Harvick charges to New Hampshire win with late-race surge
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Updated Chase Grid SHOP: Harvick gear " Chase gear LOUDON, N.H. -- Remember last week, when Kevin Harvick was trapped a lap down at Chicagoland Speedway , finished 20th and fell out of the top 12 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings? Remember last year, when Harvick crashed at Chicagoland and ran out of fuel while leading at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and had to win at Dover to advance in the Chase? That's all moot, now that Harvick redeemed himself with a victory in Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire, the second race in the Chase. Surging ahead of Matt Kenseth after a restart with six laps left in the 300-lap event at the 1.058-mile track, Harvick pulled away to win by .442 seconds and joined Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr . in the Chase's Round of 12. "One of our main goals this year was to not stress ourselves out so bad," said Harvick, who won last year's Dover race to escape the Round of 16 in his last opportunity. "I feel like the performance of the car and the things that we're doing are good enough to be competitive, and we just need to not make mistakes and go from there." Harvick got his opportunity to win the race when Ricky Stenhouse Jr . and Reed Sorenson collided on the backstretch on Lap 291 to bring out the sixth and final caution of the race. Starting on the inside lane and timing the restart perfectly, Harvick stayed side-by-side with Kenseth entering the first corner and cleared Kenseth's No. 20 Toyota through Turn 2. Kenseth was unable to get back to the rear bumper of Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet over the final six laps. "Man, that worked out really good," said Harvick, who won for the second time at the Magic Mile, the third time this season and the 34th time in his career. "The car was pretty good on the restarts. Once we got clean air there at the end, it wound up being really good up front. I'm just really proud of our team. They did a great job." NASCAR admonished Kenseth before the final restart not to slow down in the restart zone, as the sanctioning body believed he had done on the previous restart, when Kenseth held off Truex for the lead. "They made it sound like I slowed down the last time," Kenseth said. "But in my opinion, the leader is always supposed to have the advantage. He's the leader. He earned that advantage. They said I slowed down a little bit last time, which I've got to re-watch it. "I don't really think I did, but if I did at all, it's because the inside car (Truex) was laying back a little bit, and you want to make sure he gets up to your nose so it's a fair restart. If he's back at your door and anticipates a little bit, it's not a fair restart. He's going to be equal to you or a little bit better." Then Kenseth second-guessed the way he handled the final restart with Harvick beside him. "I saw Kevin at my door, and I should have known better," Kenseth said. "I should have went deep in the box and waited, and the acceleration was probably better down there anyway, but I didn't. I went right at the first line, and he anticipated a little bit of that and got rolling good through the gears, and then I got through the gears bad. I spun the tires in second (gear), I spun the tires in third, so I had a really bad restart besides all that." Kyle Busch finished third behind Harvick and Kenseth after pitting for fresh tires under caution on Lap 265 and charging through the field. Brad Keselowski ran fourth and took over the Chase points lead by one point over Truex, who led a race-high 141 laps in a seventh-place run but wore out his tires trying to pass Kenseth after a restart on Lap 269. Kurt Busch came home fifth, followed by polesitter Carl Edwards , Truex, Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson . Harvick escaped the bottom four in the standings, and that left Jamie McMurray , Austin Dillon , Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher all needing to improve their positions to avoid elimination next Sunday at Dover International Speedway . McMurray and Dillon (19th and 16th, respectively, at New Hampshire) are five points behind Larson in 12th place. Stewart is 11 points back of Larson after a 23rd-place run on Sunday, and Buescher trails by 30 points, needing a Dover miracle. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Edwards rallies to sixth-place finish at Loudon after penalty
RELATED: Results " Chase Grid " Standings WATCH: Edwards receives penalty LOUDON, N.H. – Coors Light Pole Award winner Carl Edwards hovered in and around the top five for nearly all of Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway but nearly had his afternoon derailed due to a costly penalty with less than 40 laps remaining. During the fourth caution of the day, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver came to pit road and incurred a commitment line violation, sinking his running position all the way back to 19th on the ensuing restart on Lap 268. For a minute there, it certainly appeared Edwards would be fighting for Chase for the Sprint Cup survival next week at Dover International Speedway in the final race of the Round of 16. But Edwards rallied hard over the final 30-plus laps to salvage a sixth-place finish and now holds a 16-point cushion over the cutoff line. He'll need to avoid similar gaffes moving forward -- though he doesn't necessarily agree he even made a gaffe -- and