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Bowyer's Darlington scheme honors Benny Parsons
RELATED: All the 2016 throwback paint schemes " Buy tickets " Vote now HScott Motorsports unveiled the throwback paint schemes that Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Chevrolet) and Michael Annett (No. 46 Chevrolet) will sport at Darlington Raceway for next week's Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Bowyer's car honors 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Benny Parsons. The paint scheme sponsored by 5-hour Energy features Parsons' name just below the net opening and photos of the racer on the hood. The scheme itself is a tribute to the L.G. DeWitt deep-orange with blue wheels ride from Parsons' championship season of 1973. Parsons compiled 21 premier series wins over a 21-year career. Parsons was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Parsons also transitioned into television work following his NASCAR career, commentating for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 65. Here it is! @ClintBowyer 's @5hourenergy throwback scheme for @TooToughToTame honoring Benny Parsons! #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/xDa9ugeiD9 — HScott Motorsports (@Team_HSM) August 27, 2016 Annett's car pays tribute to the logos of sponsor Pilot Flying J. Michael's No. 46 Chevrolet is throwing back to the 1970’s era @PilotFlyingJ logos and livery @TooToughToTame . pic.twitter.com/0wuBLJQVO8 — Michael Annett (@MichaelAnnett) August 26, 2016 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jeff Gordon won't drive No. 88 car at Michigan
RELATED: Dale Jr. offers rehab update on social media BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition remains undetermined. But if the series' most popular driver remains sidelined when the series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the Aug. 28 Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), it will be Alex Bowman and not Jeff Gordon handling the driving duties of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. Gordon , who made his fourth start for the team at Bristol Motor Speedway , will not be available due to a prior commitment, according to Hendrick officials. However, the four-time series champion will travel to Michigan to support the team on Sunday. Earnhardt is recovering from concussion-like symptoms that have kept him sidelined since July. The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol was the fifth race he's missed. Bowman drove for the team at Loudon, New Hampshire, following Earnhardt's initial diagnosis. Gordon took over the following week, and has competed at Indianapolis, Pocono and Watkins Glen prior to Bristol. Bowman, 23, finished 26th in his fill-in role for Earnhardt at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Gordon , meanwhile, has finishes of 13th, 27th, 14th and 11th, respectively, in his four starts with the team. . @JeffGordonWeb has prior commitment that won't allow him to be in Mich. for entire race wknd. @AlexBRacing to sub if @DaleJr isn't cleared. — Hendrick 88 Team (@Hendrick88Team) August 19, 2016 Happy to be on standby for @DaleJr and @TeamHendrick at @MISpeedway . Hopefully Dale is cleared but if not I'm ready to go! — Alex Bowman (@AlexBRacing) August 20, 2016 UPDATE: The 88 team does not expect to make an announcement for Michigan until Wednesday afternoon. We don’t expect to make an announcement regarding @MISpeedway before Wednesday afternoon. — Hendrick 88 Team (@Hendrick88Team) August 22, 2016 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NBC Sports throws it back at Darlington with Southern 500 coverage
STAMFORD, Conn. -- August 31, 2016 -- NBC Sports gears up for a throwback weekend of racing from Darlington highlighted by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on NBC and the XFINITY Series race Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC. NBC Sports joins Darlington Raceway in celebrating the sights and sounds of the 1975-1984 era with throwback themes integrated into this weekend's coverage. In addition to traditional graphics and historic logos, NASCAR on NBC's on-air team will dress in their best time period apparel. Throughout the weekend, NASCAR on NBC's pre-race set will be flanked by a series of old school cars from the decade. Music and footage from the era will also bring viewers in and out of commercial breaks. Race day coverage kicks off with a revamped version of Blake Shelton's NASCAR on NBC "Bringing Back the Sunshine" Open, full of racing moments spanning the track's incredible history. Legendary NASCAR broadcasters Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett return to the booth, alongside Dale Jarrett, to call a portion of the race. Squier adds his voice to a special pre-race feature on the storied Raceway. Pre-race coverage also includes a special three-car on-track preview of Darlington Raceway . In addition to Jeff Burton in the Toyota Camry on-track car, Kyle Petty will drive his father's famed 1979 No. 43 Championship race car alongside Dale Jarrett in fellow Hall of Famer Benny Parsons' No. 72 car. NBC SPORTS PRESENTS NASCAR SPRINT CUP RACING FROM DARLINGTON SUNDAY AT 6 P.M. ET NBC Sports begins its Sprint Cup coverage