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By the Numbers : Kyle Busch's wins per track
With Kyle Busch 's win Saturday night at Kansas Speedway -- long a place where he has struggled over the years -- 'Rowdy' checked another track off his all-time list of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series conquests. The GoBowling 400 victory, along with his win at Martinsville earlier this year, leaves only Charlotte Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway as unchecked tracks on the list. And Busch still visits each facility twice this season, starting at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29. Below is a list of Busch's starts and wins at every active track on the Sprint Cup circuit.
Larson on winning: 'I want to do it the right way'
Two days after the fact, Kyle Larson didn't sound as if he looked back on his latest runner-up finish with any regrets. Disappointed, sure, but regretting nothing about how he handled the closing laps of Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway Second for a fourth time in his still-blossoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver was unable to overtake Matt Kenseth in the waning laps, eventually stopping his No. 42 Chevrolet on pit road instead of victory lane. The "should he or shouldn't he" question was inevitable. Contact with Kenseth might have made Larson a winner for the first time since stepping up to the premier series in 2013. But it was a price the 23-year-old said he wasn't willing to pay. "I felt like I did everything I could do to get by him without getting into him," Larson said during a break in Tuesday's Goodyear tire test at Michigan International Speedway . "I've always felt like Matt's raced me with a ton of respect so I wanted to do my part, racing him with a lot of respect as well. It was a fun battle. … "I did have a couple of chances to get into him but that's not really how I want to win my first one. I want to do it the right way. I don't regret it; maybe it could come back to haunt me, but you never know." CGR fields two Sprint Cup teams, the No. 42 for Larson and the No. 1 for teammate Jamie McMurray , a seven-time winner in the series. From a statistical standpoint, the Dover finish was the closest yet for Larson, who trailed the Joe Gibbs Racing winner by .187 seconds at the line. Two years ago, it was Kyle Busch throwing a final-lap block at Auto Club Speedway that foiled Larson's advances. Later that season, it was Joey Logano driving away on a green-white-checkered finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Again in '14, this time at Kansas in The Chase, Larson was unable to reel in Logano during a final 26-lap green-flag run. Others have weathered similar storms: Kasey Kahne finished second six times before his first Sprint Cup win and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott was a bridesmaid eight times before winning. The record for near-misses before victory belongs to former driver Lennie Pond, who was second on 12 occasions. Tabbed as a can't-miss prospect by veterans such as three-time champion Tony Stewart , Larson scored eight top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes during his rookie season -- more than several of those who finished ahead of him in the points battle. But '15 wasn't as kind, his numbers dropped and even through the beginning of the current season his results seemed to lag. More recent efforts, however, have been encouraging. "Our cars just haven't been quite as fast as they were in 2014," Larson said. "We'd kind of fallen behind a little bit on building the bodies the way they need to be and maybe chassis stuff a little bit. But we brought in some smart people over the offseason." The addition of crew chief Chad Johnston and engineer Phil Surgen "has really brought a lot of influence to (both) our race teams," he said. Larson heads into Friday night's Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway (7:10 p.m. ET, FS1) as one of the favorites to earn one of the transfer spots into Saturday's annual Sprint All-Star Race. "I definitely feel like I'm a smarter racer now, a better race car driver," he said. "I feel like over the last several years I've kept that same aggressiveness, but gotten my patience a little bit better. "To be a championship driver, I think you have to put the whole package together and patience is a big part of that."