realizes he may have gotten away with one here. "I gotta see the replay, but I was pretty sure I made it onto pit road. I felt pretty comfortable," Edwards said on pit road after the race. "I don't know about that (penalty), but we still recovered well. I think we could've been top three or four because we got off sequence, but as it turned out to finish sixth with that penalty is pretty much a gift. My guys didn't quit, I'm proud of them. "Now we head to Dover with a little bit of a point cushion, and Dover is one of my favorite race tracks, one of my best tracks and this team should have won this race in the spring so hopefully we can go there and lock ourselves into the next round. … Anything can happen, but there's no better race for us to be a cutoff race." Following the race, Edwards' crew chief Dave Rogers had a discussion with NASCAR officials to get clarity on the penalty. "Yeah, NASCAR showed me the notes, and the notes that they had were all four tires below the orange box and our right-rear (tire) touched it," Rogers told NASCAR.com. "So it's one of those deals where we knew it was close, and we didn't intentionally drive over the box, first of all. It was a last-minute call to pit. We thought the rule was all four on or below and it wasn't. The rule's all four under, so hence the penalty." Edwards' teammate Denny Hamlin also was victim to a pit road penalty on the same stop, as an errant tire got away from his No. 11 Toyota crew. Hamlin, however, was not as fortunate as Edwards and finished 15th. The 2016 Daytona 500 winner declined post-race interviews and sits seventh on the Chase Grid, still higher than Edwards despite the worse finish. "Unfortunately, we had a pit road penalty; two stops in the end that got us really far behind and just got kind of shuffled out of the mix on a couple restarts and finished about five to 10 spots worse than we should have, but still alive," said Hamlin's crew chief Mike Wheeler. "Hit the restart button and try again. Dover is a decent track for Denny. He hasn't had a win there yet, but has had some good runs and hopefully we can have another good run there."
Keselowski grinds out top five on 'so-so day'
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Keselowski gear " Chase gear LOUDON, N.H. -- As one of the resident wizards of the "Magic Mile" over the past five years, it was a little curious to see Brad Keselowski -- who sports a 6.27 average finish at the track since the fall race of 2011 – come out a little flat in Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. For his latest trick, the Team Penske driver entered the top 10 for good at Lap 270 of 300 and continued to rise from there, sticking the landing with a fourth-place finish that was nearly a third, save for a late pass from Kyle Busch. "We caught a couple breaks on the restarts that helped out. Pleasantly surprised (at how this race turned out)," Keselowski said on pit road following the race. " … It was just a good call there towards the end to put tires on and then just being smooth and keeping it in one piece driving through traffic. … Sometimes you catch some good breaks in this sport. … It was just a really great finish to kind of just a so-so day." While the recovery portends well for Keselowski's hopes of advancing into the Round of 12, the speed that his car lacked at New Hampshire should be of some concern for the 2 team as the Chase continues. The 2012 champ pins it on this week's rules update for post-race inspection that eliminated P2 and P3-level penalties for infractions resulting from the laser inspection system. "I think that rules change at the last minute was certainly not very favorable to our team," said Keselowski, in search of his first win since early July at Kentucky. "We've got to work to find a little more speed for sure." The No. 2 crew chief, Paul Wolfe, pins the lack of performance on a swing-and-a-miss setup after they couldn't quite nail down what they were looking for in Saturday's practice sessions. "The car never drove like what we've had here in the past. We were kind of on the fence about where we wanted to be today as far as set-up wise. There were a couple things we went through in practice yesterday and we picked a direction that obviously wasn't good," Wolfe told NASCAR.com. "So we just really struggled to get any speed out of the car all day. Just tried to stay calm, get what we could and not get in trouble. Brad was doing a good job of that. There at the end, the position we were in I felt it was worth putting tires on it and it was really the new tires and a couple of good restarts that got us to the front. "Definitely not the performance or the speed in the car that we were hoping for today, but we were able to get a good finish out of it and at this point of the Chase, that's obviously the important part." Keselowski now heads to the Dover International Speedway with a little more of a cushion -- he's the overall points leader, though second and sixth-place (in the point standings) drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, respectively, have clinched their Round of 12 berths -- than it looked like he'd have for most of the race, and should be a lock to advance save for a major, catastrophic mishap. "It feels good to go to Dover and be able to sleep easy knowing that if you have a part failure or get caught up in a wreck or any of those silly things that can happen that aren't you fault, you don’t have to worry about them so that's good," he said. "But we still have some work to do to get a little faster.”