from "The Lady in Black" Friday with practice at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by final practice at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. An on-site edition of "NASCAR America" wraps up the day at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Saturday's coverage from Darlington Raceway includes "NASCAR America" at 1 p.m. ET followed by qualifying at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Sunday's race day coverage kicks off on NBCSN with NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET. NBC's coverage begins with "Countdown to Green" at 5:30 p.m. ET followed by race coverage at 6 p.m. ET. "NASCAR Victory Lap" at 11 p.m. ET wraps up the day. Race announcer Rick Allen calls this weekend's action alongside analysts Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton . Pre- and post-race coverage is handled by host Krista Voda, and analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett. Marty Snider, Mike Massaro, Dave Burns and Kelli Stavast report from pit road. Rutledge Wood, fresh off his journey to the Olympic Games in Rio, returns to bring viewers closer to the sights and sounds of the original paved superspeedway. XFINITY SERIES RACING RETURNS TO NBC SATURDAY AT 3:30 P.M. ET NBC Sports XFINITY coverage from "The Track Too Tough To Tame" begins Friday with practice at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by final practice at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Race day coverage begins with qualifying on 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN. NBC's XFINITY coverage begins with Countdown to Green at 3 p.m. ET followed by race coverage at 3:30 p.m. ET. NBC SPORTS PRESENTS "SOUTHERN SPEED: THE LEGEND OF DARLINGTON" TONIGHT AT 9 P.M. ET ON NBCSN Leading up to this weekend's live NASCAR action from Darlington Raceway , NBC Sports presents a new one-hour special created to take fans inside the storied history of "The Track Too Tough To Tame." Produced in partnership with NASCAR productions, "Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington" premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN, following a special 8 p.m. ET presentation of "NASCAR America." This morning's release previewing the special is available here . ARIC ALMIROLA & "THE KING" STAR IN THIS WEEK'S "PHONE A FAN" SOCIAL WEB VIDEO Aric Almirola and Richard Petty star in this week's new NASCAR on NBC "Phone a Fan" web video, where unsuspecting fans receive calls from their favorite NASCAR drivers. In the video released today on the NASCAR on NBC Facebook page and Twitter accounts, Barry from Egg Harbor, N.J., grills Almirola and Petty on when the No. 43 is going to make its way back Victory Lane. Check out the full video here . Ben Kennedy joins Ryan on this week's NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss his first Camping World Truck Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway and the outpouring of support he received from some NASCAR luminaries. Available on NASCAR Talk, iTunes, AudioBoom, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and podcasting apps, the NASCAR on NBC podcast discusses the latest NASCAR news each week with the major players in the sport. UPCOMING NASCAR PROGRAMMING Date Coverage Time (ET) Network Wed., Aug. 31 NASCAR America 8:00 PM NBCSN Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington 9:00 PM NBCSN Thurs., Sept. 1 NASCAR America 6:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR Whelen Modified Series – Riverhead 7:00 PM NBCSN Fri., Sept. 2 NASCAR XFINITY Series Practice – Darlington 12:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice – Darlington 1:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR XFINITY Series Final Practice – Darlington 2:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final Practice – Darlington 3:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR America 5:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – Douglas County 7:00 PM NBCSN Sat., Sept. 3 NASCAR XFINITY Series Qualifying – Darlington 11:30 AM NBCSN NASCAR America 1:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Darlington 1:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR XFINITY Series Countdown to Green 3:00 PM NBC NASCAR XFINITY Series Racing – Darlington 3:30 PM NBC Sun., Sept. 4 NASCAR America Sunday 5:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Countdown to Green 5:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Racing – Darlington 6:00 PM NBC NASCAR Victory Lap 11:00 PM NBCSN All of NBC Sports Group's NASCAR coverage is available to stream on NBCSports.com and via the NBC Sports app. The NBC Sports app is powered by Playmaker Media, and is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. NASCARTalk on NBCSports.com brings racing fans up-to-the-minute news, video and information on NASCAR drivers, teams and industry news. For all the latest NASCAR content socially, fans can follow @NASCARonNBC and @NASCARTalkNBC on twitter and like the NASCAR on NBC Facebook page. For more information about NBC Sports Group shows and properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios and headshots, please visit NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com .
