June 7th, 2018
No Wins but Remained Consistent in Racing
Added Another Trophy in Fatherhood
I do have a lot to catch you up on. I am sorry. Let’s start where I left you off last time I wrote.
Dover - May 6th for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism race
Dover is a 1 mile concrete, very fast, 3 wide track. Kyle Larson earned pole position driving the DC Solar Chevrolet. Yes, Larson captured his first pole of the season by running a 22.77 lap with the best speed of 158.1 mph, nudging out Kevin Harvick with a time of 22.858 and speed of 1.57.9. No wins at this track and no wins for the season as well for Larson, even though he seems to be the dominant Chevy driver. In the interview after capturing the pole, Larson discussed how he was trying to do his best and that he is aware he is leading the Chevy drivers, but he felt there was a lot more to do.
Race day – here is where the bad news of the day starts for Larson. His DC Solar Chevy failed pre-race inspection 3 times, causing car chief David Bryant to be ejected from the track and sending Larson to the rear of the pack. Larson was not alone back there, as Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman also failed and were sent to the rear. Larson’s day continued in a bad swing as Larson went a lap down when he served a penalty for an uncontrolled tire on a green flag pit stop. Larson tried to work his way up but was able just to remain consistent. He was the master of driving even though his car seemed to be loose, and he was good in the long green runs. His luck somewhat changed during a yellow flag caution on lap 272. Kyle Busch brought out the caution with a broken drive shaft – ending Kyle Busch’s day.
Larson was able to claim the Lucky Dog. Even with Larson being on the lead lap, traffic prevented him from moving to the lead. Larson finished 10th behind Harvick. It was a no turning back day for Harvick. Eight laps after restart of the race due to a rain delay, Harvick passed fellow teammate Clint Bowyer and did not look back. Harvick led a total of 201 laps out of 400; swept both stages and went on to win the race. Followed by Harvick at the finish was Bowyer, a whopping 7.45 seconds behind Harvick followed by Daniel Suarez, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Larson. Larson was able to have a top 10 finish. Kyle Busch retained the Monster Energy Cup points lead even though he did not finish the race.
Larson’s night did not end with the race, coming a couple weeks early; Larson welcomed his daughter Audrey Lanye into the world with fiancée Katelyn Sweet. Audrey is welcomed by her big, 3 year old brother, Owen.
John Hunter Nemecheck was on standby to drive for Larson the following week at Kansas, if necessary.
What an exciting night/morning! Baby came a few weeks early but glad I was able to be in town for it all. Katelyn did amazing and we are excited to welcome a baby girl, Audrey Layne Larson! Owen got to hang out with his new little sister this morning and loves her a bunch. pic.twitter.com/XPlADoIN5A— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) May 7, 2018
On May 6th, Larson was on Twitter seen holding Audrey Layne Larson while supporting his sponsor Coca-Cola. Larson is a 2018 Coke Driver. It was Coca-Cola’s birthday. Coke has had a partnership with NASCAR for the last 20 years known as the Coca-Cola Racing Family. The Coca-Cola Racing Family partnership began in 1998 before the Daytona 500. Coke has been part of NASCAR for over 50 years but officially became a partner and official Fan Refreshment of NASCAR in 1998.
Coke wanted to bring the fans of NASCAR and Coke together since both are very much about family. Over the years the Coca-Cola Racing Family has grown. Drivers look at it as being an honor to be part of the group. However, the mission has remained the same – to connect NASCAR fans with their sport and enjoy a refreshing soft drink with family and friends.
“I’ve been able to race a few Coke cars the last few years, and it’s really cool to now be part of the family" Larson said during his announcement of becoming a Coke driver in 2018. “Coca-Cola is such an iconic brand, and I’m proud to be a part of their team.”
This year’s Coca-Cola drivers include: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, Darrell Wallace Jr., Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson. The group will represent Coke and will be featured in advertising, promotions, packaging, and as ambassadors for Coca-Cola. I think that Kyle Larson is doing a great job and Audrey Larson is a great supporting future Coke representative.
Kansas - Saturday, May 12th racing under the stars KC Masterpiece 400
Kansas is a 1.5 mile tri-oval going over a course of 400.5 miles or 267 laps. Larson has 8 starts, 0 wins, 1 top 5 and 2 top 10 finishes at Kansas. His average starting position is 14.6 and his finishing average is 21.0. Not his best track in the field.
Larson qualified 22nd. Larson moved into the third position behind Harvick and Blaney on Lap 103. With 40 to go in stage 1, Denny Hamlin dropped to pit road under green and Keselowski had to make a second pit stop for a loose wheel. Hamlin’s move triggered a round of green-flag stops for several teams, who elected to cut the second stage in half. Once the green-flag stops were completed on Lap 130, Harvick had returned to the lead, followed by Larson and Blaney. On the very next lap, Larson went to the inside of Harvick and was able to get around Harvick, taking the lead for the first time in the race. It was the first stage win of the season for Larson.
Larson returned to the lead with 42 to go in the race. He was followed by Blaney, Harvick, Logano and Kyle Busch. With 31 to go, Daniel Suarez got into the wall and then made contact with Alex Bowman to bring out a caution. All of the lead lap cars pitted for fuel and tires. Larson was the first car off pit road and back into the lead when the race returned to green with 25 laps remaining. He was followed by Harvick and Blaney. With 24 to go, Harvick powered past Larson back to the lead and Logano moved into second place behind him.
With 18 laps to go, Blaney got into the side of Larson; Blaney hit the wall while Larson’s left-rear tire was down. “What the (expletive) is he doing? He can only run me up so high,” Larson said on his team radio right after the incident.
During the pit stops, William Byron was the first off pit road, taking only two tires, but several cars remained on the track. Logano, who stayed out, inherited the lead on the restart with 15 laps to go. Logano was followed by Truex, Erik Jones, Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Elliott. Byron was the first car off pit road with two tires and lined up seventh. Harvick was the first car with four new tires and restarted eighth. Truex moved quickly into the lead on the restart. Larson made a remarkable recovery after he and Blaney made contact.
The most violent accident of the night caused the final restart with nine laps left and the dramatic pass for the victory. In Turn 4 on Lap 253, William Byron got loose underneath Clint Bowyer’s car and pushed Bowyer up the track. Byron’s car slammed into the outside wall with a bone-rattling impact that lifted the rear of the car off the pavement. Byron’s car landed on the hood of Ryan Newman and slid down the track with fire in the engine compartment. Seven cars were involved in the wreck, including Matt Kenseth, who finished 36th in his first race of the season. Byron was shaken but otherwise unhurt after the multi-car wreck.
Even after the incident with Blaney, Larson continued, and he took on fresh rubber under the final caution and charged through the pack to finish in fourth place. Harvick gained another win, edging Martin Truex Jr. on the second to last lap. Kevin won his second straight race and his fifth in 12 starts this season, Harvick beat Truex to the finish line by .390 seconds. Joey Logano took third. Denny Hamlin finished behind Larson for a top 5 finish.
“And, it’s definitely good to show that Chevy has a lot of speed, at least in the No. 42 team. So we’ll just keep working hard and try to get as fast as the No. 4.” Larson stated at the end of the race. “Blaney was side-drafting really hard, and I was as high as I could get, and we made contact, whatever, and we had a bunch of damage,” said Larson, who won the second stage and led a race-high 101 laps to Harvick’s 79. “So I hate that we didn’t turn today into a win, but it’s satisfying to see how much speed our car had tonight."
Paul Menard, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch completed the top 10. Kyle Busch retained the series lead by 12 points over Logano in second place and 19 over Harvick in third. Brad Keselowski (14th on Saturday) is a distant fourth, 107 points back.