Chase Bubble Watch: Harvick, Stewart head in opposite directions
RELATED: Full race results " Updated Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear Two races into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and several drivers are in jeopardy of not advancing past the Round of 16, which ends next Sunday at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Let's find out which drivers are resting comfortably following Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Who's hot: Kevin Harvick . Harvick came into Loudon one point shy of advancement after a dismal showing (20th) in the Chase opener in Chicago. The 2014 champion and the man nicknamed "The Closer" came on strong on the final restart to take the lead on Lap 295 and nab a win and a locked-in spot in the Round of 12. The victory, in which he only led eight laps, has to erase a little bit of the bitter taste from last fall's race at New Hampshire, where Harvick led 216 laps but ran out of fuel with two to go. Matt Kenseth . Kenseth came into this race with two straight wins at the "Magic Mile" and looked to be closing in on his third-straight win before Harvick surged on a late restart. The 2003 champion led 105 laps en route to a runner-up finish and moved up to fourth in the standings, 25 points to the good of transferring into the next round. Adding to his good karma: Kenseth is the most recent winner at Dover, the series' next stop before four drivers are eliminated from the Chase. Who's not: Tony Stewart : The three-time champion was stuck a lap down for much of the second half of the race and finished 23rd, the second-lowest finish among the Chase field. The result had to be disappointing for "Smoke" after a runner-up showing at New Hampshire in July. Following a summer surge thanks to his Sonoma win, Stewart has not notched a top-10 finish in six races and is on the wrong side of the Chase cut line heading to Dover. Austin Dillon . The weekend started rough when a wreck in the latter stages of the opening practice forced the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 team to pull out a backup car. Dillon's 16th-place finish was aided by a few late cautions to get him back on the lead lap, but he is still five points behind the cutoff line. On top of that, his overall numbers at Dover (see below) have the Chase rookie in a very tough spot to advance. Four in, four out: Here's a look at the Chase bubble, with four drivers being eliminated after the third race of this round, at Dover International Speedway .
Sadler wins first XFINITY Chase race at Kentucky
RELATED: Results " Standings " Chase Grid SPARTA, KY – A huge push from Daniel Suárez on a restart with four laps to go in Saturday night's eventful VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 sent Elliott Sadler ahead of Ryan Blaney to win the opening race of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase at Kentucky Speedway . Sadler's third win of the season and 13th of his XFINITY Series career was about more than just stamping his way into Round 2 of the Chase. The Emporia, Virginia, native fought for the win while thinking of his mother, Bell, who was released from the hospital Saturday, after a week of hospitalization and two surgeries. "We fought through a lot tonight," Sadler said in Victory Lane. "I'm going to get a little emotional on you, I've been in the hospital all week with my mom in ICU watching her fight and fight through a lot of pain and suffering. (She) made her way back home tonight to watch the race. Mom, I love you. She leads so much by example." Sadler also credited his team, who helped Sadler battle from outside the top 15 earlier in the race. "These guys are my heroes," Sadler said. "We had a 10th or 15th place car at best. Still had to come in and really take our time and work on it. Great pit calls by Kevin (Meendering, crew chief) and the guys to get us in position. Got a good push there at the end. I do want to say thanks to Josh Berry for helping me a ton tonight. That kid did some cool things on the restarts. This OneMain Financial team has no quit in them. We just fight till the end. This is a great way to start the Chase." Suárez, who finished second, said he struggled with a tight condition all night but was best at the end of the race. "Right at the end, we were pretty good, maybe just a little tight but we were strong," he said. "I feel like we were the fastest car out there at the end. I just needed one or two laps more to get the win." The inaugural XFINITY Series Chase race offered plenty of excitement and drama. With the "win and advance" format putting a greater premium on victories, drivers found themselves on the edge of control at a track where the racing groove was extremely tight since undergoing a repave in May. "At halfway, we were running 20th," Sadler said. "By my calculations, we were probably 10th or 11th in points, so to fight back that last 100 laps to gain that kind of momentum probably means a lot for us and these guys. I'm so proud of these guys. Dale (Earnhardt Jr., team owner) and Kelley (Earnhardt-Miller, team manager) and all of our partners for Hunt