4 in a Row: Relive Jeff Gordon's win over Mark Martin in 1998
Watch as Jeff Gordon passes Mark Martin in the Pepsi 400 in 1998 at MIS with 9 laps to go to take home the checkered flag. This victory was Gordon's fourth consecutive win in a season where he went on to win 13 races.
Trio of NASCAR Hall of Famers named Darlington grand marshals
Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Mark Martin , all of whom will be inducted into the 2017 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will serve as Grand Marshals for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 4. All three will give the command to start engines accompanied by Bojangles' CEO Clifton Rutledge. Childress, Hendrick and Martin's involvement in the Bojangles' Southern 500 further enhances the track's throwback platform of celebrating the history and heritage of the sport. Childress and Hendrick are two of the most successful owners in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history. " Darlington Raceway is one of my favorite racetracks. I remember going there when I was very young and seeing some of my heroes race there," Childress said. "Now, it's really neat to say that I'm going to be the grand marshal for the race, and I couldn't think of two better people to do it alongside of than Mark Martin and Rick Hendrick. The race weekend is already special enough with the 'throwback' theme, but this will make it that much more special." Childress and his team, Richard Childress Racing , have posted 105 NSCS wins since he founded the team in 1969. His team has recorded 472 top-five NSCS finishes and won 12 national series championships, which is second all-time in the sport's history. RCR is the first organization to win championships in all three of NASCAR's national series. Much of his success came with driver Dale Earnhardt, who won 67 career Cup races for RCR, including eight victories at Darlington Raceway . Hendrick, founder of Hendrick Motorsports in 1984, owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles -- six with Jimmie Johnson , four with Jeff Gordon and one with Terry Labonte . Hendrick also has 14 total NASCAR national series owner championships, which is most in NASCAR history. His drivers have won 242 NSCS races with 1,000 top-five finishes. He has 14 NASCAR Cup wins at Darlington Raceway , including seven with Gordon . Johnson's victory at Darlington in 2012 gave Hendrick his 200th career NSCS win in the sport. "Darlington is very special to me, and I'm so grateful to the track for this honor," Hendrick said. "It’s still sinking in that I'm a part of such an incredible Hall of Fame class. Richard and Mark are great friends and competitors, and it means a lot to share these experiences with them." In a 31-year career, Martin won 40 career NASCAR Cup races, including the 1993 and 2009 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . He also won eight NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Darlington, which is still the most in series history. "It is my honor to be co-grand marshal for the Bojangles' Southern 500 with two of my heroes," said Martin. "Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick are two of my favorite people in racing. I'm also looking forward to being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with them, along with Benny Parsons and Raymond Parks in January." Rutledge, who has served as Bojangles' CEO for the past three years, will say the command alongside three of the sports legends. Rutledge gave the command with 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Terry Labonte before last year's Bojangles' Southern 500 . "I am blessed to represent Bojangles' and give the command to start the Bojangles' Southern 500 alongside three legends of the sport, Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Mark Martin ," Rutledge said. "Bojangles' is proud to be the entitlement partner of the Southern 500, a partnership we've enjoyed since 2012." The Famous Chicken 'n' Biscuits restaurant chain has more than 680 locations throughout the Southeast. Bojangles' has the naming rights to the Southern 500 through the 2019 season. The NASCAR Hall of Fame inductions ceremonies will take place in January of 2017 in Charlotte, N.C. The Tradition Continues on Labor Day weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 ® is set for Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016. The NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 will race on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. Tickets are still available for all events.
When Jeff met Junior: Gordon recalls first meeting with Dale Jr.