All-Star Race - May 19th in Charlotte for the $1 Million Dollar prize with no worries about points
NASCAR announced that the All-Star Race would consist of restrictor plates at the 1.5 mile track. This will reduce the horsepower, trying to tighten the competition. Cars also had a splitter that was used in the 2014 rules package, a 6” spoiler with two extensions measuring 12 inches wide, and manufacturer specific air ducts designed to minimize the advantage of lead cars in clean air.
The race was scheduled for four stages. Stage 1 was scheduled to end at Lap 30, Stage 2 at Lap 50, Stage 3 at Lap 70, and a final shootout that ended at Lap 80. Only green-flag laps would count in the final stage.
“The All-Star Race has a long history of edginess and innovation. We want to challenge drivers, spark on-track action and create the best show for the fans,” said Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. “This race has always been a proving ground for some of the best innovations in our sport, from running under the lights to stage racing and double-file restarts. It’s the perfect opportunity to try something different, and with a 10-lap shootout for a million dollars, expect the unexpected on May 19.”
This year’s distance was 10 laps longer than the 2017 edition. Unlike previous formats, there were no mandated pit stops, no choice of alternate tire compounds, no eliminations and no inversions of the running order.
Eligibility for this year’s All-Star field remained largely unchanged. Drivers who have already qualified for an All-Star berth, with their basis for eligibility:
• Monster Energy Series race winners in 2017 and 2018 to date: Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr.
• Former All-Star Race winners who are competing full-time: Jamie McMurray.
• Series champions who are not otherwise eligible: None.
• The three stage winners in the Monster Energy Open qualifying race
• The winner of the fan vote.
Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR All-Star Race, the second in his career. Harvick had the strongest car in the field. Leading every lap of the final 10-lap segment of the scheduled 80-lap event, Harvick finished .325 seconds ahead of Suarez, who came close to clearing Harvick off the second corner after the final restart but didn’t have enough room to slide up in front.
Larson led a total of 6 laps. Larson was leading when Harvick passed Larson for the top spot to win the second stage.
Down to two laps and the caution came out after Logano and Larson made contact and Larson went spinning into the grass. Larson and Logano were battling for fourth when Larson edged him into the wall. After he came off the wall, Logano turned Larson into the grass. Larson took the blame for the first part of the accident.
"He shouldn't have fenced me," Logano said. "I tried to be as much in the gas as I could, and I got really tight," Larson said. "I tried to bail, and I think he tried to leave me as much room as he could, and he got into the wall and got mad at me and retaliated. It is what it is. Neither of us were going to win, but ... it's whatever." "I mean, I put myself in that spot," Larson said. "He maybe over-exaggerated a little bit, but yeah, I put myself in that spot."
Logano was slightly coy when asked if it was pure retaliation. "I got all tangled up off the wall, and I'm loose, and I'm sideways here and there -- and there he is," Logano said. "What do you want me to do?" "After he fenced me, I bounced off, and he happened to be there," Logano said. "He probably shouldn't have fenced me."
Like Larson, Logano smiled and chuckled as he gave his interview.
A six-car wreck that started in the middle Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 75 during the first attempt at overtime at the end of Stage 3 eliminated the strong cars of Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski, both of whom led laps in the event. Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer were among those involved in the eight-car wreck when Truex spun in Turn 4, forcing Kurt Busch into the wall, where it got struck by brother Kyle Busch’s. Keselowski took heavy damage in the wreck and was moved to the garage area. Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Matt Kenseth were also involved in the melee. Truex, Keselowski, Bowyer and Kurt Busch suffered too much damage to continue.
Kyle Larson finished 7 after starting 16th.
Love this interview of Cash Bowyer and Owen Larson at Charlotte Motor Speedway!
Coca-Cola 600 - May 27th NASCAR stayed in Charlotte
600 miles/400 laps on a 1.5 mile quad oval track.
Larson has had 9 starts at Charlotte, a track with no wins, but 1 top 5 and 3 top 10 finishes. Larson has led only 20 of his completed 3073 laps with an average start of 23.1 and an average finish of 18.7.
Larson started 11th after qualifying and was 9th in the first practice and 2nd in the second practice. Larson was able to stay up in the front of the field for the majority of the race.
There were three drivers that finished in the top 10 at Charlotte that had major problems, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson. All three were involved in accidents but avoided major damage to their cars. It was a great recovery for Larson since his accident occurred in the second half of the race with little time for a recovery, yet Larson pulled off a 7th place finish.
“I’m bummed I gave up some track position when I got into the wall, but I was glad to see our team stay with it and come back for a top 10 finish,” Larson commented. Larson spun in Turn 2 during lap 272. Larson tried to run his car up on the high lane and he just got loose. There was smoke in the car and Larson managed to drive without hitting the wall and just spun it out.
Throughout the race, Larson’s pit crew members were dealing with vibrations in the rear of the car – at times the car would wheel jump.
Kyle Busch was the dominant driver and winner of the Coca-Cola 600 and, by winning, was able to secure a win at every track where he has raced. Second place runner up was Martin Truex Jr.
Kyle Busch dominated this race from start to finish taking both stage wins and the final checkered flag. He led 377 out of the 600 laps and extended his series points lead to 67 over Joey Logano.
Larson went on to finish his day with a top 10 finish, 7th place, earning him another 46 points.
Pocono - June 3rd, The Tricky Triangle for the Pocono 400
Pocono is a 2.5 mile tri-oval, 400 miles or 160 laps. Larson holds the track qualifying record in 2014 at a speed of 183.43. Crew chiefs struggle with this track as it has three different turns and usually have long green flag laps.
Larson has 8 starts at this track with an average finish of 11.6; he has led 66 out of his 1246 laps run at this track and has one pole position.
Larson driving the DC Solar Chevy qualified 13th.
Martin Truex held off Larson to win the Pocono 400. Kyle Larson had his hands full in the final laps as he had to hold off Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for the second position behind Martin Truex Jr. Larson was able to maintain a second place finish with aggressive restarts; he often went three-wide where other drivers were not willing to try. Truex gained momentum and moved away from Larson on the final run partially due to the advantage of clean air and Larson's disadvantage of fighting off the two statistically best drivers of the year.
With old tires, Larson had to be perfect on three restarts over the last 16 laps at Pocono Raceway.
Larson earned his second top five in three races and just his third since the April 16 race at Bristol, where he finished second.
Larson and his crew have been consistently the highest performing Chevrolet in a year when Chevy teams are getting acclimated to the new Camaro model. Larson was the highest-placing Chevy driver Sunday with Johnson next in eighth.
“I felt like my car today was kind of as good as it’s been all year,” Larson said. “I feel like the Hendrick (Motorsports) guys have definitely gotten better, as well as (Richard Childress Racing) guys. But I feel like I’ve kind of just been a step behind (Busch, Truex and Harvick).
During a debris caution with 20 laps to go, Larson stayed out with Martin Truex Jr., Harvick and Elliot while the rest of the leaders went to pit road.
Larson succeeded, managing to hold off Kyle Busch, who had newer tires, to place second, earning his third runner-up result of the season.
“Was happy about that because I felt like obviously we were at a little bit of a disadvantage on tires there, but the track position overcame that,” Larson said. “But I felt like if I didn’t have a good restart on any one of those, I would have fell back outside the top five from those guys on fresher tires. Happy we finished second but needed a lot more to kind of compete with the three guys that ran up front all day.”
It seems that Harvick had the most power down the straightaways.
With a second place finish Larson is 10th in points; 112 behind the leader Kevin Harvick. Larson was able to gain some stage points by finishing 8th in stage 1 and 6th in stage 2.
“We weren’t quite as fast as what I thought we’d be after practice,” Larson said. “I ran probably sixth or seventh all day long and finished second."
Michigan - June 10
Larson heads to Michigan International Speedway, the 2-mile track where Larson has won three Cup races and his first win. Larson comes into Sunday’s race with four consecutive top-10 finishes, including his runner-up result last weekend at Pocono.
