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.
Racing Notebook – Monday, July 5: Weekend Racing Recap and more
PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Monday’s Racing Notebook takes a look back at a historic weekend of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as this weekend’s local action from Lernerville, Jennerstown, PA and OH Sprint Car Speedweek plus President Trump wants an apology from Bubba Wallace:
Harvick Wins 3rd Brickyard 400:
- Kevin Harvick picked up his third Brickyard 400 victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday holding off Chip Ganassi Racing’s Matt Kenseth in overtime. Denny Hamlin was also one of the strongest cars at IMS on Sunday until he blew a tire late in the race. Check out our recap here.
Reutzel Wins At Fremont Speedway:
- Aaron Reutzel was victorious on Sunday at Fremont Speedway in the Ollies Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions feature. Paul McMahan finished second and Lee Jacobs finished third. It was the third straight podium finish for Reutzel in Ohio Sprint Speedweek competition.
Scott Dixon Wins GMR Grand Prix at IMS:
- PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon started off the historic INDYCAR/NASCAR tripleheader at IMS on Saturday by capturing the checkered flag in the GMR Grand Prix. Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal was second followed by Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud. Check out our recap here.
Chase Briscoe Wins Xfinity Series Race at IMS:
- Indiana native Chase Briscoe was the winner of the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Justin Haley finished second followed by Noah Gragson. The next race for the Xfinity Series is July 9, 2020 at Kansas Speedway
Kyle Larson Wins at Port Royal to capture PA Speedweek Title:
- Kyle Larson captured the Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek Championship and did it in style by winning the 410 feature at Port Royal Speedway Saturday night. Larson held off Brent Marks and Rico Abreu to capture his first win at “The Speed Palace” and his first PA Sprint Car Speedweek title. Check out our recap here.
Bubba Pollard Gets CARS win at Jennerstown; Heim 6th:
- Bubba Pollard won the Inaugural Thomas Automotive American Freedom 300 at the Jennerstown Speedway Complex. It was Pollard’s second win in as many CARS Tour races after claiming the checkered flag at Hickory Motor Speedway in June. Sammy Smith finished second followed by Jake Garcia. Corey Heim, who has relatives in the area and was a guest on The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast finished 6th.
Buddy Kofoid Takes Night 2 Of Ohio Sprint Speedweek:
- Buddy Kofoid started on the pole position and led wire-to-wire to capture the checkered flag in the second night Ohio Sprint Car Speedweek. Kofoid was barely challenged except on three restart where he prevailed. Aaron Reutzel finished second followed by Cole Duncan.
Friday Winners From Lernerville:
- Erick Rudolph took home the checkered flag in the BRP Modified Tour main event at Lernerville Speedway coming from the rear of the field to hold off Rex King Sr. and Garrett Krummert. Michael Bauer picked up his first career victory in the Peoples Natural Gas DIRTcar 410 Sprint feature. Tyler Dietz beat Daryl Charlier and Corey McPherson to win the Millerstown Pic-A-Part RUSH/DIRTcar Pro Stocks main event and Greg Dobrosky won the Allegheny Sprint Tour 305 feature.
Cap Henry Wins Ohio Speedweek Opener:
- Cap Henry opened up Ohio Sprint Speedweek by picking up his second career All Star Circuit of Champions feature win Friday night at Attica Raceway Park. Buddy Kofoid finished second followed by Aaron Reutzel.
Trump Says Wallace Should Apologize:
- President Donald Trump thinks NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace should apologize for the noose incident last month at Talladega, calling it a “hoax” in a tweet. See both Trump’s and Wallace’s response below:
Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) July 6, 2020
Kevin Harvick Wins 3rd Brickyard 400
SPEEDWAY, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick held off Matt Kenseth in overtime to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I can tell you today I was as excited as I’ve been of any of the races that we’ve won,” said Harvick. “Look, for me, this is like living out your childhood dream, being able to race and win here.”
The victory was Harvick’s 53rd of his career, fourth of the season, 2nd straight and third overall in the event.
“I know how many times we’ve had fast cars here, come out the other end,” said Harvick. “Now to have won it back-to-back, three times, is something that’s a little bit surreal. I kind of have to just laugh about it, think back to all of those times that you told somebody you were going to go win the Indy 500, race INDYCARS, whatever the case may be. Now you’re in a stock car, 20 years into your career, still going strong.”
Also still going strong is 48-year-old Matt Kenseth. Kenseth wheeled the No. 42 McDonald’s McDelivery Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet into second place, 0.743-seconds behind Harvick.
“Today we were able to be competitive, run up front,” said Kenseth. “Chad (Johnston, Crew Chief) had great calls, really good calls. Gave me everything I needed to win the race. I’m a little disappointed I couldn’t get it done honestly. Had the best tires, gave me good track position. Couldn’t quite get the 4 car.”
In the final laps of the race it was looking like there was going to be a showdown between Denny Hamlin, Harvick and Kenseth with Kenseth having the freshest set of tires.
“We had on four new tires, lining up behind Denny who was the control car, the leader,” Kenseth explained. “Had Kevin underneath me. Was able to get around him and clearing him, kind of in second place. Kevin had so much speed he pulled up behind me in the backstretch and pretty much pushed me down the whole straightaway. When we got about three-quarters of the way down, he took a left and passed me. There was just no way for me to defend that one. Those guys were really, really fast.”
Hamlin’s chance at victory slipped away when he blew a tire and slammed into the wall on lap 154.
“We had a fast cart, obviously, and was stretching out there, but I wasn’t pushing the right front at all,” said Hamlin. “It’s just kind of roulette, whether you’re going to get one (tire) that’s going to stay together or not. Mine didn’t and you saw the end result.”
Harvick’s teammates Aric Almirola and Cole Custer finished 3rd and 5th respectively, giving SHR three cars in the Top 5. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski finished fourth.
Next up for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Quaker State 400 at Kansas Speedway on July 12, 2020.
Denny Hamlin And Kevin Harvick Score NASCAR Cup Wins At Pocono Doubleheader
LONG POND, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s Pocono 350, the second race of the NASCAR Cup Series Doubleheader Weekend at Pocono Raceway.
Hamlin beat Kevin Harvick by 3.068-seconds to pick up his fourth victory of 2020 and 41st of his Cup Series career. Hamlin is now tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon for the most wins all-time at “The Tricky Triangle” with six.
“It’s awesome,” said Hamlin. “I think that’s the most wins I’ve got at any track now. It’s hard to believe because we went through such a dry spell there kind of the middle of my career. We’re doing a great job right now. Like I say, I hate to feel disappointed in a second and first. Man, I really feel like we should have won both races. Just didn’t work out.”
Harvick won Saturday’s race, taking two tires on the final pit stop to grab the checkered flag from a track where he had never won.
“Everybody from Stewart-Haas Racing has done a great job,” said Harvick. “We’ve had really fast cars every time we’ve come to Pocono, just hadn’t got to Victory Lane.”
The NASCAR Cup Series next event is the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a doubleheader with the NTT IndyCar Series.