Bros., and Chevrolet and everyone that does so much for us at JR Motorsports. This is a great way to start off the Chase and keeps the momentum on our side, we can relax and go to Dover and have fun there and Charlotte and get ready for the second round." XFINITY Chase drivers Ty Dillon , Brandon Jones and Erik Jones all found themselves in a deep hole after being collected in accidents throughout a caution-filled race. Dillon and Erik Jones tangled while racing for second with 12 laps remaining. The event was red-flagged for five minutes, 34 seconds for cleanup of the Turn 3 incident. RELATED: See the wreck " Jones' take " Dillon's take Jones, the pole sitter who led a race-high 100 laps, took responsibility for the crash. "I just got sucked around," Jones said after the incident. "I tried to slow down but Ty was holding me down there pretty tight on the restart, slamming doors through (Turns) 1 and 2. It was my fault but it's a pretty tough aero situation to be in. "I just couldn't hang on to it. I tried to slow down but he kept slamming down on my door and I did all I could to hang on to it. It definitely looks like we're going to have to run really well at Dover and Charlotte or even win." Behind Sadler and Suárez, Sprint Cup rookie Ryan Blaney finished third while Sam Hornish Jr . and Matt Tifft completed the top five. Tifft, a NASCAR Next alumnus made his XFINITY Series return after undergoing brain surgery in July to remove a remove a benign, low-grade glioma. Sadler leaves Kentucky Speedway with an eight-point lead in the standings and guaranteed admission to the next round of the Chase at Kansas Speedway in three weeks. Suárez (+27 points above the cutoff line) is second in the Chase standings, followed by Brendan Gaughan (+21), Ryan Reed (+19), Darrell Wallace Jr . (+19), Justin Allgaier (+17), Brennan Poole (+16), Blake Koch (+15), Erik Jones (-3), Ryan Sieg (-5), Brandon Jones (-15) and Ty Dillon (-15). &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Cain: Bigger and more memorable at Texas
RELATED: Gallery of memorable moments at Texas " Full weekend schedule FORT WORTH -- From track "weepers" and multicar inaugural-lap pileups to a winner's circle confrontation between two Indianapolis 500 champs, Texas Motor Speedway has been the site of some of the most remarkable, memorable and bizarre story lines of any circuit on the NASCAR circuit. The 1.5-mile oval outside Fort Worth celebrates its 20th year hosting a NASCAR race this week with Saturday night's Duck Commander 500 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.) And for those of us around at the very beginning, it seems a fitting time to reminisce a bit about the facility's famously storied early history. As they like to remind you in Texas, everything is "bigger" there. And it has been. The track's early trials and tribulations have only contributed to its great character and esteem. In my 25 years of sports journalism, the opening races at Texas Motor Speedway still remain among the most unforgettable times of my career. Never before and never since have I covered a specific beat that provided as much sensation, controversy and must-see-TV as TMS in the early years. Two decades later, the track located at the intersection of an interstate and two major Texas highways has evolved into one of the sport's most prestigious venues. It boasts the largest HD screen, named "Big Hoss," fantastic spectator seating and the most condominiums of any track on the circuit. Plus really great racing. Nearly 195,000 people showed up for the inaugural Texas race in 1997 and most of those who were ticket holders then still are, two decades later proving they are as faithful and optimistic as they were devoted. It turns out those have been good traits for this endeavor. MORE: Paint scheme preview for Texas I had just started work at The Dallas Morning News newspaper in the spring of 1997 a few weeks after Jeff Burton took the checkered flag for NASCAR's first Cup series race at Texas in April. The new facility was considered the "home track" to cover. After reporting on the Indianapolis 500 in May, I was immediately back home in Dallas, ready for the Indy Racing League's night-time debut at TMS the next week. There, a 26-year old future three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart put on an open-wheel show for the ages, racing wheel-to-wheel lap-after-lap with Buddy Lazier. Stewart -- who went on to win two Cup races at Texas (2006 and 2011) -- led a race-high 100 of the 208 laps only to suffer an engine failure that night. But toward the end of the race there were questions regarding the scoring shown on the monitor in the press box. And soon after making my way down to the infield to prepare for a super-tight Saturday night newspaper deadline, the real craziness began. While trying to get post-race quotes from the apparent first-time winner Billy Boat ( XFINITY Series driver Chad's dad) and Boat's team owner, Texan A.J. Foyt, I was standing a few feet away when driver Arie Luyendyk confronted Foyt in Victory Lane. After questioning the results, challenging Foyt and suggesting he was actually