He will be looking to earn his first victory since last year’s regular-season finale at Richmond. He enters this weekend at Michigan having won the past three Cup races there. He’s been talked about as the driver who could have the best chance of breaking into the club of Harvick, Busch and Truex.
“I hadn’t really thought about Michigan yet,” Larson said. “But yeah, I’m excited to go there off of three wins in a row. … For whatever reason, we’ve been fast there. We actually weren’t that fast the last one we had, but we were able to have some good restarts at the end. “Hopefully we can go and have our car as competitive as it was the first two times and try and get a fourth win.”
Harvick was complimentary of Larson on Tuesday night on his “Happy Hours” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“The best young driver in Cup right now is Kyle Larson by a landslide,’’ Harvick said. “He’s carrying a slower car and getting great results with it and he does it by just sheer talent. … He’s the best raw talented driver, and I’ve said this on this show before, that I think has come along since Jeff Gordon.’’
There will be no Did You Know this week due to the length of this article. It will return next week.
Just added – there will be a quiz at the end of the season and the winner will receive a Kyle Larson Hero Card – Details will be posted closer to the end of the season.
I would like to end this week’s column with two posts from Twitter – the first one is a warning from Chip Ganassi Racing alerting fans that there is a scam going on with Kyle Larson’s Facebook account and text messages. There is no Kyle Larson Foundation at this time, please be careful if you are contacted.
Closing with Kudos to Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin: Larson and Hamlin did a very good deed over the weekend outside of racing. They were leaving a Go-Kart race on Saturday night and Larson and Hamlin noticed a minivan pulled over on the side of the road. They stopped to help instead of just driving off.
“They were out of fuel, so all we did was really just turn around and go get a fuel jug from the go-kart track, cruise up and put a couple of gallons in their car and sent them on their way and led them to a nearby gas station.” Larson said. “It was cool to help out. They had a little daughter, so we just wanted to make sure that they were safe, because I think they called that corner “Dead Man’s Corner, so yeah, we didn’t want to leave them stranded there.”
Well, the next time I need help on the road I hope the tag team of Larson and Hamlin will come to my rescue. How cool would that be? From shoveling snow to helping a stranded family, I say – kudos to you Denny and Kyle – way to go!
Thank you for reading and following me. I hope as much as you do that we see Kyle in Winner’s Circle in Michigan this upcoming weekend; as my driver he is due!!!
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
Shop here now for new NASCAR gear!
April 29th, 2018
Kyle Larson Collects Into a Wreck / DNF
Talladega: everyone’s dream of winning – everyone’s nightmare of mayhem and a “Big One” happening at any time. Experience is huge - driving 188 laps or 500 miles to take the checkered flag. Kyle Larson will have to hold on to that dream for another year as his 2018 run ended too quickly as he was caught up in a wreck at Lap 72.
Larson was sitting in the 10 position as the green flag waved. The race was divided into 3 stages. Stage 1 and 2 were 55 laps and the 3rd and final stage was 78 laps. Pit road speed was a mere 55 mph – this is a very rapid drop in speed from an average of 190-200 down to 55 while trying not to receive a speeding penalty. Gas mileage range was 46-50 laps.
Jamie McMurray had a horrible crash in the first practice; he went airborne and did 6½ violent barrel rolls down the backstretch before his car came to a halt. McMurray was able to exit on his own accord unhurt. His car was estimated to be traveling at around 200 mph at the time of the crash.
McMurray lost control of his car after his left rear tire failed and was hit by Ryan Newman. The impact caused his car to go airborne. This is a real testament to NASCAR’s rigid safety measures to ensure the cars and drivers are safe.
That same afternoon NASCAR changed the rules in regards to the size of restrictor plate for the race. “It’s a safety issue.” said NASCAR spokesman Tom Bryant, “When race cars leave the racing surface, we will react.” The restrictor plates installed on the cars at the super-speedways limit the fuel flow. The size was decreased from 7/8 of an inch to 55/64 of an inch. This was a small change but will cut speeds by 3 mph and cut the horsepower by 12 to 14.
There are many strategies at Talladega including early Green Flag Pit Stops called by the manufacturer or teams to orchestrate a move to stay together for drafting purposes. You never want to pit alone unless necessary as you will not have the benefit of the draft exiting pit road.
David Ragan, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and Larson were drafting on the outside lane and it was not working for them; Larson fell back to 14th still following the back bumper of Johnson.
Lap 15 was a strategy move by the Gibbs drivers; all came in together for gas only.
Lap number 16, Larson managed to get up to the 4th position. Lap 23 Larson was doing some intense driving and was able to pass Bubba Wallace. At this time Brad Keselowski was fighting issues of his own; the temperature was rising as he had plastic covering part of his front opening. High engine temperatures can kill the engine.
Lap 22, Larson was able to gain the 3rd position. Chad Johnson had a different approach to this race. He made Larson’s car tighter than it was in the race at Daytona.
Larson on Lap 43 was very loose entering the pit. Larson was forced to change tires even though he did not lock them entering pit road. With 10 to go in the first stage, Larson was in 13th position as everyone just cycled around for their completed pit stops.
Keselowski wins Stage 1; Larson comes in 13th. As pit road opens, Larson comes in only to lose 1 position in the pits. Larson was down to 20th at lap 71.
At lap 72, the first caution was called as 6 cars were collected when Erik Jones drifted up into McMurray. Jones then turned into Trevor Bayne and the other four cars of Martin Truex, Jr., Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne and Larson had no place to go. Larson tried to escape the wreck but ended up hitting his teammate McMurray and then up into the inside wall.
Larson’s front right was mangled. Larson was able to drive onto pit road. His crew had a mere six minutes to repair the mangled steel, put tires on and get him out. However, time ran out and Larson collected a DNF at Talladega. Larson commented that stage 1 was uneventful for him but he was ready to race aggressively during stage 2. An unfortunate ending of Larson’s day.
The race continued as everyone was anticipating a “big one” to happen on the last laps. Johnson did bring out the caution in a 14 car melee when his car broke in the middle of a pack. Johnson was able to continue the race. The final laps were uneventful as Joey Logano led the final 42. Late race passing is known to cause a caution or two, but not this time. Logano celebrated in Victory Lane as a family; his wife Brittany Logano and new son Hudson Logano joined in the celebration of this first win in 2018.
Due to Larson’s early exit from the race, he now sits in 11th place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Series, 167 points behind series leader Kyle Busch.
This week’s Did You Know?
In late June 2012, Larson made his debut in NASCAR's national touring series, driving the No. 4 for Turner Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series event at Kentucky Speedway; he finished in the top ten in his first race in the series.
Larson’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was the 2013 Bank of America 500 race in Charlotte.
Next stop Dover and Miles. Dover is a 1 mile oval with 24 degree banking in the turns and 9 degree banking on the straightaways. The Sunday race will consist of 400 laps/400 miles. In the 2017 Spring race Larson came in second behind Johnson – both are winless in 2018.
In the 2017 Fall race Larson earned another top 5, finishing 5th. The Monster Mile is concrete. Larson is due to win at this track as he has 8 starts with an average finish of 7.9, 4 top 5’s and 6 top 10’s. He has led a total of 463 laps out of 3205 ran. His average start is 9.6. But watch out Larson as Miles may be out to get you or will he hold you in his hand after the checkered flag waves?
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
April 21st, 2018
Saturday under the lights. Bumping and trading paint between teammates – Jamie McMurray vs Kyle Larson
The ninth race of the season took place on Saturday, April 21 under the lights at the Toyota Owners 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway. It was a 400 mile/300 lap race with stages 1 and 2 consisting of 100 laps each and the final 3rd stage of 200 laps. Pit road speed was 45 mph and their average fuel window was 110-120 laps.
The starting lineup based on qualifying was Martin Truex, Jr. taking the pole/starting low and Chase Elliott starting second taking the high groove. Kyle Larson started 5th driving his Capital One Camaro.