RELATED: Latest updates, timeline of Dale Jr.'s recovery BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The first time he met Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jeff Gordon never imagined that he would one day drive in relief for his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Yet here Saturday night, Gordon will do just that, suiting up for the fourth consecutive race to drive the organization's No. 88 Chevrolet in place of Earnhardt in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earnhardt has been sidelined since mid-July due to concussion-like symptoms and the timing of his return has yet to be determined. Their first meeting came in the mid 1990s at North Wilkesboro Speedway when Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Earnhardt Jr.'s father, were at the top of their game. The elder Earnhardt was already a legendary figure in the sport; Gordon was on his way to becoming one. The cheering and jeering of the Earnhardt and Gordon fans was a weekly occurrence at tracks across the country. That the two would go on to become both friends and business associates seemed unfathomable to those in the grandstands. "I remember sitting there on pit road and Dale Sr. and he came walking by … it was the first time I ever met (Junior)," Gordon told NASCAR.com recently. "They were getting ready to qualify; I don't remember if he was driving a Late Model maybe … I don't exactly remember but I knew he'd been doing some racing and was building some momentum. "I remember that he was very respectful. It was cool to meet him and then shortly after that see him rise as quick as he did." Gordon "retired" from competition at the end of 2015, with four series titles and 93 career victories. The last time he visited Bristol, he was working in the television booth, just two months into his new role as a FOX NASCAR analyst. RELATED: Remembering some of the top moments at Bristol Now, he's back behind the wheel at a track where he notched five wins and five of 81 career poles. Hendrick officials announced July 14 that doctors had not cleared Earnhardt Jr. to compete the following weekend at New Hampshire. Alex Bowman stepped in and finished 26th in his only start with the team. Gordon took over the driving duties for races at Indianapolis (13th ), Pocono (27th ) and most recently Watkins Glen (14th ). Getting back in the car, and the No. 88 in particular, was an unusual feeling for Gordon although the 45-year-old certainly garnered his share of the spotlight throughout his career. "I knew it was a big story," he said of the return, "but still until you’re living it and the reality of it is there, you don't know how your heart's going to beat, how your hands are going to sweat. That first time on track at Indy, I was sweating. And not just because of the heat. "It would be different if I had been out for one week or two weeks. But I'd been out for eight months. I hadn't really driven this package. There's added pressure because of the situation, it being Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s car. To me the pressure was more about the performance." Earnhardt, who also missed two races in 2012 after suffering a concussion, is a two-time champion in NASCAR’s XFINITY Series and has 26 Sprint Cup victories. His absence from competition has seen him fall from 13th to 21st in the points standings. His move to the XFINITY Series (then Busch Grand National) is one Gordon hasn't forgotten either. Earnhardt made one start in the series '96 and eight in '97 before going full-time the following season. "I went to see Dale Sr. about some business and he said 'Hey come check out Dale Jr.'s car for Watkins Glen," Gordon said. "… I looked at the car and remember it wasn't fancy, wasn't some super premium piece of equipment. The shifter on it was so long. Total old school. At that point we had been making really nice transmissions, road course cars, short shifters and all those things." Gordon said he took the opportunity for a bit of friendly ribbing. "I gave Senior a hard time," he said. "I was like 'What's this? You're going to make him go to Watkins Glen in this? That shifter is just wrong. This car is not at all what he deserves.'" Earnhardt wasn't swayed by the comments, according to Gordon . "He goes, 'Oh no. I'm going to make him work for it. He's not going to have it easy; he's going to work on it himself. I'm not going give him the best equipment. He's not going to learn anything being in the best equipment. He's going to have to drive some mediocre equipment so he can learn.' "And I thought that was pretty cool." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Junior: Jimmie wanted to wear dad's fire suit
RELATED: Instagram post causes PR freak-out Dale Earnhardt Jr . said Monday that Jimmie Johnson had asked him to borrow one of his father's old uniforms to complete his retro look for this weekend's NASCAR throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway . Earnhardt Jr.'s remarks came on Monday's edition of the "Dale Jr. Download," a 70-minute episode that he co-hosted on his Dirty Mo Radio network. Earnhardt did not provide a health update on the concussion-related symptoms that have forced him to miss the last six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but offered an anecdote about his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, who will be running a blue-and-yellow paint scheme on his No. 48 Chevrolet that pays tribute to Earnhardt's father and the legendary David Pearson -- both NASCAR