the legitimate race winner, Luyendyk tumbled into the victory flowers. Boat and Foyt hoisted the trophy. It was surreal. I was on a crazy tight deadline. But the next day in a hastily called press conference, Luyendyk was declared the winner after USAC conceded a scoring error. After USAC officials suggested problems with the track's scoring system, TMS President Eddie Gossage took the press conference podium and strongly reminded that the speedway wasn't responsible for the scoring. "I got home at 3 in the morning knowing we gave the trophy to the wrong winner and had a press conference for 8 in the morning," said Gossage. "I go in to the press conference with two hours of sleep and I'm sitting in the back row and the head scorer for USAC says that the speedway's timing and scoring equipment didn't work. "He says it again and then a third time so I just walked up on stage and stepped up to the podium and eased him to the side and said, " Texas Motor Speedway doesn't own a stop watch. ... People have a right to know when they leave the race track who the winner is and we all didn't get what we paid for." Then after a dramatic exit and door slam, Gossage recalls, "My dad called from Tennessee and said, 'You were raised better, acting like an idiot on television for all the world to see, embarrassing me and your mom.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'You didn't know it was live on ESPN?' "I didn't. And then I was like, 'You're right, sir. I'm sorry. I know better.' " Gossage has a good laugh recalling the whole ordeal now. Foyt, who still disputes the result, kept the trophy and Luyendyk was given another one. A year later, Boat recalled of the evening, "We went into Victory Circle knowing nothing about a scoring error, only that someone was talking derogatory about our race team. You don't do that in a big Texan's Victory Circle." Luyendyk, of Holland, said the incident -- replayed repeatedly all over the world at the time -- actually made him and the Texas Motor Speedway more famous overseas. MORE: Gossage and drivers try to draw state of Texas And then in 1998 came NASCAR's second Cup try. After two multi-car accidents in the inaugural race, conventional wisdom promised this one just had to go down more smoothly. NASCAR's biggest stars such as Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan, Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin were among those who crashed in the opening race. Darrell Waltrip finished last after being involved in a 13-car wreck on the very first turn of the very first lap of Cup competition there. And Burton ended up winning by 4 seconds. Surely, everyone figured, the second race would be smoother. It wasn't. "Weepers" became a familiar word. The water seeping through the track caused qualifying to be completed a day late. And of all things, there was a huge 10-car accident on the second lap of the race. Jeff Gordon and yes, Waltrip, were collected in that melee. Mark Martin won the race by a half-second over Chad Little and Robert Pressley. Shortly after, TMS went through a re-paving and re-fitting, track owner Bruton Smith and Gossage committed to correction. "The first year it was just terrible and everything seemed to go wrong," Gossage conceded this week. "And the second year, obviously you try to improve so all of a sudden here's these weepers that came through. "I remember driving into the infield and in the rearview mirror saw Lake Speed knock the wall down in Turn 1 in qualifying. I thought, 'Oh no.' "I'm always the worst critic," Gossage said, logging the long hours readying for the weekend's big events. "There are things other people might not have noticed but I did. For some reason things worked really well in 1999 when Terry Labonte won and it's been better since then. That's the way a race weekend was supposed to go." Not only has it been better, it's typically a discussion point in every season review. In 2005, Texas finally got the second date it had longed for since I worked at the Dallas paper nearly a decade earlier. And the facility -- big enough to fit every Texas sporting stadium in its infield -- is also a big-time player in the Chase for the Sprint Cup . It's still providing those jaw-dropping, television highlight moments seemingly born with the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr . scored his first Cup win at TMS in April 2000. And Chase Elliott got his first XFINITY Series win here in 2014 driving for Junior at JR Motorsports. Gordon, who won this race in 2009, has starred in a couple TMS highlight reels, too. He was involved in a pair of high profile skirmishes from taking on Burton on-track after a wreck in 2010 to a crazy pit road scuffle with Brad Keselowski in 2014. "You have to be honest," Gossage said. "And looking back, it's just how things occurred. I wouldn't trade any of it, if it is what got us where we are. I'll take where we stand in our success as the most successful major market speedway in the history of this sport. I'll take that. "I won't trade my job with the guy running any other race track because I'm just so proud of what's been accomplished here."