Larson had the starting speed; he was able to jump to 2nd on the 2nd lap following Truex in the lead with Joey Logano following him.
Lap 9, Larson goes up and Logano passes him, followed by Elliott. Larson was losing the momentum that he had going for him.
By the 20th lap Larson fell to 6th. He was too free. Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola were able to easily pass Larson by the 49th lap. Logano took Stage #1.
During the stage 1 pit, Larson had an uncontrolled tire; he had to start Stage 2 back, beginning 17th but still on the lead lap.
Larson remained consistent during Stage 2.
Lap 205 Larson, under yellow, pitted for tires, fuel and more wedge adjustments. He reported that he felt better than before. He restarted 15th. Lap 237, Larson reported that he was a little looser this run than the last.
Lap 270 with 130 to go Larson short pitted for tire, fuel and an adjustment. That brought everyone behind him to come in. With 125 laps to go Larson managed to gain the 6th position, 1 lap down. Pitting before everyone else seemed to work for Larson as he was eventually able to move up to 5th.
With 67 laps to go, Larson had a big wiggle; his back tire was not gripping. The final 40 laps were filled with cautions and short runs.
Caution, with 47 laps to go as Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ryan Blaney and Cole Whitt got a little tangled up. Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Jones and Daniel Suarez stayed out to get the wave around. Larson started in the 17th position.
Larson went up towards the inside wall, almost kissed the wall but managed not to make contact – great save. William Byron, Elliott and Brad Keselowski were going at each other 3 wide. McMurray touched the wall, Ryan Newman was smoking with 33 to go. Caution came out for Newman. Newman behind the wall at lap 367, Larson will get the free pass.
McMurray short track racing temper flew, he abruptly drove up alongside teammate Larson and as if to send him a message bumped Larson for no apparent reason. McMurray was unhappy with Larson. The conflict seemed to have stemmed from the aftermath of Lap 367 mix-up, when Kurt Busch crowded McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet into Turn 2’s outside wall. McMurray slowed, Newman piled in and Larson took evasive action behind him.
Larson was heard on the radio, “I got damage on my left side from him.” Commentary on social media and the live broadcast were all commenting how the Monday meeting at Ganassi should be interesting with McMurray and Larson. Everyone thought McMurray was upset with Larson, but no one knew why.
During after the race interview McMurray was questioned if anything was going on between him and Larson. McMurray’s only response was, “Nothing”. Larson and crew thought McMurray could have been upset about being involved with the accident that brought out the caution, but Larson did not have anything to do with the accident or direct contact with McMurray.
Larson’s response, “Jamie was, I guess, upset with me but I’m sure he’s just frustrated with that whole lap in general because he was in the lucky dog position and then pretty much got his car destroyed. I think he was just frustrated over the whole thing.” Larson was not sure what McMurray was mad about.
McMurray reported on the radio, “My car’s all f***** up.” He had a flat left rear and went to the pits for repairs after hitting the wall hard.
Lap 374 Larson pitted under yellow for tires, fuel and slight repairs to the fender; restarts position 18. Larson lost the lap he had regained when repairs on pit road took longer than expected.
But he was the beneficiary again on the next-to-last caution, putting him in a position to log his fifth top-10 finish of the year.
Restart with 6 laps to go. Track position is more important than tires; Larson did not have a chance of winning starting in the 13th position. His hope was to pass a couple of cars for a top 10 finish.
Kyle Busch took the checkered flag with the following rounding out the top 10 – Elliott, Hamlin, Logano, Harvick, Johnson, Larson, Keselowski, Bowyer, and Suarez. Kyle Busch took three in a row.
Larson is 10th place in the standings, 136 points down from the leader Kyle Busch. Larson still has yet to obtain any stage wins or playoff points.
Future pit crew and driver? Tanner Kahne and Owen Larson having some fun…
- Owen Larson might now only be interested in racing and cars. Did you know he is a pro at golf? Can’t wait for a round with his dad…
- Larson made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at the 2012 UNOH 225, which was won by James Buescher.
- Larson was born under the zodiac sign of Leo, born on July 31st.
This week brings us to “Dega” baby. Talladega is a 2.66 mile tri-oval; the longest track in NASCAR. The race will be 500.1 miles or 188 laps. The uniqueness of Talladega is that it brings out a lot of wrecks. 26 cars failed to finish last fall and the fans refer to this as waiting for the “Big One” to happen.
Will the race end of as a crap shoot? It is a restrictor plate race where cars usually follow in packs running at 200 mph. One mistake can cause a multi-car wreck even from the most innocent drivers. This can change the whole dynamics of the race and eventually the outcome. A fan can’t take their eyes off the track for a second as they may miss their driver going from 1st to a piece of crinkled metal.
Larson has had 8 starts at this track with 2 top 5 finishes and 3 top 10. Larson has led only 9 laps out of 1367. His average start is 23.5 and average finish is 19. Will this be his week to throw those stats away and finish #1? Stayed tuned for my next article to discuss the highlights of the race.
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
April 15-16, 2018
Feeling like “always the bridesmaid and not the bride”; disappointed with a second place finish as Kyle Busch crosses the finish line first after a bump and run with Larson, even though Larson had a dominant run and led the most laps.
Rain, sleet, snow delayed the finish of the Bristol race until Monday, but nothing kept the drivers from putting on one heck of a race.
Kyle Larson qualified sixth during qualifying on Friday driving his new McDonald’s Camaro at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Larson then set the tone of the race with his first practice run on Saturday. He topped his speed with an average lap of 14.874 seconds or 129.004 mph edging off Martin Truex Jr with his run of 14.880 or 128.952 mph. Larson tried the upper, second groove during the practice while completing 50 laps. An application of PJ1 compound was placed on the track in hopes of increasing the grip due to cool weather conditions.
Late in Stage 1, there were moments of the usual Bristol bumping as Ryan Blaney was caught up in a wreck that left his car in shambles after leading 99 laps of the first 119. The crash took place in turn three when Chris Buescher and Trevor Bayne were fighting to stay on the lead lap and got tangled up in front of Blaney, leaving him no space or time to go around.
Larson found his mark and groove on the track before NASCAR waited an hour to, once again, postpone the race due to rain. The track was slick due to the coldness and weather conditions but Larson found the speed in his car. “It’s hard to get a rhythm with all the rain and stuff and then getting out of your car and getting back in,” Larson said.
Larson did also comment that he felt that there was only a small bottom line that had some grip.
Larson led 74 laps when the race was stopped and postponed on Lap 204, just 46 laps from it becoming official. Heavy rain postponed Sunday’s race until Monday with Larson in front. NASCAR halted the race three times Sunday due to the weather; then decided to postpone it.
On Monday, the race was delayed for about a half an hour, as well, due to some passing rain and sleet in the area. The drivers and crew really got their extra workout – in and out of the car, covers on, covers off.
Cars were allowed to pit before the restart of the race, but Larson chose not to pit before the delayed race went green. Larson had 53 laps on his tires. Larson was able to take the lead on the restart of the race with Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson following him a few seconds behind. Larson built a good lead but his tire grip was not strong which allowed Brad Keselowski to pass him. Keselowski was running on 2 new tires and moved up 11 spots to take the green-white-checkered flag for Stage 2 away from Larson.
Keselowski battled with Kyle Busch for several laps before Larson came through to take the lead. The lead time was kept at a minimum when Larson made contact with Ryan Newman and went spinning. Larson didn’t have much damage as he held control of his car and saved it but fell to sixth place. Larson was coming down as Newman’s car was in the way bringing out yet another caution.
Keselowski at the start of the race seemed to have the car to beat as he won both Stage 1 on Sunday and Stage 2 on Monday. However, Keselowski hit the wall with 30 laps to go bringing out the 13th caution of the race. Something broke in his suspension and he lost a tire – a caution was called. The caution allowed Kyle Busch to come down pit lane and get a fresh set of tires. This happened when Larson had a 5 second lead over the rest of the cars and when Kyle Busch was about to come to pit road with tire problems. Larson and Kyle Busch both pitted. Larson exited pit road first and Kyle Busch in second.
