.”

Chip Ganassi chides Denny Hamlin for video

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Car owner Chip Ganassi was not amused with a video Denny Hamlin posted Sunday night showing Hamlin bumping into the back of friend Kyle Larson while they were grocery shopping.

Hamlin’s video came hours after his push got Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing car out of control and hit the wall early in the race at Auto Club Speedway.

Larson was running 13th and Hamlin 14th when Hamlin pushed Larson into Turn 1 on Lap 34. Larson’s car wiggled and hit the wall. Larson fell off the lead lap for repairs and went on to finish 21st.

A few hours later, Hamlin posted the video of he and Larson in the grocery store with Hamlin re-enacting the incident on the track with a shopping cart. The video had been viewed more than a quarter of a million times by Tuesday morning.

Ganassi tweeted Tuesday morning that Hamlin’s video was #badtaste:

Hamlin, who had tweeted earlier about playing golf Tuesday in Arizona, responded shortly after 9 p.m. ET.

Kyle Larson says his dirt track racing will be key to next contract

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kyle Larson says being allowed to race on dirt tracks will play a key role in which Cup team he competes for after the 2020 season.

Larson’s contract expires after next season. While social media has put him in the No. 48 car when Jimmie Johnson completes his final full-time season next year, there is no guarantee he’ll leave Chip Ganassi Racing for Hendrick Motorsports.

“I enjoy what I’m doing with Chip right now,” Larson said Wednesday in a media session a day before the NASCAR Awards Show (8 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN). “Obviously I’m a free agent, I guess, at the end of the year. I guess I’m excited just to hear what people have to say.

“If I do end up with Chip I’ll be perfectly happy with that. He gave me my first shot. I’ve got a great relationship with him and the team. More than anything, I just look forward to racing race cars. I haven’t really thought too much about (what team he’ll race for after 2020). Obviously, I’ve been reading everything everybody else has too. It’s cool to see your name in the mix for stuff like that, but we also have to focus on the on-track performance next year.”

Larson is considered among of the top free agents in a loaded class that includes Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and Alex Bowman, among many whose contracts expire after the 2020 season. Larson finished a career-high sixth in points this past season. He has made the playoffs four consecutive years. 

Larson said that Ganassi’s willingness to let him race sprint and midget cars during the NASCAR season “definitely” gives Ganassi an edge over other teams.

“Wherever I end up, that is going to be priority for me is still being able to race quite a bit on dirt tracks,” Larson said. “I think teams understand that is what I love. We’ll see. I think Chip definitely continuing to let me run and then also letting me run more than I have in the last few years has been awesome.”

Larson’s agreement with Ganassi allows Larson to run 25 dirt track races during the NASCAR season. Ganassi’s rule is that Larson can’t drive a sprint or midget car 24 hours before he is to be in a Cup car but Ganassi waived that rule in 2017, allowing Larson to run in the Knoxville Nationals the night before the Cup race at Michigan. Larson finished second in the Knoxville Nationals and won the Cup race at Michigan the next day.

An issue for Hendrick Motorsports could be Larson’s desire to race on dirt tracks. Hendrick used to allow Kasey Kahne to run on dirt tracks but then took those privileges away after an accident Kahne had. Hendrick permitted Kahne to race those cars more than two years later.

Larson also said that he is grateful to Ganassi for hiring him when others didn’t pay much attention to the rising star.

“I want to do the best job I can while I’m with Chip and if I continue to be with Chip,” Larson said. “He took me from nobody, nobody ever heard of me or even when they started to hear about me wouldn’t give me a shot. I”m very loyal and thankful for that. I would love to be with Chip for the rest of my career if I could.”