Hall of Famers. "He's texting me, he's like, 'You got one of your dad's old uniforms and all that stuff?' " Earnhardt said of a recent exchange with Johnson. "He wanted to actually wear it to intros, and it would fit probably. It smells like … every bit of 40 years old." Earnhardt Jr. clarified that Johnson had asked about a different uniform than the one from the 1982 season that he recently modeled on social media. He also had to clarify for Johnson the level of Lowe's involvement with stock-car racing back in 1979, the elder Earnhardt's rookie season. "He sends me a picture of this car, and I said 'David Pearson ran second in that car at Talladega in relief for my father,' " Earnhardt Jr. said. "My father was out four weeks with broken collarbones (from a crash at Pocono), and David drove that car, ran second. That was the only race Lowe's was on the hood. I don't know why. Must've been a local chain, but they had Lowe's on the hood for that race, and that race only. "And so, it's kind of unique, kind of weird. Jimmie gets excited about it and then I have to tell him the story. He's like, 'Man, I'm going to run one of your Dad's throwbacks,' and I'm like, 'Well, David Pearson drove that car and Lowe's was on the hood for just that race,' but it's still really cool. I've always wondered what that paint scheme would look like on one of the modern cars." Earnhardt will be replaced by interim driver Jeff Gordon in this Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) as his recovery from concussion-related issues continues. Earnhardt said he was "real sad" he won't be driving his own throwback paint scheme, a No. 88 Chevrolet that pays homage to Buddy Baker's "Gray Ghost" look from the early 1980s. Alex Bowman made his second substitute start last weekend at Michigan International Speedway , placing 30th after slowing early with engine trouble. Still, Earnhardt Jr. gave him a vote of confidence. "That was disappointing. I know Alex was upset," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He doesn't know how many opportunities like that he'll get to show he's capable. I believe in him, and I know he's got the ability to do it, to be in the Cup Series and to be in a competitive car and do a good job behind the wheel. It was a shame because I think he could've shown again -- like he did at New Hampshire -- that he belongs." Though Earnhardt Jr. will sit out Sunday's event at Darlington, co-host Mike Davis -- brand and communications director for Earnhardt and his JR Motorsports team -- teed up what's scheduled to be a busy week for the 41-year-old driver. Earnhardt Jr. is scheduled to participate in competition meetings Tuesday, before traveling to a Wal-Mart in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, for a Wednesday driver appearance. Wednesday's schedule also includes an interview on Nickelodeon's "NASCAR Hammer Down" program, hosted by Karsyn Elledge, Earnhardt Jr.'s niece. Earnhardt's JR Motorsports organization in the NASCAR XFINITY Series also has a busy week on tap. Davis said JRM planned to unveil nostalgic paint schemes for its three Darlington entries, which will be piloted by XFINITY regulars Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler , plus Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick . &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kyle Larson's parents missed son's first Sprint Cup win, but eager to see more
Perhaps Mike and Janet Larson should have seen it coming as they proudly and nervously watched their television and computer screens while son Kyle led the field to the checkered flag in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway . The Larsons attend a healthy dose of their 24-year-old son's NASCAR races, but somehow have missed each of Kyle's inaugural NASCAR victories from the K&N Series, to the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series. They were at home in Elk Grove, California, on Sunday when Larson scored his first victory at the sport's premier Cup level, too. "That's OK though," Mike Larson said, his voice full of happiness and emotion. "As long as he wins, I don't have to be there. "Janet and I would have been in the grandstands anyway, that's where we go every time to watch him race. It would have taken us half the (victory) ceremony anyway just trying to get back over there (to Victory Lane)." Instead, the Larsons stood in front of their television sets, tears rolling, hearts full, taking it all in. The dedication, the sacrifices, the hope, the joy that was this family's "every weekend" for years had resulted in a big-time, clutch victory three weeks before NASCAR's playoffs, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And while Mike and Janet might not have been trackside last weekend, they still had quite the view. "I was upstairs watching the end of the race, thinking 'Man, Janet is awful quiet today,'" Mike Larson said. "And then it got to be that last restart and Kyle gets the lead and I can hear her starting to stress. I don't hardly make a sound, but I thought, 'She's stressing me out.' "My heart, I'm telling you, it was just pumping over those last nine laps. I just kept thinking a yellow is going to come out, you think something is going to happen to derail this. I'm still very quiet watching, but then my arms went straight up in the air ... and I cried. I can admit that. "I get emotional about that." The Larsons can smile about their timing now. They took Kyle to his first race a week after he was born. Then, this close-knit family spent