Larson did win the restart and took the lead only to run into lap traffic which allowed Kyle Busch to catch up. Larson’s car seemed to work anywhere on the track but he seemed to like the bottom of the racetrack.
Larson, Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr battled the last of the laps, racing side by side as they shuffled for first. Larson tried to hold off Busch with Stenhouse not far behind, but Kyle Busch was able to pass Stenhouse on Lap 485 and then took off to catch Larson.
Kyle Busch knew he had to make a move to hold off Larson so he went down in the corner in attempts of passing the race leader Larson and ever so gently bumped Larson and moved Larson up the track with 6 laps to go. Busch drove underneath for the lead. Larson somehow managed to save his car and miraculously did not hit anything. WOW!
Kyle Busch took off and pulled away to cross the finish line first but not after Larson tried desperately to catch him. A very disappointing and devastating finish for Larson after leading the most laps and having a few saves with his car.
It was a heartbreaker for Larson, his crew and his fans as a first win of the season, as well as, a first win at Bristol was almost his. “I hate that I didn’t win”, Larson, who was very despondent, stated after exiting his car. “I feel like every time I race here I almost get a win. I’ve been beat by Kyle about every time I race here too, so that gets frustrating after a while”.
The candy man, Kyle Busch driver of the Skittles car, stood on his car taking his winning bow as the snow started to fall. This is a back to back win for Busch as he also took the checkered flag at Texas last weekend. Larson came in with a frustrated second place finish and third was Jimmie Johnson with his only top five finish for the season. Rounding off the top 5 were Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Alex Bowman.
Kyle Busch’s comments on the race: "When it comes down to the end, its crunch time and you've got to go," Busch said. "I wasn't sure if I made my move too soon. I thought so, but our car was fast enough that Larson never had a shot to get back to us to repay the favor."
There was a brief moment of excitement for the #43 car of Darrell “Bubba” Wallace as he was able to pass and take the lead only for Busch to gain speed and pass Wallace.
The average rate of speed with all yellow flag cautions was 59 miles per hour, 8 leaders. Larson led 200 out of the 500 laps while Kyle Busch led 117.
We now head to Richmond, Virginia, with Larson in 9th place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings with 249 points; 116 points behind the leader Kyle Busch.
Richmond is a .75 mile D-shaped oval with banking in the turns of 14 degrees and front stretch of 8 degrees with the back stretch of 2 degrees. It will be a 300 mile race or 400 laps. The track is wider than other short tracks which enables the drivers to move around more freely and allows for more passing opportunities without having to bump someone out of the way. The winner of the 2017 April race was Joey Logano and the fall race was Larson. Can Larson keep the momentum going for 2 straight wins at Richmond?
Larson has 8 starts at Richmond; his average finish is 10.4 with 1 win and 2 top 5s and 2 tops 10s.
This week’s Did You Know….
Larson, in June of 2017, ran at least 28 races in one month.
Larson is active in an intense league along with fellow NASCAR drivers Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Michael Waltrip and Ty Dillon. Follow him or purchase some attire from their pro shop. http://thegolfguystour.com
If Kyle Larson could be a star in any other sport it would be golfing.
That is it for this week and tune in Saturday night to see if Larson can keep the win streak going at Richmond.
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
Tweet 1: One heck of a save by Larson after getting into Newman
Tweet 2: Owen Larson and Cash Bowyer having fun at Bristol – no bumping and banging for them – just silly faces.
Tweet 3: Larson not only took second in the Bristol Race; he took second in the The Golf Guys Tour and took home this trophy.
April 8, 2018
Three times is usually a charm, but not in NASCAR. Kyle Larson's #42 car failed pre-race inspection three times at Texas Speedway’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race last Sunday sending him to the rear of the field. NASCAR called the penalty after the #42 did not pass the new optical scanning station. Car chief David Bryant was suspended for that race.
Larson was initially starting 10th after qualifying was cancelled due to lightning in the area. The starting field was decided by their Round 1 practicing results. 37 cars were on the starting grid.
It was a cold day and the cars were using low air pressure. Running on low pressure tires can cause problems. Under-inflated tires create more friction and more heat which can lead to bad handling. NASCAR has rules about weekly tire pressures.
Lap 13, Larson was able to move his way up to 20th. On Lap 15, Larson was able to move up to 15th; he was the biggest mover in the race thus far.
Larson pitted Lap 43; an adjustment was made as Larson’s car was a little tight.
Lap 66, Larson was in the 7th position; 11.26 seconds back from the leader.
Stage 1 ended under caution. Larson was in 5th.
Lap 92, Larson wiggled, too loose. Fell back to 4th from 2nd. Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch made their moves and passed Larson. Larson seemed to be loose, but good on the long run. Joey Logano also was able to pass Larson.
Larson cuts down the front right tire in turn 2 and Larson crashed hard into the wall on Lap 126. The cords and the thread came apart and went into the hood. Larson’s only comment as you could hear him on the radio was, “lovely”. Larson was able to climb out of his car but fans and crews could see the flames erupting from the right side of the car. Larson leaned against the car momentarily before the safety crews reached him. He was okay. This was exactly the same way he ended his last race in Texas.
Larson was released from the on-track care center. He was interviewed and stated he was tight. He mentioned that he wanted to get by Logano; his car went free turning into the corner and his day was cut short. “I’m OK, thankfully. Thanks to NASCAR and their safety because that was a huge hit,” Larson said. “Just hate that I blew a right-front (tire) there. I was pretty tight but didn’t really expect to blow a right front. Just needed to get by Joey (Logano) there and I felt like I was one of the faster cars out there,” Larson said. “So, felt like we could have had a shot at the end of the race, but it was cut short.”
Kyle Busch found Victory Lane for the first time this year in an outlasting run with Kevin Harvick with a close margin of .300 seconds.
It is now on to Bristol Baby…Larson started in the pole position in the 2017 April race at Bristol and finished 6th, but led a race best of 202 laps. Sunday’s race is 500 laps on a mile and half track or 266.50 miles. Bristol is unique with its concrete layout and steep bankings. Bristol is a .533 mile oval with 24-28 degree bankings while the straightaways are 6-10 degrees.
Larson is winless at Bristol, but finished both races in the top 10. Larson favorites this track. His style of running the high line while being right up against the wall will work well for this multi groove track. This track is known for its bumping and banking and where tempers fly.
The news for the week was Larson announcing he will be driving for the 42 with McDonald’s as his sponsor.
This week’s Did You Know….
Kyle Larson’s Mom puts lady bug stickers on Kyle’s car as a good luck charm.
Kyle has never worked a 'real job' – all of his paychecks have come through racing.
Larson has never been to Italy, but would like to go because of the food. He likes Italian food.
Larson is addicted to his phone. He likes going through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
March 26, 2018
Auto Club 500/Fontana
The week started out untraditional for Kyle Larson. Larson was added to Auto Club Speedway's Walk of Fame. Larson came in style as he was driven to the ceremony in the speedway’s 1948 Chevrolet Woodie Wagon. There was a crowd of his fans, cheering him on as the home state's 2017 race winner. During the Q and A with the fans, one fan shouted out, “Hey, why don’t you do us all a favor and take (Kevin) Harvick out this week?” This one outburst seemed to foreshadow what would be the ultimate demise of Harvick going after his attempt to win 4 races in a row.
Larson started on the pole last year and led 110 laps; he took the lead in lap 197 and didn’t look back. He was the first driver to win the Cup race, the Xfinity race and the qualifying run in the same weekend at Auto Club. Larson dipped his footprints and gave an autograph in the cement surrounding his Walk of Fame plaque. Larson's three-year-old son, Owen added his own handprints next to his dad's.
