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NASCAR

Martinsville Speedway Key to Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Championship Run

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Chip Ganassi Racing

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.”

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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.

NASCAR

Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan

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Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

BROOKLYN, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kevin Harvick’s two-year winless streak is over after ‘The Closer’ won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Harvick beat 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace by 2.9-seconds to become playoff eligible and said the key was getting out front on the final restart.

“The last restart I had the 5 (Kyle Larson) behind me, and I knew I didn’t need to let the 23 (Wallace) up,” explained Harvick. “I knew I needed to drive it in the corner far enough, but the 5 had given me such a good push. I had a car length, and I think Bubba got about up to my door. I knew that if we could just get off of turn 2, we would have a chance.”

As the pair raced off turn 2 Harvick started to get ahead and carried that momentum as Wallace and Kyle Larson battled for position.

“That’s what you want, right?” asked Harvick rhetorically. “To try to get away so they don’t have a draft and can make up that time quicker. 5 launched good. 5 gave us a good push, and the key was just clearing the 23 off of two and being able to go down the back straight-away by myself and not door to door and in a firestorm.”

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Wallace was disappointed to not get into victory lane with one of the fastest cars on track all weekend.

“I failed everybody,” said Wallace. “Took the top there on the restart. Thought I could hang with the 4, and just got to racing the 5 and the 22. Hate it for our team. It sucks.”

Wallace’s team owner Denny Hamlin raced home to third with Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney rounding out the top 5.

Chase Elliott continues to sit atop the point standing and playoff standings.  Martin Truex sits on the outside of the 16-car playoff eligibility by 19-points.  Blaney sits in the final playoff spot.

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IndyCar

Racing Notebook: Pocono NASCAR Weekend approaching; INDYCAR in Toronto; PVGP hits the track and more

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Pocono Raceway

PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Pittsburgh Racing Now Racing Notebook is jam-packed with NASCAR, INDYCAR,  and Vintage racing news:

Limited Tickets Remain for Pocono NASCAR Weekend:

  • Pocono Raceway’s NASCAR weekend is a little over a week away and if you want to go, get your tickets now!  Pocono announced on Thursday that a limited number of grandstand seats are the only options remaining for the marquee M&M’S® Fan Appreciation 400 NASCAR Cup Series race next Sunday, July 24. The remaining grandstand seats for the Cup Series race are at three price points ($45, $80 and $95) and scattered throughout the various sections of the main grandstand. The only RV camping option currently available is general admission for $250, which includes two guest passes and free admission for up to 4 children 12 and under. To purchase tickets or learn more, please visit poconoraceway.com or call 800-722-3929.
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INDYCAR Returns To Toronto:

  • The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to the Streets of Toronto for this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto.  All eyes will be on Defending Series Champion Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.  CGR announced on Tuesday afternoon they were exercising their option on Palou for 2023, only to have Palou announce on Social Media later that evening that he was not returning.  Moments after Palou’s announcement, McLaren Racing announced they signed Palou for 2023.  CGR has won seven times at Toronto, the most recent being Scott Dixon in 2018. Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi was fastest in the first practice on Friday.  A second practice session takes place Saturday morning with three rounds of knockout-style qualifying taking place Saturday afternoon.  The race is Sunday at 3 p.m.

Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pitt Race:

  • The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix hits the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum this weekend in a tune-up for next weekend’s race on the streets of Schenley Park. Since 2004, racers from all over the country have come to the 2.8-mile purpose-built track 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh for fierce competition.  The ‘Black Tie and Tailpipes Gala’ took place last night at The Grand Concourse at Station Square.  For more information visit pvgp.org.
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NASCAR

Chase Elliott wins at Atlanta

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Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

HAMPTON, GA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott held off a hard-charging Corey LaJoie to win Sunday’s NASCAR CUP SERIES Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Elliott was leading taking the white flag when LaJoie got a run heading into Turn 1 forcing Elliott to move to the high side of the track and block LaJoie, who ended up hitting the wall and brining out the final caution flag, securing the win for Elliott.

“When you’re a kid and you’re racing on the quarter mile over there you look at this big track and it’s just out of reach, like not even real, just that your heroes are out there competing once or twice a year on this big track, and that’s just not real,” said Elliott of winning at his home track.  “To be here and to have a day like we had is really incredible, and certainly one I’m going to embrace and enjoy a lot.”

LaJoie, who had a strong car all day said he took his shot at the win.

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“I made my move and it didn’t work out, and the siren is ringing in Dawsonville unfortunately,’’ said LaJoie, referencing the Dawsonville Pool Room where a siren blares after any Elliott win.

Elliott won the races first two stages along with his third victory of the season, joining his Hall of Fame father Bill as the only Cup Drivers to win at the Atlanta oval.

“To see that many people up there and cheering and wearing the 9 hats and seeing the NAPA gear, you want to make those people proud,” said Elliott. “For me, I’m just grateful that the fans of this state have included me in part of the family of Georgia sports and kind of accepted our team as that, and I’m proud of that and glad we could do them good today.”

Ross Chastain finished second followed by Team Penske’s Austin Cindric in third, Petty GMS Racing’s Erik Jones in fourth and Penske’s Ryan Blaney in fifth.

The NASCAR Cup Series next race is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH.

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