DOVER, DE (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson is moving on to the third round of the NASCAR Playoffs after winning Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Larson beat Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr by 1.578-seconds, leading the last 78-laps and 154-laps overall. The victory was the sixth of Larson’s career and first points-paying race in over two seasons. Larson did win the non-points paying NASCAR All-star race, and it’s $1-million-dollar payday, this past May.
“What a day,” exclaimed Larson. “This Clover Chevy was really good. After the first stage I kind of changed my driving style up and I felt like I made the car better at the same time, and it really benefitted our long runs. That’s as good as I’ve ever been around cutting the bottom here. Just a great combination here. Good to be fast in practice and then be good again in the race and get the win.”
Larson took the lead thanks to a blistering pit stop by his No. 42 Clover Chevrolet crew following the races second stage, which was won by Truex.
“It’s pretty neat to do what we did today, to dominate that whole second half there,” said Larson. “The pit crew did a great job to get us out as the leader and kind of control the race from there. Just hats off to everybody back here. This is awesome. It’s been a long time since we won a points-based race. We won the All-Star Race earlier this year, which was great, but we wanted to win a points race, and we did it when it mattered.”
“I told the guys on the pit box, barring a late caution that I felt the race was going to be won on that last restart, so anything we could do to make sure we had control of the race and could come off Turn 2 with the lead was going to put us in our best opportunity to win,” said Chad Johnston, Larson’s Crew Chief. “To me that race was won off of pit road by the guys on pit road.”
The victory no only locks Larson into the third round but also gives his Chip Ganassi Racing crew some breathing room going into next weekends race at Talladega Superspeedway, which has a history of multi-car crashes that can change the complexion of the race and ultimately the playoffs.
“It’s going to be nice to not necessarily relax these next two but not have to worry about Talladega quite as much,” said Larson. “There’s still two more opportunities to get stage points, get a win.”
“Obviously you can breathe a little bit easier going into Talladega, being we all know what Talladega is like,” said Johnston. “I think we still have to try to put points on the board, whether it’s bonus points or race win points. There’s a lot of guys that have five, six wins and a lot of bonus points that are going to roll over to that next stage, so anything we can do to close the gap on that, obviously with Martinsville being in that last round, that’s not the greatest place for us, but we feel like Texas and Phoenix are places we can win at.”
Truex was frustrated he didn’t win as well as with lap traffic during the races last green-flag stint.
“We got the lead there, Stage 2, got that stage win, and then had a pit stop issue and lost track position, then we just — the whole third stage we were behind,” said Truex. “We were catching him at the end; we got close, but yeah, just unfortunate there. We win and lose as a team. The guys will clean it up, I’m sure, and it’s cool to come home second after that as hard as it was to pass today.”
Hendrick Motorsports Alex Bowman finished third followed by Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick. Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin finished the real in 15th.
The next race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway on October 13th.
Chip Ganassi Fined And Suspended By NASCAR
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team owner Chip Ganassi ended up on the NASCAR penalty report following this weekend’s events at Daytona International Speedway.
Ganassi was fined $30,000 and suspended from the next NASCAR Cup Series Championship Points Event which is Sunday at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Ganassi violated section 12.8.1.b of the NASCAR Rule Book “for bringing into the competition area a non-essential individual that was restricted from the footprint”, essentially brining someone not authorized inside the ‘bubble’ which part of the sanctioning body’s COVID-19 protocol.
Chip Ganassi Racing will be permitted to enter their cars, the No. 1 Monster Energy/Gearwrench Chevrolet driven by Kurt Busch and the No. 42 McDonald/Clover Camaro driven by Ross Chastain, in the event.
Christopher Bell Wins NASCAR Cup Series Road Course Race At Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Christopher Bell picked up his first NASCAR Cup Series win in Sunday’s road course race at Daytona International Speedway.
Bell passed leader Joey Logano with two laps to go to give Joe Gibbs Racing their second win of the weekend. JGR’S Ty Gibbs won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.
“I knew I was faster than him,” said Bell. “I ran him down from a while back. All I had to do was get a couple good corners and get away. The last thing I wanted was coming down to the checkered flag with him on my bumper.”
“I was trying to keep him (Bell) behind me,” said Logano. “We gambled by staying out and I’d say it paid off overall, but you just hate being so close. He started catching me a second a lap and it wasn’t like I blew any corners or anything. We just got beat, plain and simple.”
JGR’s Denny Hamlin started fourth and finished third in the No. 11 Toyota and said he just didn’t have the speed of the frontrunners.
“For me, I’m stuck at par right now,” said Hamlin, an avid golfer off the track. “I can’t break par. I’m just right there third to fourth fastest, and that’s where I’m at. I think the more times I run, the tighter that gap is going to get.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch rallied from an off-track excursion while leading the race to finish fourth.
“I just crossed over that fine line of grip,” said Busch. “The tires, at this track with the worn out asphalt of the infield section, it’s really easy to step over that line. Matt McCall (crew chief) and all my guys, they had an awesome day on pit road, strategy wise and with their (pit) stops to get us that track position and to get us back up front.”
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 5.
“It was a front, back, front, back kind of race, but the Discount Tire team, we just didn’t give up and kept working on it,” said Keselowski. “Eventually, the race came to us. We caught some breaks for sure and made the most of it. It was just one of those never-give-up kind of races.”
The race featured 12-lead changes among 7 drivers and 8-caution flags for 12-laps.
The Series concludes the early season Florida swing next Sunday, February 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain Ready For Road Course Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain are looking forward to turning left and right at this Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 on the road course at Daytona International Speedway.
Chastain will start ninth thanks in part to a seventh place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, his first Cup Series start in the No. 42 Chevrolet.
“A great way to kick off the year with this No. 42 car,” said Chastain. “We tore it up at the end – hit the wall a ton coming to the checkered, but still finished seventh. We got a few stage points. Thank you to everyone at Clover, McDonald’s, AdventHealth, Caregility. I still have some learning to do.”
Busch will start 17th on Sunday after being an innocent victim of a lap 14 accident. The accident was triggered when Christopher Bell attempted to bump draft Aric Almirola but did not hit him cleanly and subsequently sending Almirola into the wall in front of the rest of the field.
“All those boys started pushing way too hard, way too early, and we got wrapped up in it,” reflected Busch. “Got stuck in the mud, had too much damage and never really got to race. We had to ride around all day.”
Busch ultimately finished 22nd, which left him sitting in 20th place in the Cup Series drivers points standings.
“We’ll dig out of this hole,” said Busch, the 2004 Cup Series Champion. We’re a great team; we’re ready for this.”
The green flag is schedule to drop at 3 p.m.