“It’s pretty cool to be recognized and I’m glad to see a big fan turnout here,” Larson said at his Walk of Fame ceremony. “I’ve never done anything like this before. This is a track that's close to my home and means a lot to me," Larson said. "It's always good to be back in California. Getting the win here last year, you still come back with confidence, so hopefully, we can carry that confidence into a good finish."
At the Auto Club 500, Larson was going for his 5th straight 2-mile track win. Larson started the race 3rd in his DC Solar Camaro. The race was 400 miles/200 laps with no out-of-bounds on this wide track and a 44-48 lap fuel mile window.
During the opening laps, Larson was in the top 5 racing for the lead. At the end of lap 26, Kyle Busch was in the lead with Larson and Kevin Harvick racing very hard in positions 3 and 4, respectively. After the first set of green flag pit stops, Larson battled for third.
Over the radio, you can hear Larson talking to his pit crew stating that Harvick is on his door racing him so hard. Larson then went on to say, “he wants to run our door all the way around.” That is when Harvick makes contact with Larson. They were both tight against the wall and Harvick started to move down and bumped Larson. The number 4 slams into the wall and spins out of control. Caution is called. Heavy damage to Harvick’s #4 Busch Beer car. Both Harvick and Larson had to hit pit road for repairs. Larson escaped without major damage while Harvick had to hit pit road for the second time and was two laps down as they restart with 18 laps to go.
Larson did not do anything wrong –Harvick got loose; Harvick was unable to gather it and thus Harvick’s car came down the track and made contact. Harvick seemed to be going down and Larson was going up. Harvick was quoted, “just a weird spot there. When I went to pull down and I thought he was coming up and I pulled it back to the right and spun it out.” Larson was thankful he didn’t receive any additional damage in the incident for which Harvick took responsibility. Harvick’s car stayed in the race but Harvick ended up 9 laps down in 35th place.
Larson kept up with the leaders but was unable to gain enough speed to compete with Martin Truex, Jr. Truex was the race winner and Larson was the runner up.
After-race comments from Larson, “ We had a lot of weird issues like vibrations and stuff that made us have to restart in the back and we would have to go back forward," Larson said. "It always seemed like we would get to third or fourth and kind of stall out there.”
The standings showed Larson in 9th place with 174 points; 42 behind the leader Harvick.
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series moved on to Martinsville for the STP 500 and the dreams of winning the prestigious grandfather clock. Martinsville is the shortest track in the MENCS. The race is only 0.5626 miles; 500 laps equals 263 miles. It is known as the paperclip track or the ½ mile of Mayhem due to the number of cautions due to hard racing wrecks. The track is banked only 12° in the turns. The combination of long straightaways and flat, narrow turns makes hard braking going into turns and smooth acceleration exiting turns a must.
Unprecedented snow caused a delay in the race until Monday and the starting lineup would be decided by owner's points.
Since the race was postponed until Monday, how would Larson decide to spend his time? He didn't fly home but instead decided to stay and watch some Supercross racing action with a fellow dirt-track lover, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. However, due to the snow that fell on the satellite dish on top of the motor home, it was filled with snow and affecting the signal. No problem – get out a ladder and clean it off. The two managed to clean off their dish but then Stenhouse offered his services to other drivers via an ad on Twitter. They gained a couple of customers and in the end Denny Hamlin gave them a good review on Twitter for their good service.
The STP 500 was scheduled to start Monday late afternoon after the truck race that was also postponed. Larson started 7th and then fell to 12th by lap 17. Due to the snow, a competition caution was called on lap 50. Larson drove into pit row on the mandated caution 15th, complaining that his car was too tight. All throughout the race, Larson could not maintain the speed to pass. Larson finished 14th in Stage 1 and 12th in Stage 2. He was not happy with his car throughout the race.
Known as the tricky triangle this race only brought out the caution 4 times for a total of 33 laps. Larson ended the race in the top 20, finishing 16th. He did not lead any laps. Clint Bowyer won the race and had reason to celebrate hard and long. This win ended his drought since his last win in 2012.
After race comment by Larson, “Hard to be somewhat pleased with a 16th but probably one of the better/ stress-free Martinsville's I've had. Excited for the off weekend at home!”
Current standings show Larson still in the 9th position with 195 points but now 62 points behind the current leader, Kyle Busch.
NASCAR announced that four cars had one lug nut not secured in post-race inspection: The # 3 of Austin Dillon, #12 of Ryan Blaney, #34 of Michael McDowell and #42 of Kyle Larson. Crew chiefs Justin Alexander (No. 3 team), Jeremy Bullins (No. 12 team), Derrick Finley (No. 34 team) and Chad Johnston (No. 42 team) were fined $10,000 each.
With Easter this Sunday we face a non-race weekend.
This week's Did You Know?
- Kyle Larson likes country and classical rock.
- In 2014 Larson was the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year. He is coming off a career year, winning four times in the MENCS and racing to eight runner-up finishes. Larson set career bests last season in wins, poles (3), laps lead (1,352), top-five (15), and top-10 (20) finishes.
- Larson has a cameo appearance as a limo driver in the 2017 film Logan Lucky
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
Owen Larson had to congratulate Clint Bowyer after his win at Martinsville
March 11, 2018
Kyle Larson fades as the sun goes down in the hot desert
Kyle Larson had the speed last Friday sitting atop the first position for Friday’s opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice driving his Credit One Bank #42 Chevy. Larson ran a speed of 138.28 mph on the 1-mile track. He dropped down to 10th during the second practice and regained some speed in the third practice to finish 7th.
The #42 started 2nd next to Martin Truex, Jr in the front row. Larson was able to take the lead from Truex.
The first caution of the day came on lap 25 for a blown engine by Corey LaJoie. Larson’s pit selection positioned him with 2 empty pit boxes in front of his. This would make for easy outs. Larson was experiencing handling issues on the track. The first pit stop of the day his team gave him a chassis adjustment as his car was too tight. A 15.4 second pit stop for Larson, but Truex managed a quicker 14.7 stop causing Larson to come out second.
On lap 33 Larson was able to move from second to first by driving down the dog-leg of the track. That area is known as a great place to pass. However, a crew chief may not be happy with a driver; the layout could set them up for damages. Phoenix is a tough track to pass on so many drivers take advantage of the dog-leg. Drivers at Phoenix tend to run off the corners where they seem to get more air moving off their nose. In turns 1 and 2, a driver needs their brakes to follow the narrow lines, and then a driver can slam down on the apron of the dog-leg and dip down for passing. Turn 3 of the track is a flat entry with sweeping corners.
Lap 44: Kyle Larson held a 1.4-second lead over Kyle Busch. Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five.
In the first 50 laps, Larson led all but 3. Larson and crew seem to have their arms wrapped around the new Camaro and set up better than the other Chevy drivers. Larson gained his experience from the dirt track on how and when to search around the track for passing opportunities and the low or high line to take.
Lap 56: NEW LEADER -- Kyle Busch took away the lead from Kyle Larson.
At the end of Stage One Larson came in 3rd as Denny Hamlin wriggles a bit. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick captured the first and second spots respectively.
During the pit stops between the end of Stage 1 and the beginning of Stage 2; Larson’s crew managed a 16.4 pit stop while Kyle Busch’s team pulled off a 15.1 stop. Larson lost 3 spots.
Lap 98 Jimmie Johnson took over the ninth spot passing Larson and then Clint Bowyer also made a pass on Larson removing him from the top 10.
Lap 116 during Stage 2 seemed to be a struggle for Larson as he fell to the 12th spot.
Larson was communicating to his crew that he was bad on brakes and needed braking power. The track temperature was 108 degrees. That made Phoenix a hot slick track. Drivers run their cars on aerodynamics vs heat. How much air is on the brakes – crew members need to take some tape off to give the brakes more air. Even though Phoenix is a shorter track, aerodynamics still play a role.