Jesse Little teams with ThorSport for Truck debut
NASCAR Next driver to make first national series start at Dover Team Little Racing announced Friday afternoon that it has reached an agreement with ThorSport Racing for a part-time schedule for NASCAR Next driver Jesse Little in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. Little , 18, had previously announced that he would make his truck tour debut May 29 at Dover International Speedway . Friday's announcement provided extra detail on his 2015 plans, including the partnership with ThorSport -- winner of the last two Camping World Truck Series championships with veteran Matt Crafton . "To have this alliance and support from ThorSport Racing for my Truck Series Events is a huge step forward for me, Team Little Racing and our partners," Little said in a release provided by his team. "Our goals are to put together solid finishes and represent ThorSport Racing, Duke Thorson and our sponsors including NASCAR Technical Institute and Performance Friction Brakes in a first-class manner." Thorson has fielded trucks in the series since 1996. His three-truck effort this season includes rides for Crafton, Johnny Sauter and rookie Cameron Hayley . "We look forward to supporting Jesse as he makes his transition into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series," Thorson said. "We feel that this alliance with ( Little ) will assist him in reaching his ultimate goal in NASCAR." Little will have a familiar face atop the pit box in Harold Holly, a 19-time winner as a crew chief in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The veteran wrench spent two seasons as crew chief for Little's father, Chad , in both XFINITY and Sprint Cup competition. "Jesse is an impressive young man in so many aspects of life," Holly said. "He's a strong student, treats everyone with respect and is eager to learn new things. From a racing perspective Jesse has won at every level he's competed on, takes care of his equipment, provides his team with good feedback and knows how to pace himself during a race. This partnership with ThorSport Racing will give us a chance to compete at one of the sport's top levels where Jesse can show his skills. "We have solid goals, will work to be a good teammate and always be respectful on the track. As a team we're excited to get to Dover and see what our team can do in our Camping World Truck Series debut." Jesse Little is in his fourth season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he was the rookie of the year in 2013. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kyle Larson's win was worth the wait
RELATED: Chase bubble update " Results BROOKLYN, Mich. -- He lost the race off pit road, and in his mind, victory had slipped from his grasp once again. So often. So many close calls. "I thought that was the race right there," Kyle Larson admitted. But this time he said it from Victory Lane. Where Sunday at Michigan International Speedway fate chose to frown on someone else. Confetti flew, fans cheered and fellow competitors stopped by to offer congratulations. Kyle Busch , one of the first to pit road, was waiting for Larson when the young driver finally pulled in for the celebration. Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski also dropped in. So, too, did Jamie McMurray , Larson's teammate. Larson, driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, is 24. And he's now a first-time winner in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, capturing the Pure Michigan 400 in his 99th career start. The win secured one of the final playoff spots for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Championship dreams were rekindled for a driver and team that had ridden on the razor's edge almost since his arrival in NASCAR. There have been fuel-mileage plays that didn't pan out, late charges that ended with bent sheet metal and crushed hopes. But not this time. "No question the kid has talent; the kid can drive," Ganassi said. "We just have to put a weekend together." Ganassi knows. He's won in six different series in which his various teams compete. If it has wheels and goes fast, Ganassi has likely fielded a winner. Sunday's outcome was still in question when the late-race battle between Larson and Chase Elliott began to unfold. When the two drivers -- both young, eager and winless -- hit pit road for green-flag stops on Lap 158, Larson was the race leader. When they exited just seconds later, Elliott, after all others had stopped for service, was out front. Larson charged, trimming the deficit to Elliott in half. Lapped traffic erased the gains. And then the caution flag, this one for debris, appeared for a final time. While crew chief Chad Johnston said he thought the team's final stop "was a little bit slow," he refused to change the team's game plan. "It's hard to talk yourself into staying out two more laps or three more laps when you know those guys are gaining ... track position with each lap, but the worst thing you can do is let them force your hand and then run it out of fuel at the end," Johnston said. "So we stood our ground and pitted when we needed to pit, just lost a lot of ground through lapped traffic. ... "We needed that last restart, and Kyle did everything he needed to do to have the lead off (Turn 2)." Second at Fontana and Loudon and Kansas two years ago; second at Dover this year. Larson's been third, fourth and fifth several times as well. Often enough that some have questioned how badly he wanted to win, but they've never questioned his talent. "There have been a couple where I could have done things differently to get the win," Larson, flanked by son Owen and Johnston, said afterward. "For a few months you guys keep asking, 'What if?' ... Now I've won so we don't have to talk about that anymore." Winning races isn't new for the Elk