Joe Gibbs Racing enjoying the view from the top
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Championships are nothing new for Joe Gibbs Racing . The organization won three premier series titles during a six-year stretch with drivers Bobby Labonte (2000) and Tony Stewart (2002, '05). But domination? Now, that's something different. "It's one of those deals where you pinch yourself to try and find out if it's real," said Jimmy Makar, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for the four-team outfit on Tuesday. Makar, along with driver Kyle Busch and other team principals, was on hand at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to unveil the No. 18 team's throwback paint scheme for this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The look harkens back to 1993, when driver Dale Jarrett earned the organization its first win with a victory in the Daytona 500 . But while the focus was on the past, the present couldn't be ignored. JGR folks tread lightly around the subject. But the numbers say what officials won't -- that since the midpoint of the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season, no organization has been as consistent or as successful as Joe Gibbs Racing . The four-team effort with drivers Busch, Denny Hamlin , Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth won 11 of the final 21 races of the '15 season, a year that ended with Busch claiming the championship. Through this year's first 12 races, those drivers already have won seven times, including six of the last seven. As a result, all four drivers are all but guaranteed a spot in this year's 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup . It's no overnight success story, Busch said, noting that the organization didn't sit idle in early 2013 while engine supplier Toyota Racing Development (TRD) sorted though various engine issues. "We worked on our cars, we worked on our setups, we worked on driver-crew chief communications," he said. "We worked on all that stuff to get our cars better. And when the engines came, then it was all there. We had the total package. "I feel like we've been able to take advantage of all that the last couple of years, of having all the right pieces in place." The 2013 season was the first that TRD began supplying engines to JGR teams. That was also when Kenseth came on board, winning seven times during his debut season in the No. 20 Toyota. Edwards won twice in '15 after the Mooresville, N.C.-based organization expanded to four teams with the addition of the No. 19 entry. For the better part of the past decade, it has been Hendrick Motorsports setting the standard among NASCAR's competitors. So it's not surprising that both Makar and Busch referenced HMS on Tuesday when talk of domination surfaced. "You think about their runs that they have had over the years and how we've always tried to get like that," Makar said. "Here we find ourselves in not exactly the same position but something where we seem to be on top of our game right now and people chasing us. It's kind of fun." Busch was a part of the HMS program while it was the leader of the pack, earning the first four of his 37 career victories with Hendrick. "This sport goes in cycles," Busch said. "Hendrick was on top for a long, long time. I don't want to hear about complaining that we're on top and dominating and bad for the sport because I remember years that Hendrick won 12, 13, 14 races, whatever it was. And they won seven out of eight championships or something like that." Having top-shelf parts and pieces and some of the most talented drivers isn't always a recipe for success. The difference today at JGR, it seems, is the willingness among the four teams to share information as well as opinions. Each driver has a distinct personality, from fiery to subdued, as well as a different approach to racing. "But the thing of it is, they work so well together," Makar said. "That's the one common thing that we've got going on -- they share information with each other, they don't hide things. " The crew chiefs do the same thing. We try to emphasize that. Sometimes you can talk about it all day long but if the guys don't want to do it, it doesn't work." How long will it last? How long can it last? "You always think about, when you're on top, what's it going to take to stay there," Makar said. "It's the hardest thing in the world to stay on top once you get there. Everybody's working even harder to try and beat you. You have to make sure you don't get any sense of overconfidence and quit pushing the limits … that's the only thing you worry about, is if complacency sets in. "Other than that, it's what more can we find? How can we get faster and better, make our cars better and compete better? That's what we do every day … whether you're running 10th every week or first. The whole goal is to get better as a team. Make our race teams better from the inside and keep trying to push ourselves to be better." Gibbs, a Super Bowl-winning coach as well as a championship-winning car owner, perhaps understands the pitfalls better than most. That, and the drive to be on top. "If you get to thinking you're pretty good, that goes against you," he said. "It takes hard work. The other teams are looking at you and they're coming. … There are so many cars that are strong right now." Kenseth's win at Dover on Sunday, he said, was a perfect example of the level of competition. An exciting battle between the veteran and youngster Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing ) left the final outcome in question in the final laps. "It came down at the end there, we're (side- by -side) with the 42. Who's going to win? The 42 or us?" Gibbs said. "I do think that's what is exciting about our sport. People love that. It's the greatest reality show in the world because we don't know what’s going to happen." Busch doesn't know what the summer months will bring, but he's confident that the JGR group "is the strongest one." "I say that because I think Toyota is the best manufacturer in the sport," he said. "I feel like all four drivers are probably among the best six or seven drivers in the sport, and we're all on the same team working together. … You've got Joe, who is one of the best bosses in the sport, who pushes all of us, is a real people guy and he knows about putting the right people in the right places. "Then too, the things that we all do to work together, not hide anything, share anything we possibly can." These days, that includes trips to Victory Lane. Editor's note : Table shows victories by organization from the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 through Sunday's AAA 400 (does not include non-points events).
Burnouts, battles and big bucks fill the Rearview Mirror
NASCAR.com's Chuck Bush looks in the Rearview Mirror at a wild, wacky and exciting weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway during NASCAR's All-Star events.