Lap 121, Larson’s car was shaking; he didn’t have a flat but got sideways. A caution came out as Larson spun but was able to hold on and control his car after almost slamming into the outside wall. His car was wheel hopping. Wheel hop is when the brake bias is not properly set; then when the driver applies the brakes, the nose goes down and the rear wheels come up off the ground. And they literally hop and skip into the corner. Before he spun Larson was complaining about the wheels shaking. He was 20th after the caution. Brad Keselowski took two tires at the restart.
With 4 left to go in Stage 2, a caution came out for Chris Buescher. Larson gained two spots as the crew for Denny Hamlin drops the jack and Alex Bowman was too fast entering the pits.
Kurt Busch was the winner of Stage 2. Larson fell to 20th with a car that lost speed.
With 180 laps to go Harvick took the lead. With 120 laps to go, Larson was in 15th place. Larson gained 1 spot with 118 laps to go during a 4 tire stop. Kyle Busch raced past Larson as Larson kept slipping back. With 94 to go Larson was loose and fell to 20th.
With the battle focusing on the lead between Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Chase Elliott, Larson remained toward the middle of the pack never being able to regain speed after his spin.
As the checkered flag waved for the third time in a row for Harvick, Larson finished 18th, leading 54 laps in the beginning of the race. Harvick led 38 laps, a distant third behind Busch’s 128 and Kyle Larson’s 54. Harvick beat Kyle Busch to the finish line by .774 seconds to win his third straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series of the season, the first time a driver has strung three victories together since Joey Logano accomplished the feat in 2015. Harvick came to Phoenix with a midweek penalty for issues with the roof braces and right-rear side skirt extension after last week’s race-winning car from Las Vegas.
Larson is in 8th place in the Monster Cup standings; 37 points down from the leader Harvick. Larson has 1 top-5 finish and 2 top-10 finishes this year after 4 races.
We now move on to Fontana, California this week. It's a Kyle Larson California homecoming as he goes back home to Elk Grove as the defending winner. Fontana is a 2 mile D-shaped oval. The race is 400 miles/200 laps. Larson is going after his fourth straight win at a 2-mile track – can he do it? He found the speed last year…
This week’s NASCAR Schedule:
Friday, March 16
2:35-3:25 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series first practice, FS1
7:15 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying, FS1
Saturday, March 17
12:35-1:25p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series second practice, FS1
3:30-4:20 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, FS1
Sunday, March 18
3:30 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 (200 laps, 400 miles), FOX
Larson discussed racing in 2017 in Fontana, “It is a fun racetrack. It’s super wide, really slick, lots of lanes to choose from. The seams play a big part in finding grip.”
During my weekly commentary on the week’s previous race, I usually comment on the antics of Owen Larson, Kyle’s son. This week was no different. While the cars were on pit row waiting for the National Anthem and those famous words of “Drivers, Start your Engines”, viewers and on-lookers saw Owen content sitting in his dad’s #42 Credit One Bank Camaro sipping on his dad’s water bottle that was in the car. Such a cutie!
Okay, now for this week’s segment of “Did You Know?”
Larson’s crew chief for the last two years is Chad Johnson. Johnson left Tony Stewart’s #14 car to come over to Chip Ganassi Racing in November of 2015 right before the start of the 2016 season.
Larson’s contract with Chip Ganassi allows him to run 25 open wheel races per year as long as they are not run the day before he has to be on the track for a NASCAR race, qualifying or practice. He slugs mud on the dirt track every chance he gets.
Larson, in 1999, at the age of 7, began racing.
In 2017, Larson collaborated on a children’s book entitled, Kyle Loves Racing. The story revolves around the true story of a young boy named Kyle Larson, who at a young age falls in love with racing. He begins his racing career at the age of 7 as a dirt track racer and then finds his ride in NASCAR. Kyle in the book talks about how he got started, the different types of cars and race tracks, but most importantly how not to give up and always chase your dreams.
That is all for this week - Let's Bring on Back-to-Back Wins at Fontana, California Kyle!!!
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
March 4, 2018
Kyle Larson races back-to-back races in Las Vegas and takes home the checkered flag in the Xfinity Race; First win as a Coke driver
Kyle Larson took the checkered flag in last Saturday’s Xfinity Boyd Gaming 300 race in Las Vegas driving the #42 DC Solar car, overcoming powerful winds and two late restarts. He earned his 9th Xfinity victory on the mile and a half track. He finished there in 2nd place in 2017.
Larson grabbed the lead in the opening lap and then led 142 out of 200 laps. He also went on to win Stage 2. Larson and crew were worried about his fuel level but Ryan Reed blew a tire with 16 laps to go bringing out a caution. Larson was thankful to see that yellow flag; without it he was set to run out of gas. Larson had an opportunity to refill and grab new tires on that pit stop. After pitting Larson was easily able to regain first place despite following Tyler Reddick out of the pits. Larson maintained that position after the final restart with seven laps to go to earn that win.
Larson was able to hold off second place finisher, rookie Christopher Bell by .881 seconds, followed by Justin Allgaier, Ryan Blaney and Elliott Sadler.
Larson and Bell are no strangers at the track. They are rivals in dirt-track racing and Bell took the win over Bell in last year’s Chili Bowl. Larson said after his win and his second Xfinity race of the season, “This race car is so fast. It was really fast last year, but you never really know, and this was my first time racing with this new body, and it performed well.”
There was a first in the winner’s circle, Owen Larson stood on top of the hood of his dad’s car celebrating the thrill of victory with his Coke bottle in his hand. This is the first year that Kyle Larson has been named a Coke driver and his first win as one as well.
Larson’s win on Saturday was only a building block for his weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Kyle Larson topped the leaderboard in Friday's first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 190.658 mph in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Consistency was the word on Sunday as Larson finished 3rd in Stage 1, Stage 2 as well as third overall in the Pennzoil 400 Monster Cup series race on Sunday – hoping for a future win as the Cup drivers return to Las Vegas in the fall.
“Coming back later in the year for a playoff race it’s nice to know that you’ve been fast here now the last two years and hopefully we can continue that,” Larson stated. Larson started out in the 5th position sitting behind Kevin Harvick, the pole sitter, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex, Jr.
Kevin Harvick dominated the field from pole to checkered flag to take his 100th win across all NASCAR national series and earning his 39th Cup win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Harvick is only the fourth driver in NASCAR history to win 100 races in the top three series.
As a hockey fan myself, I have to share that Larson also attended the Las Vegas Knights Hockey game on Friday, March 2nd along with his sponsors Credit One. He did not bring them good luck as the Knights lost to the Senators 4-5.
This week takes us to the second race out west, Phoenix. Phoenix is a 1 mile D-shaped oval. The race will consist of 312 laps/312 miles. Larson came in second in 2017 after starting in 4th and is looking for his first win at Phoenix.
Larson, who is from California will be inducted into the Auto Club Speedway’s Walk of Fame on March 16th as the winner of the 2017 Auto Club 400 in Fontana, CA. Larson swept the 2017 race weekend by winning the pole for the race on Friday and winning Saturday’s Xfinity Service King 300 race. He is the first driver to win both races and the Cup series pole in one weekend at Auto Club Speedway. The speedway began the Walk of Fame in 1998 after Jeff Gordon took the win at the inaugural 1997 NASCAR Cup event at Auto Club Speedway.
I have been writing articles since the first race of the season and have been reporting on the highlights of the races, but I would like to close each week with a little bit of factual information about Kyle Larson. I am sure you are following Kyle and his career due to several reasons – young driver, his sponsorship, his crew, his cuteness or to keep up with the charm of his son Owen Larson, but how many of you know the in’s and out’s?
Did you know?
- Kyle Larson was born July 31st, 1992,
- Larson’s middle name is Miyata (same as Owen’s).
- Larson was born in Sacramento and grew up in Elk Grove, CA.
- His parents are Janet and Mike Larson.
- Larson went to his first race at the age of 1 week old.