Grove, California, native. Winning quickly hadn't been either. Until he got to NASCAR's top level. Even then, he showed flashes of potential, but potential didn't outrun everyone. "This feels different for me because it's taken me a lot longer than in any of the other stuff to get a win," Larson said. "It took me a couple of months to win my first sprint car race ... a few months to win when I got into USAC. I guess it took me a few years to win an Outlaw race, but I'd still been winning sprint car races. "But 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 because of how long we had to wait and how much harder I've had to work for it. It's special because all the hard work's paid off." Ganassi brought Larson up to Sprint Cup when he was only 20. Too soon, some said. He'll be gone elsewhere, others speculated, where he can be with a winning team. "That wasn't the case at all," Ganassi said, recalling how he once asked his young driver about other teams expressing interest. "I'll never forget his answer," Ganassi said. "He said, 'They all had a shot at me the first time around and they passed.' " They'll celebrate throwbacks next weekend at Darlington Raceway when the Bojangles' Southern 500 weekend gets underway. On Sunday at Michigan they were throwing it forward. There's a new Sprint Cup winner in town. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kyle Larson gets first Sprint Cup win at Michigan
RELATED: Results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Larson gear BROOKLYN, Mich. -- In the last few laps of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway , tears began to well up in Kyle Larson 's eyes. When Larson subsequently took the checkered flag to win the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of his career, the emotion was all but overwhelming -- and for good reason. The victory came in Larson's 99th start in the series, long after most observers expected Larson to record his first win. It also broke a 99-race drought for Chip Ganassi Racing , dating to Jamie McMurray 's victory at Talladega in October 2013. With the triumph, Larson earned a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time in his career, moving winless Ryan Newman 15 points out of the last Chase-eligible position with two races left in the regular season. With Brett Moffitt winning in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Michigan and Michael McDowell prevailing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. -- both on Saturday -- Larson's triumph capped the first weekend in NASCAR history that produced first-time winners in all three national series. It also marked the first time a graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs has reached Victory Lane in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The emotions of the moment, however, were magnified by the recent death at age 27 of Bryan Clauson, who was fatally injured in a midget car accident on Aug. 6 in Belleville, Kan. Larson came to NASCAR from open-wheel racing, and he and Clauson were close friends. "Parked it!" yelled Larson after he took the checkered flag, echoing Clauson's signature victory cry. The driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet followed with a celebratory burnout that left a trail of rubber across Victory Lane. Larson then exited his car, took the checkered flag from the flag man and leapt into the arms of his fueler, who had run out into the infield to congratulate his driver. "I was teared-up that whole last few laps, because I could just feel it," Larson said. "It was finally going to be it. This one is for the Clauson family. We really miss Bryan. We're going to miss him. We parked it for him, so that's really cool. "We had a lot of work to do for that first third of the race, and got it done. Thanks to (sponsor) Target. Thanks to everyone on this team. (Crew chief) Chad (Johnston) and the pit crew and everybody. We messed up that last stop but we made it back." In fact, Larson lost the lead to race runner-up Chase Elliott when both drivers made their final pit stops under green on Lap 156 of 200. Elliott beat Larson out of the pits by a half car-length and began to pull away. But a caution on Lap 187 because of Michael Annett 's blown right front tire gave Larson the chance he needed. With a hard push from third-place finisher Brad Keselowski , Larson took the lead on the final restart on Lap 192, as Elliott spun his tires and lost momentum in the outside lane. Larson crossed the finish line with a 1.478-second advantage over Elliott, who passed Keselowski for the second spot on Lap 193. Still seeking his first victory in his rookie season, Elliott had an opportunity to win at Michigan in June but likewise fell victim to a late restart. "Bummer again here," said Elliott, making no attempt to hide his disappointment. "I hate to let my guys down is the biggest thing. For the second time, this has happened. I made a mistake early on in the race. I asked my guys to bail me out (on the final pit stop), and they did. Unfortunately, I didn't do my part again. "That's a couple races in a row in just a few short months here at this place we had a really good car, had an opportunity. That's one thing I try really hard to do is make the most of opportunities when they're presented. Obviously I didn't do a very good job of that here both trips. Need to do my restarts a little better. That's obviously not a strong point, at least here at Michigan." The second-place finish, however, solidified Elliott's position relative to the Chase. He's currently 11th in the standings, highest among drivers without a victory and 27 points ahead of Newman, who finished 17th on Sunday. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Blaney finished fourth, holding off fifth-place Kevin Harvick and sixth-place Jimmie Johnson over the final nine-lap run.