years together trekking around the West Coast watching Larson win and dominate races – karts and USAC features – from the time he was a little boy. From childhood, he loved this sport of racing so much he dressed up as NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon for Halloween – and still has the photo proof. The Larson's support has never wavered or waned even as their son earned his shot in NASCAR's big leagues and has quickly emerged as one of the most popular drivers on the circuit. Truth be told, the kind, funny, humble and extremely talented third-year Cup driver Larson has been one of the sport's bona fide stars even before hoisting his first Cup trophy. And now the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is a legitimate first-time title contender, too. And he should be quite optimistic about his chances at hoisting the big trophy. RELATED: Current stars' first Sprint Cup Series victory Larson's 2014 showing in Chase races – not as a Chase contender – was an incredible rookie effort and an enviable clutch performance. He boasted six top-10 finishes in the his No. 42 Target Chevrolet during the final 10 races that year. The Chase venues have been good for Larson. In the Chicago Chase-opener, Larson has finishes of third and seventh. His overall average finish at Dover is 6.2, and he's never fared worse than 11th there. He has a runner-up finish at Kansas (2014), was third at Martinsville in April and finished fifth at Homestead last year. He has at least one top-10 finish at every Chase track. "He thinks those are good tracks for him," his team owner Chip Ganassi said Sunday evening. "We think they're good tracks. He's shown before he knows his way around Miami [Homestead]. That's always good, to be good at the final track. "He's a shootout kind of guy. A lot of those races turn into shootouts. You're not so much racing the entire field in those races a lot of times. I look forward to it. ... I think he's the kind of driver that the Chase is made for, that format." After a throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway , NASCAR's newest Chase contender Larson will host his "Outlaw Kart Showcase" at hometown Cycleland Speedway in Chico, California. Less than two weeks later, Larson will begin his first Chase run thanks to that emotional, hard-fought victory Sunday. "This feels different because it's taken me a lot longer than it took me in any of the other stuff to get a win," Larson said Sunday. "It took me a couple months to win my first sprint car race, four days after my 15th birthday. Took me a few months to win when I got into USAC. Took me a few years to win an Outlaw race. "This, after the way my rookie season started, coming close a few times, not getting it done, you can visualize the win that early in your career. It's going to happen. It's going to happen. But it just never happened. "This one's different just cause of how long we had to wait and how much harder I've had to work for it. Like I said, it's special because all the hard work's paid off." And the good news for the Larson family is there will be plenty more wins to experience first-hand, and good odds they celebrate a championship sometime soon too.
Steer Clear: Avoiding the Big Ones at Daytona
Watch and listen as Ty Dillon, Benny Gordon and David Gilliland make impressive moves to avoid the huge pileups at Daytona.
Hamlin to Elliott: 'Have more fun, less stress'
MORE: Elliott foiled on final restart Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, Chase Elliott once again narrowly missed out on his first Sprint Cup Series win -- and once again, he was devastatingly hard on himself. USA Today's Jeff Gluck wrote a letter to the Hendrick Motorsports rookie on Monday, addressing the fact that to this point in the season, Elliott is actually out-performing four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon's final season and he just needs to enjoy the ride. Wins will come. (You may recall -- the 20-year-old replaced Gordon after he hung up the full-time firesuit last season, so those stats are pretty compelling.) Former HMS driver and all-around NASCAR sage of wisdom Mark Martin agrees. "(I) just made another mistake." -- @chaseelliott after his P2 run at Michigan. https://t.co/DOTaTLEmFn — NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 29, 2016 Way to self critical. @chaseelliott is doing amazing things behind the wheel and should give himself a little credit https://t.co/XCNxNJdz7b — Mark Martin (@markmartin) August 29, 2016 The letter also points out that Elliott brings to mind another uber-competitive rookie that we saw a decade ago -- Denny Hamlin. And that seems to have turned out just fine for the 2016 Daytona 500 champion. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver chimed in on Elliott and the letter on Monday, telling the young phenom to stop stressing so much and have more fun. I must say. I agree. Have more fun less stress https://t.co/ZkyeL4SFIF — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 29, 2016 @dennyhamlin — Frustration born from the desire to validate the opportunity by winning. I seem to recall a similar ol’ boy from Chesterfield — Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) August 29, 2016 No question. Then a crew chief named Mike Ford says to me"Your in a losing business, find happiness in other ways" https://t.co/SJ6Cu2bUUU — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 29, 2016 In other words, chillax, bro. You're an elite talent at a young age. Your time will come.