MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson heads into this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville looking to punch his ticket to the NASCAR Championship finale at Homestead.
Winning at Martinsville would automatically qualify Larson for the final race and put him position to win his first championship and Chip Ganassi in position to win his first NASCAR title. Ganassi has 12-IndyCar Championships and 7-Sports Car Championships.
“Chip has had an opportunity to win a championship I think one other time maybe, and I think Sterling Marlin got hurt that year,” said Larson. “He was probably going to win the championship that season had he not gotten hurt. It would be nice to get him that championship that he’s honestly probably owed.”
Larson sits in 7th place heading into this weekend’s First Data 500, the first race of NASCAR’s final three races that determine the four drivers eligible to compete for the Championship at Homestead. Win one of the next 3-races and you’re win.
“We want to go and make it into that final round of Homestead, where it’s my best track,” said Larson. “It’s the final year for the championship race to be at Homestead, so I’ve looked at this ever since they released next year’s schedule as this is my best opportunity to win the championship. I’ve got to take advantage of that.”
Taking advantage over the next three races is not going to be easy, especially considering that, statistically speaking, Martinsville is Larson’s worst track. Larson’s average finish is 22nd over 10-races with CGR. Larson’s best finish at the paper clip shaped oval is a 3rd place finish in the Spring race in 2016. He followed that up in the fall with a 14th place finish.
In 2017 Larson finished 17th in the Spring race and a disappointing 39th in the fall. 2018 was almost a repeat of the previous year, 16th in the Spring race and 37th in the Fall race. Earlier this year Larson finished 18th.
“We had bad luck early in the year, but we also made mistakes,” said Larson. “I made mistakes, our team made mistakes, our pit crew made mistakes, mostly my mistakes I feel like, but I’ve been able to clean up what I’ve been doing. There’s still areas where I can get better, but our cars have been doing a lot better, and our team as a whole has been doing a whole heck of a lot better here the last few months.”
Larson sits 35-points behind leader Kyle Busch so scoring some stage points in the races first two stages is going to be key. Larson is 12-points behind 6th place Chase Elliott, 17-points behind 5th place Kevin Harvick and 19-points behind fourth place Joey Logano. The top 10 at the end of the first two stages will score stage points in a sliding scale (10-points to 1-point) based on finishing position.
Larson’s teammate Kurt Busch sits 14th in the standing after being eliminated after the first round of the playoffs. Busch and the No. 1 Global Poker/Monster Energy team are in it for win and points from here on out. Busch sits 18-points behind 13th place Aric Almirola and 35-points behind 12th place Alex Bowman.
Practice for the First Data 500 gets underway Saturday at 9:05 a.m. with final practice taking place at Noon ET followed by Qualifying at 4:35 p.m. The race is Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and can be seen on NBCSN and heard on Motor Racing Network affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
Hometown Boy Kurt Busch Wins In Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch beat Matt DiBenedetto and Denny Hamlin in overtime to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The victory was Busch’s first at his hometown track in 23-starts and his first victory in 2020.
“This is what kids dream of when they go racing,” said Busch, who grew up racing on the ‘Bullring’ with his Dad and younger brother Kyle. “You dream of winning at your hometown track and for two decades it’s kicked my butt and tonight with this Monster Energy Chevy, I’m in awe.”
Busch had to survive two late-race restarts to get the victory. Busch got a fantastic restart with 12-laps to go and had a multi-car length lead when Christopher Bell cut a tire and slowed on the front stretch where Hendrick Motorsports William Byron crashed into Bell to bring out the caution with 7-laps to go, sending the race into overtime.
The last restart saw Busch get another great jump out front as DiBenedetto and Hamlin were battling for second place as the No. 1 Monster Energy Camaro raced to the checkered flag.
In case anyone wants to see this greatness one more time, or a thousand more pic.twitter.com/ZCNZppJrWW
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) September 28, 2020
“I pulled out some drag racing skills on the restarts,” said Busch. “I knew that was our strong suit. I knew that was Ford’s weak suit. We just put ourselves in position and we held them off. Chip Ganassi was up in the suites somewhere and I could feel him breathing down my neck ‘I want to win’ and we did it.”
The win also automatically advances Busch to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs giving him and the No. 1 Monster Energy/GEARWRENCH team a little bit of a buffer before the Playoff field is narrowed down to the Round of 4 after races at Talladega Superspeedway and ‘The Roval’ at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Busch. “It’s sinking in, no Talladega worries, no Roval worries but we’re still going there to get points. We’re still going there to add up what we need to do to win this Championship.”
DiBenedetto held on for second place followed by Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.
The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move onto Talladega Superspeedway October 4, 2020.
Chase Briscoe Wins NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Briscoe dominated the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff opener Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, punching his ticket to the second round.
Briscoe won all three stages and beat Noah Gragson on a late restart to win the Alsco 300. The victory was Briscoe’s eighth of the season and 10th career win in 78 Xfinity Series starts.
“An unbelievable car,” said Briscoe, who led a race-high 164-laps. “That thing was on rails. It was so easy to drive. By far the best race car I’ve ever had.”
The victory gives Briscoe a 17-point lead over Austin Cindric in the Championship fight. Cindric finished sixth.
Gragson, a Las Vegas native, wanted to park his JR Motorsports Chevrolet in victory lane in front of the hometown crowd.
“It’s good to get points but it’s kind of frustrating,” said Gragson. “We were all doing everything we could. I was kind of the best of the rest. The 98 (Briscoe) was so fast.”
The second place finish moved Gragson up a spot in the Championship standings, 34-points behind Briscoe and 17-points behind Cindric.
Daniel Hemric finished third followed by Justin Allgaier in fourth. Ryan Sieg rounded out the Top 5.
The Xfinity Series title fight moves to Talladega Superspeedway on October 3, 2020.
Austin Hill Wins NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Westgate 200
LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Austin Hill grabbed the lead on a restart with 39-laps remaining and powered to the victory in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Westgate 200 Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hill’s Weins Canada Toyota crossed the finish line 0.546-seconds ahead of Sheldon Creed, punching Hill’s ticket to the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs.
“We didn’t start the race where we wanted to after having a bad race at Bristol,” said Hill. “Track position was huge today. Seemed like back in the pack it was pretty hard to pass. I knew when we were restarting up front there we had to get aggressive, and that’s what I did.”
Creed led a race-high 89 of the 134 laps but had to settle for second place after winning both the first and second stage of the race.
“Frustrating honestly,” Creed said of the runner-up finish. “Way faster truck than him (Hill). I feel like the pace picked up there at the end running the top. He’d run half a truck off the wall and I’d run against the wall. He’d slide up and I would get really tight or really loose behind him. Just couldn’t do anything.”
Creed did earn a race-high 55-points as well as 2-playoff points to help in the Championship fight.
Tanner Gray finished third followed by Stewart Friesen in fourth and Chandler Smith rounded out the Top 5.
The race featured four lead changes among four drivers. Five caution flags for 25-laps slowed the average speed of the race to 119.861-seconds.
The next race for the Truck Series is October 3, 2020 at Talladega Superspeedway.