- Larson is engaged to Katelyn Sweet, the sister of the World of Outlaw driver, Brad Sweet.
- Their son Owen is 3 years old and he will become a big brother in May.
- Larson is 5’ 6” tall.
Standings after finishing at Las Vegas:
** Harvick was penalized 20 points by NASCAR and now falls down to 3rd place, from 1st. Harvick's rear window was flexing on the upper right-hand side during the race at Las Vegas and it has been confirmed that the rear window support braces did not keep the rear window glass rigid in all directions at all times as required. The SHR Ford was also found to have an unapproved right-side rocker panel extension.
That’s all for this week… I will add more fun facts about Larson as the season progresses. Happy Racing!!!
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
February 25, 2018
On a worn Atlanta track for the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Folds of Honor 500
Sunday started out to be a very iffy day for racing. NASCAR moved the start time up due to impending rain to hit the Atlanta area. Even with the time change, rain was upon Atlanta Motor Speedway and the drivers had some free time before the start of the race. What did Kyle Larson do with his time? He changed his hat from driver to father and turned on some movies and chilled with Owen Larson. In their motorhome, they kicked back and took in Coco and Ratatouille. However, the best part was making funny faces and enjoying good ‘ol father and son time as was posted on Larson’s twitter account.
Even during driver intros Owen was hanging out with his dad, sporting his spaceship raincoat, and number 42 First Data hat. Chatting with other drivers and walking out together. I have to admit those two are inseparable and so cute together.
Atlanta was a huge beginning for Larson last year. Were there expectations this year? In 2017 after Daytona, Larson had four straight top two finishes. Atlanta track is a rough track on tires and in need of repaving, but the drivers all seem to enjoy it. Last year, he took the high line and then went to the bottom and finished 2nd in 2017. What was his strategy this year?
Larson qualified in the 8th position with a speed of 183.49, a little more than a second behind the pole sitter, Kyle Busch with his qualifying speed of 184.652. By lap 12, Larson reached the 8th position then fell back to 14th stating his car was too tight.
A competition caution was called at lap 30 and Larson was in 13th place. On lap 46, Larson was still running low but not happy and needed a little adjustment. On lap 41 Larson came in for a scheduled pit stop, stating he was loose, did a quick chassis adjustment, 4 tires and a tank of gas. At the end of stage 1, Larson finished in 7th place. Larson remained consistent riding the low line waiting 10-15 laps and then moving on to the high line to save some tire wear.
At the conclusion of the 325 lap race, Larson fell one spot but remained in the top 10. Larson did not lead a lap but was able to earn 36 points, placing him in 13th place with 54 points, 35 points behind the leader, Joey Logano. Larson wanted to finish better, but his restarts were too tight and he was not aggressive in the short runs due to the tire wear. All in all, he had a good clean race with no major mistakes.
We now look forward to the West Coast Swing – Larson did amazingly well there last year with 2nd place finishes in Las Vegas and Phoenix and a win in Fontana. Vegas is a mile and a half track. There are the bumps on the track but Larson had two days of testing in the offseason. Larson, who appeared on the Morning Drive on Sirius Radio, discussed that during testing his car was comfortable over the bumps and he felt good about going there.
Larson is driving both in the Monster Cup and the Xfinity races in Vegas. He is allowed as a Monster Cup driver to drive 7 races in the Xfinity series. What is his attraction to driving in both series? More track time, getting out there, competing and his love of racing.
One of the discussion points of 2018 are the changes in the pits this year – 1 less man over the wall and NASCAR-issued heavier air guns are causing slower pit times this year across the board for all drivers. Pit road can lead to a win/lose situation for a driver and his team. Pit crews will be cut from 6 to 5 over the wall members.
These changes will significantly change the process and timing of each pit stop. The gas man has 96 lbs. to handle, while the tire man has to juggle 65 lbs. per each rimmed tire and the jackman has to maneuver a 25 lb. jack. During the offseason each team and crew chief brainstormed and practiced various techniques. Each team is only allowed 5 pit crew members over the wall.
This change was expected to add two seconds to a typical pit stop. Larson, during the Atlanta race, maintained the average pit stop time. Some other teams, including those of Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 team and Martin Truex Jr’s No. 78 team saw issues with the air gun not performing properly. Guns for these teams had to be swapped out during the race. Larson’s team did not experience any issues with their gun.
We will all have to watch these next three weeks to see if Larson can maintain his runs from last year or even improve to 2 or more wins. With the change to a Chevy Camaro, Larson does have work to do as these new cars are a handful for most of the Chevy drivers. It is still early in the season and it is still anyone’s Monster Cup to win!
The weekend schedule: All times are ET
Thursday, March 1
5:05-5:55 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series first practice
7:05-7:55 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice
Friday, March 2
2-2:55 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series first practice, FS1
3:05-3:55 p.m.: NASCAR Xfinity Series first practice, FS1
5:05-5:50 p.m.: NASCAR Xfinity Series final practice, FS1
6:05 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying, FS1
7:15 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying, FS1
9 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Stratosphere 200 (134 laps, 201 miles), FS1
Saturday, March 3
12-12:55 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series second practice, FS1
1:10 p.m.: NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying, FS1
2:30-3:20 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, FS1
4 p.m.: NASCAR Xfinity Series Boyd Gaming 300 (200 laps, 300 miles), FS1
Sunday, March 4
3:30 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube (267 laps, 400.5 miles), FOX
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel
February 18, 2018
Kyle Larson’s 2017 NASCAR Cup season ended with 4 wins and that brought bright hopes for the start of the 2018 racing season. Sunday brought the opening of the brand new season with the biggest race of the year - the 2018 Daytona 500. However, the tide came in and the tide went out for Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Chip Ganassi Credit One Chevy Camaro.
Larson's time in Daytona was not a stellar performance by any means and not the way he wanted to start the season off. On his Twitter feed, he stated, “Florida was rough for us this year… Can’t wait to hit the track again this Friday. Let’s get to Atlanta!! Time to get some good runs.” With that said, Larson did finish in the top 20 to the sold-out Daytona 500 crowd - finishing 19th to be exact; earning 18 points during the day and holding 20th in the 2018 standings.
Larson started from the back of the pack in a backup car. He was one of 8 cars that had to go to a backup car after the Can-Am Duels. He was able to work his way up front but never to the lead car. At the end of Stage 1, Erik Jones got loose to make a pass on the final stage and took several cars with him, including the number 42. He suffered minor damage and was able to return.
The Cup Series took on a new aerodynamic package this season; drivers were stating this resulted in a general lack of stability in traffic, leaving their crew chiefs to wonder which adjustments will put cars in the best shape to challenge for passes on Sunday without causing the Big One. Larson credited his crew for getting his backup car ready and, after a few practice runs, his car was much more stable in the draft.
Larson raced in The Clash where he finished 10th out of the 17th starters. He led one lap of that race. He made contact with Jimmie Johnson during the last lap of the Advance Auto Parts Clash and sent Johnson into the outside back stretch wall. Both of them, along with several other drivers, were taken out. Larson raced in the second of the Can-Am Duels and had a DNF, only finishing 11 laps. He also raced in the Xfinity race on Saturday and finished 29th with yet another DNF.
It was a busy time for Kyle Larson during the 2018 Speedweeks. After a weekend of practice for the Daytona 500 and the Advance Auto Parts Clash, Cup series drivers got two days off in their Speedweeks before the final push to Sunday’s “Great American Race”. He enjoyed some time in Disney. Owen Larson enjoyed meeting his favorite buddies Woody and Buzz.
On to Atlanta they go… Larson’s best race at Atlanta was last year where he finished 2nd after leading 7 laps. He has run 4 races there with an average finish of 15.50; and 2 top 10 finishes. There is still the whole season ahead of Larson and his race team and he once again will aim for that checkered flag.
Follow and chat with me here: @marngardel