Pit Road Officiating: From 'what-ifs' to Year 2
NASCAR's warm embrace of innovation was about to send out a pivotal trial balloon. The snazzy new Pit Road Officiating (PRO) system had been thoroughly tested and troubleshot, closing in on its goal of implementing technology to make officials' jobs more efficient and safer and to better enforce pit-road penalties. Still, there was a natural anxiety among the sanctioning body's competition officials ahead of its grand debut. "Just a common, normal apprehension," Chad Little explained, adding with understatement, "and just a little thing called the Daytona 500 ." Little , named to the new role of NASCAR's managing director in charge of technical inspection and officiating just 20 days ahead of last year's season-opening Great American Race, wasn't alone in sharing some mild anxiety. Media were given a tour of the then-nondescript trailer in the offseason, complete with a demonstration of the eight workstations where officials would cycle through double-time video footage to verify potential penalties against laser-mapped telemetry -- all in close to real time. There weren't vocal doubters, but uncertainty remained about how the system would work in real race conditions. RELATED: See photos from that tour Each event has its own importance, but with the maiden voyage taking place in stock-car racing's Super Bowl, the stakes were plenty high. "We're going into Daytona every year for our biggest race with not necessarily on pins and needles, but we're geared up, we know that we can do the job, but we're always thinking about the 'what-ifs,' and I'd be lying if that wasn't the case going into last year with the PRO system," said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations. "But we had redundancies, we had a plan in place … for every scenario that we can imagine, but at the same time we know there's also the unknown. "Sometimes what we're the best at is dealing with things as they come along. In that case, fortunately, we enjoyed the fruits of it and it was more fine-tuning than dealing with any major issues, which is a credit to everybody involved." The PRO technology, which returns for its second year with a much higher comfort level entering next month's Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway , was on display earlier this week at the NASCAR Summit, the industry's annual preseason convention for track services, medical, safety and security workers. The record number of almost 900 attendees for the Summit's 15th year had the opportunity to tour the PRO trailer firsthand and learn about its intricacies. It turns out that many of those worries heading into 2015 were unfounded. All of the system's fail-safes performed as expected, and fears that the Pit Road Officiating trailer would be especially nitpicky in identifying infractions never materialized: Last year's Daytona 500 tallied 29 pit-road violations, compared to 31 for the previous season and 28 in the year before that. The races that followed took a similar pattern. "We were pretty much really comfortable with everything, but going into Daytona, we were concerned that what if we have 100 penalties," Little said. "We don't want to bog down the race with a bunch of travelling calls. We were real mindful of that, but we didn't know exactly what we had because it's a brand-new system. Those things develop throughout the year, but thank gosh we didn't have any stumbling blocks at Daytona." WATCH SYSTEM IN ACTION: Footage of over-the-wall penalty for No. 88 Learning logistics Attendees at Monday's sessions at the NASCAR Summit received guidelines about how to best prepare their tracks for year two of the Pit Road Officiating structure. The seminar stressed the importance of uniformity in painting the bordering lines to pit boxes and the need to coordinate with NASCAR officials when mounting the 50 cameras that capture pit stop footage during the course of a race. Adhering to those instructions tends to make life easier for George Grippo, NASCAR's managing director of technology field and media operations. Beyond the PRO system, his responsibilities include the logistics of the trackside TV compound, timing and scoring, user support and maintenance and all the wiring, cables and power needed to make the technology go. The biggest learnings from PRO's first season, Grippo said, were that camera placement is paramount and that every track presents its own set of obstacles. Bristol Motor Speedway , for instance, had an accommodating roofline but cameras were mounted at much higher angles than a larger track such as Michigan International Speedway , where cameras were placed over the top row at the back of the grandstands at a greater distance. At Sonoma Raceway, cameras were located on a makeshift mount on heavy scissor-lift equipment aimed at pit road. In each instance, working with tracks became imperative. "Every time we went to a new place, it was a challenge," Grippo says. "I think now we've kind of gotten that stuff dialed in, but first-year growing pains were all around, trying to figure it out on the fly -- and you don't have a lot of time."