Gordon's love for Charlotte lasting, 22 years after first win
Photo credit: Charlotte Motor Speedway CONCORD, N.C. – With its close proximity to race shops, Charlotte Motor Speedway is known as the home track for most of the NASCAR community. But Tuesday's gathering at the 1.5-mile speedway had more of a tourist feel, as fans hailed from places near and far. There was the man from Bakersfield, California, – "Harvick country," he states proudly – the fan from Switzerland, the Canadian couple and everyone in between. They wore different numbers on their shirts and spoke with different accents, but they were all there to see one man. Mr. Jeff Gordon . The FOX Sports analyst and four-time NASCAR champion helped celebrate the 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder leading up to Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by taking photos with 100 Charlotte ticketholders. Despite Gordon's retirement following his championship run last season, the fandom was as feverous as ever, as each visitor itched to exchange a few words with the former No. 24 driver. "It's slightly different (now) because many of them say a lot of the same things, 'I wish you were out there,' (or) 'I miss you being out there,'" Gordon said of the fans. "But I'm getting a lot of great comments about being up in the booth, so it's nice. I'm enjoying myself, so I think it comes across in the broadcast and interacting with the fans, I get to hear that from them as well." Gordon stood on the roof of Champion's Pavilion with the fans, giving the group a birds-eye view of the quad oval. The track is impressive; a feeling Gordon reciprocates, as he recalls the first time he laid eyes on it. "I think it doesn't mean the same to everybody," Gordon said, "but for me, the very first time I ever came to North Carolina … when I drove by this facility, I was blown away. I'd seen Indianapolis Motor Speedway , but beyond that, I'd never seen anything that looked like this. Just the appearance of it put me in awe." Gordon found success at Charlotte early in his career, earning a runner-up result in his first race at the North Carolina track in 1993. And on Sunday, he'll broadcast his first Coca-Cola 600 ; 22 years after he earned his first-ever win in the Cup Series in the '94 running of the 600-mile event. RELATED: See all the winners of the longest race in NASCAR But Gordon's love affair with Charlotte began before the Victory Lane celebration. "When I drove a stock car here for the first time, I just fell in love with it," Gordon said. "I love the way the track flows, the banking, the grip level, bumps and everything that comes along with it. And of course, winning my first race, having it happen in the 600." The longest race on the Cup circuit, the Coca-Cola 600 has long been revered as one of NASCAR's biggest races – one of the sport's "Majors," as Gordon says. "Daytona, here, Brickyard, maybe a Southern 500, some would also say Talladega." Gordon said, rattling off a list of stock car racing's biggest events. "But this is a big, big deal to win this race. To me, it's probably second or third ranking in our series as far as most prestigious events." Winning the coveted Coca-Cola 600 trophy is no easy feat – the man who has won three of those races can tell you that. With the cars being more advanced today and eliminating some of the physical aspect, Gordon emphasizes the continued need for mental toughness. "You're talking about a minimum of four hours being in the car," Gordon said. "Pit crews, crew chiefs, everyone's on edge, not just the drivers … (They're) pushing the limits every single lap, which is not the way it used to be. You used to pace yourself and be able to manage the tires and your car and you could still be competitive at the end of the day – if you were in one piece. "That's not the case anymore – it's just all out. So, that mentally drains you by pushing that hard for that period of time." RELATED: Gordon embraces new career with 'contagious' energy The task of taming a 600-mile monster is daunting, especially for younger drivers. Gordon's No. 24 replacement Chase Elliott prepares to make his second Coca-Cola 600 start. Elliott, now in his rookie season, started 28th and finished 18th in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 , then driving the No. 25 for Hendrick Motorsports . As for any advice from the former boss of the No. 24? Gordon said his 20-year-old successor doesn't need it. "I haven't had to give him much advice on the race track," Gordon said. "He's a natural … He gets better every weekend. "I'm excited for that 24 team. I had to defend a lot with fans being upset about them keeping the No. 24 and I said, 'Just wait, just wait, I think you're going to be proud of the results.' And now, I'm starting to see everybody's now saying, 'What a great replacement for the 24!' " Gordon's statement was validated by fans sporting Elliott-themed shirts earlier, with one young boy – who will likely grow up knowing Elliott, rather than Gordon, as the No. 24 driver -- wearing a blue NAPA hat. Gordon loves it. "Listen, I love seeing the sport grow," he said. "I'm still heavily involved in the sport, not just from the FOX side, but from Hendrick Motorsports . And I think the sport is amazing right now. The racing is as good as it's ever been. We have some great young talents. Not to mention veterans that are doing great things … I'm all for bringing new fans and seeing fans get excited about it, people like Chase or Ryan Blaney or Kyle Larson . "I support it 100 percent."
Daytona Rising by the numbers
NASCAR Race Hub’s Adam Alexander and Danielle Trotta take you inside the numbers of the historic Daytona Rising project.
Best in-car audio from the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
Go inside the cars and listen in on team communications as Chase Elliott and Danica Patrick get voted in, Tony Stewart races his final all-star event and Joey Logano takes home a cool $1 million in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
Ride along as Elliott puts the 'show' in Showdown
Go all access with Chase Elliott as he works his way from tenth to second with just ten laps to go in the Sprint Showdown, and then battles Kyle Larson to put on a show during the final laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
GarageCam turns up the volume in Kansas
NASCAR.com's Costner Merrifield takes you through the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage at Kansas Speedway
Can a return home to Dover stop the Truex hex?
Martin Truex Jr. has been plagued by bad luck in 2016, but could the coincidence of Friday the 13th being the Dover race weekend, site of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, be just what the No. 78 team needs to break into Victory Lane?