Phoenix Is Larson’s Last Chance To Qualify For NASCAR Championship 4
AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – ISM Raceway outside Phoenix is Kyle Larson’s last chance to qualify for the NASCAR Championship 4.
Larson enters the race in seventh place in the points standings, 23-points out of the fourth and final playoff spot, tied with Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney.
The easiest way for Larson to qualify for the Championship 4 is to go out and win the race. Race winners automatically advance.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. won two weeks ago at Martinsville and Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick won last week at Texas locking both of those drivers into the Championship 4, which takes place Sunday November 17th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Should a non-playoff driver win on Sunday then both the third and fourth place positions in the points standings would earn a position in the Championship 4.
Six drivers: Larson, Gibbs’ Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin along with Penske’s Joey Logano and Blaney as well as Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott, will be fighting for the remaining two Championship spots on Sunday.
Busch and Logano enter the race currently above the points cutoff line, +22 and +20 respectively. Hamlin sits 20-points behind the cutoff and Elliott sits 78-points below following mechanical issues at Martinsville and an accident at Texas.
“We all know one guy is going to move through on points and we have to do whatever we have to do in order to be that guy,” said Busch. “We’re two points up on the 22 (Logano), so it’s going to be a race between the 18 and 22, imagine that. We’ll look forward to the challenge and hope we have a strong run in order to make it through to Homestead.”
“It’s going to be a good battle for sure,” said Logano. “Obviously, the No. 18 team is good and Kyle (Busch) is a good driver, but I think we are a great team and they are beatable just like everybody else. We are racing for that last spot just in case someone behind us out the of the Top-4 wins.”
Larson hopes to be that driver. Larson’s best playoff showing is third place in 2016 and 2018. Larson’s best finish at ISM Raceway is a runner-up finish in the Spring race of 2017. He also finished in third place in the 2016 and 2018 playoff races. In 11-starts at Phoenix, Larson has three top-five and five top-10 finishes, with an average finish of 13.5. Larson has an average finish of 16.0 in the last five playoff events at the track.
Practice for the Bluegreen Vacations 500 starts Friday at 4:05 p.m. ET with the Final Practice scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET. Qualifying is scheduled to take place on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET with the race Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Kyle Busch takes NASCAR Cup Series win in California
FONTANA, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The pairing of Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing is paying dividends as two races into their partnership, they were celebrating victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Busch beat Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott by ?.?-seconds to pick up his ??-career Cup Series victory and the ?? of his NASCAR career.
“I felt like there was going to be a little bit of a learning experience, a little bit of a growth pattern, but also on the flipside of that, I always just kind of looked back and watched some of their results and success that they had last year with Austin,” explained Busch. “He ran second here last year, and Reddick was super, super fast. They were fast at the Clash before they broke, the 8 car was.”
Busch said the transition to a new team has been good.
“It’s just been really, really cool, and it’s been a great piece of — we’re making history, right, but a great piece of opportunity to go out there and continue to win races at a new team with RCR, so I can’t say enough about Austin giving me a call, first and foremost, but then Richard and Judy giving me this opportunity to go out here and race for wins.”
Elliott was happy for his manufacturer teammate and former Champ and to get a finish after getting crashed out of the Daytona 500.
“Congratulations to Kyle,” said Elliott. “For him to leave and then to go get the job done like that is pretty cool. He’s always been really good to me, so happy for them. Obviously I think we still have some work to do, but it was really nice to just see a lot of that hard work pay off and have the car driving like we were wanting it to do. So that’s always a good thing. Appreciate everybody on our NAPA team, Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet for just sticking with it and sticking with each other. Looking forward to getting to Vegas and hopefully competing for some more wins.”
Ross Chastain, who led a race high 92-laps, finished third in the No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing.
“Our balance was building loose most of the day, so I thought we did everything right,” said Chatain. “We kept up with it. It would just feel pretty loose late in the runs, and at times it was enough, and at times they got way better.”
The NASCAR Cup Series moves on to Las Vegas for the Pennzoil 400 March 5th.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins Daytona 500 in two overtimes
DAYTONA, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Ricky Stenhouse Jr was leading NASCAR Cup Series Champion Joey Logano when a spinning Kyle Larson brought out the final caution of the day, giving Stenhouse the Daytona 500 win in double-overtime.
Stenhouse and Logano were battling for the lead on Lap 212 when contact from Aric Almirola’s Ford started Travis Pastrana’s Toyota spinning in Turn 2. Pastrana’s Camry clipped Larson Chevrolet and set it rocketing into the outside wall. NASCAR officials reviewed the timing and scoring loops to verify Stenhouse was the winner.
“The 22 had a huge run,” explained Stenhouse. “Got to my outside. Kyle had a huge run and he kind of shipped the middle, and then I looked in my mirror and here comes Christopher and gave me a big shot down the short chute there into 1 caution and got out front enough for when the caution came out.
So everything played out perfectly for us at the end of that.”
“Second is the worst, man,” lamented Logano. “You’re so close. Leading the white flag lap there, I was up front. Kyle gave me a good push and, yeah, you’re watching in the mirror and you’re three wide across there. I felt like the three wide was going a hurt a lane; looked like Kyle was getting pushed ahead, and then Ricky started getting pushed ahead.”
“If you would have told me pre-race I was going to run third, I would have jumped up and down and been smiling ear to ear, which I am very happy and very, very thankful that I could get this Rheem and DeWalt Camry a good solid finish,” said Bell. “But man, just so close to a crown jewel. I feel like if it would have stayed green I would have been on offense, and obviously who knows. But very proud and thankful to be here and Joe Gibbs Racing, and happy for Ricky. That’s really cool. Very, very happy for Ricky.”
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is Sunday, February 26 at Auto Club Raceway in Fontana, California.
Austin Hill wins his second straight NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona
DAYTONA, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Austin Hill won his second-straight NASCAR Xfinity Series season-opening race on Saturday, narrowly beating John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Allgaier after NASCAR officials reviewed the tape following Sam Mayer’s caution.
“As soon as the caution lights came on, I thought I had it, but it was so close,” said Hill. “To get back-to-back here at Daytona, it’s really special. That’s three wins for me now, two in the Xfinity, one in the truck here. We came from the back two different times. I hope everyone enjoyed it. It was such a blast. I had so much fun.”
“I’ve been short my whole life, so I guess it’s just fitting,” joked Allgaier. “But really proud of everybody at JR Motorsports. Our Chevy Camaros tonight were absolutely blazing fast. Obviously, I’m glad Sam is OK. He had a heck of a run there at the end.”