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.
Allgaier untouchable, conquers heat for Xfinity Series victory at Nashville
LEBANON, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) — JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier captured his second win of the 2022 season under the sweltering western Tennessee sun Saturday afternoon. He led 134 of 188 laps in a dominating performance, beating Trevor Bayne to the line by 4.5 seconds.
AJ Allmendinger was Allgaier’s only real threat at any point of the race, starting on the front row and leading 48 laps spread over stage one and stage three. The race winner battled Ty Gibbs following a restart in the final stage, but Allgaier’s long run speed was too much for the JGR driver to overcome.
Following the race, Allgaier said that he didn’t think he’d ever driven a faster race car and was thrilled to finally take home the famous Nashville guitar trophy.
“This guitar has been on my bucket list for a long, long time,” Allgaier said. “Today was for the dirt racers though. It was slick, it was hot, we were sliding around… That’s the best car I’ve ever had.”
Saturdays’ Xfinity race was a clean one, absent of any notable incidents. Gibbs and Sam Mayer got tangled up while near the front, but Gibbs saved his spinning Toyota, recovering and finishing fourth. Riley Herbst had on of his strongest performances of the year, finishing third. Mayer rounded out the top five in fifth.
The Xfinity series will make their way to Road America next Saturday, starting at 2:30 p.m. It will air on USA network, continuing NBC’s coverage for the rest of the season.
Preece holds off competition, wins second straight at Nashville
LEBANON, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) — Ryan Preece was dominant Friday evening at Nashville Superspeedway, leading nearly half of the 150-lap race to capture his second consecutive Rackley Roofing 200. Preece, who drives part-time in the truck series, gave David Gilliland Racing their second consecutive win in the No. 17 Ford, while also notching his second career Truck Series victory in just eight starts.
Preece was forced to manage his tires fending off heavy pressure from points leader Zane Smith and the upstart Carson Hocevar. Smith looked to be dominant driving into turns one and two but would loose momentum exiting the second turn. Eventually he would battle Hocevar for second on the final lap, but the two chasers ran out of time. Preece bested the two young drivers by several car lengths.
Tensions rose with 25 laps-to-go between some of the veteran drivers and veteran drivers. Former NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto’s Chevrolet on the inside of Grant Enfinger and Cory Heim on the backstretch when Ty Majeski suddenly dove to the inside, forcing the trucks four-wide heading into Turn 3. Inevitably the drivers ran out of room, sending Enfinger, Heim and DiBenedetto violently into the outside wall, ruining their top-ten bids.
The usually happy-go-lucky DiBenedetto was furious following the race, indicating his patience for the younger drivers in the Truck Series had run out.
“[It’s] stupidity,” DiBenedetto said describing Majeski’s dive to the inside. “I have no idea what some of the guys are thinking, to be honest, I don’t even have an answer. Some of these guys race with such disrespect… It’s more than conversation — one, it’s threaten them, two, just start crashing, just wreck them.”
“It was the end of the race and everybody went crazy, just like always in these truck races,” Enfinger said.
Majeski ended up finishing the race in fourth with Stewart Friesen rounding out the top five.
Wexford, PA native Kris Wright put together one of his strongest results of the season, finishing 17th in the No. 44 Chevrolet
The Truck Series takes a one week break before racing at Mid-Ohio on July 9th. Tickets are available at www.midohio.com. The race starts at 1:30 p.m. and can been seen on FS1 and heard on Motor Racing Network affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90).
Suarez captures first NASCAR Cup Series win at Sonoma
SONOMA, CA — Daniel Suarez is a NASCAR Cup Series winner after capturing the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday by beating Chris Buescher by 3.849-seconds.
Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity series championship, has been on four different Cup teams since winning that title six years ago and started 195 Cup Series races but since joining Trackhouse Racing in 2021 things started turning around the Mexican, who has been significantly more competitive than he’d been in his four previous seasons.
Suarez celebrated his victory by emphatically punching through a taco-shaped piñata — perhaps signifying a new celebration to rival his watermelon-smashing teammate Ross Chastain.
“I have so many thoughts in my head right now,” Suarez said. “It’s been a rough journey in the Cup Series, these guys believed in me, Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris. Everyone that helped me get to this point, a lot of people in Mexico… My family you know, they never gave up on me. A lot of people did but they didn’t. Very happy that we were able to make it work.”
Suarez got off to a hot start, making his way up to fifth by the second lap of the race. Still, his climb to the lead was slow, hindered by quick Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. As the race wore on, both frontrunners experienced problems, with Larson losing a wheel on the track and Elliott being punished with a crucial penalty on pit road.
In the closing stages of the race, Suarez and Buescher had proven themselves to be clear frontrunners, and were few seconds clear of the pack with less than 30 laps to go. Buescher would get close to Suarez multiple times, but was unable to ever make a move in the final hairpin corner. Eventually, Suarez’s long run speed prevailed, allowing him to lead 47 of 110 laps and win by almost four seconds.
Despite losing out to Suarez, Buescher’s second place finish was an impressive one — considering it was his first race since flipping at Charlotte then missing Gateway due to Covid-19. Michael McDowell put together one of his strongest starts of the year, finishing in third. Kevin Harvick and Austin Cindric rounded out the top five.
Fords and Chevy’s dominated the road course Sunday, with Kurt Busch being the highest finishing Toyota in eighteenth. The NASCAR Cup Series won’t race next week, and will resume racing at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26 at 5 p.m. eastern. NBC will take over coverage for that race and the rest of the season.