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;
Dale Jr. educates Jimmie on Darlington throwback
Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks on the Dirty Mo Radio about how he had to educate Jimmie Johnson about his upcoming throwback Darlington paint scheme.
Cain: No need to panic about struggling Hendrick
Who's panicking? Not the Hendrick Motorsports team, as some have suggested. Working overtime, brainstorming, gritting their teeth and rolling up their sleeves? Perhaps. But this organization -- which hasn't celebrated a victory since March -- knows a little something about challenging for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series championships, and it would be naïve and foolhardy to believe the team's summer doldrums are a definitive sign of playoff potential. At least that's what history has shown us. And what Jimmie Johnson tells us. And what team owner Rick Hendrick has assured. "A lot of hard work went on during the break that we had," Johnson said last weekend at Bristol, Tennessee. "Just judging by the excitement from (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and all the way through to Mr. Hendrick, we're definitely turning over some stones and are hopeful to bring a little better product to the race track week in and week out. "We've been struggling at times, trying to produce speed and lap times of late and making mistakes in the process. We're still rallying with some decent finishes from time to time, but then again, still having some bad luck. I think Watkins Glen kind of speaks to that as well; and also self-inflicted mistakes. "I think come Chase time, in the middle of the Chase, the way things are looking back at the shop, and the excitement I see in all the departments, we're expecting a good late-season surge for Hendrick Motorsports ." Labor Day -- which traditionally marks the end of summer -- can't come soon enough for this team. Johnson is the only member of this Fab Four lineup to hoist a trophy this season, and the six-time champ did it twice right off the bat -- winning the second race of the year at Atlanta, then three weeks later in California. Chase Elliott opened his rookie campaign with 11 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races, including pole positions for the Daytona 500 and at Talladega Superspeedway . And he capped off that season-starting run with a career-best runner-up at Michigan International Speedway -- where the series returns this weekend. Kasey Kahne is also seeking his first trophy of the year, but already has six top 10s -- more than halfway to his entire total (10) from last year. And he has won at both Michigan (2006 from the pole position) and at Richmond, Virginia (2005), where the Chase field will be formally set on Sept. 10. As the Chase Grid stands now, Kahne is tied with Kyle Larson , three positions shy of qualifying. They trail 16th-place Ryan Newman by 39 points. With Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return still unknown as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, the feared Hendrick foursome realizes it is a threesome come title time. But it remains a championship threat. "Our guys have been working really hard these past few weeks," said Elliott, who is Chase-eligible by being ranked 12th in the standings. "Everybody is fired up at Hendrick Motorsports . Mr. Hendrick himself is fired up -- he has been around the shop a lot. We are all just trying to give it the best effort we can to try and make the most of these next 14 weeks. "We are all working hard, we are all in. Hopefully, Michigan will be a step in the right direction." In the past -- such as during Johnson's jaw-dropping six title runs in eight years – this team has made it look almost too easy. So Toyota has stepped it up, winning its first Cup championship last year with Kyle Busch and collecting 11 trophies already this year. Ford's been every bit a player, as well, with Team Penske drivers -- Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- earning enough trophies (five) between the two of them to keep the others honest this season. And Hendrick's Chevy "alliance" partner, the Stewart-Haas Racing team, has certainly come to the party with at least three Chase entrants including 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , who won his second race Sunday at Bristol and leads the championship standings; team owner Tony Stewart , who won at Sonoma , California; and Kurt Busch , who is ranked third in points. And while Johnson's two wins and Elliott's poles seem like it's business as usual, there is a new sense of urgency to right the Hendrick ship heading into the Chase. Johnson has the two wins, but he has only three top 10s in the last 14 races, a stretch that also includes four finishes of 30th or worse. Similarly, Elliott hasn't had a top-10 since his runner-up at Michigan. And Kahne has only one top 10 in that time. "We have been struggling this year, have not been as good as we want or should be," Hendrick said over the weekend while admitting he's even gotten up at 4:30 am to go to the wind tunnel with his team. "We know we have the ingredients and we're not satisfied, and we're going to do whatever it takes. That's been our motto all these years. We're at, what, 242 wins in Cup series? And we're not done. "Nobody's satisfied. We've wrecked more cars. … Haven't led races like we usually do. Not making any excuses, we've got to get to work. That's the deal. We're all committed and we're all excited. Nobody stays on top forever but we're not happy where we are and we want to get back." "I'm accountable," Hendrick continued. "They're accountable. "When you're not doing well, you can walk away and point fingers or you can jump in it and say, 'Let's get with it. We know how to do it. Let's get better working together.' "I'm proud of our company and we're going to be better. I like the challenge."
Elliott foiled on final restart, takes second at Michigan
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Unable to park his No. 24 in Victory Lane for the first time in his young career, Chase Elliott stood on pit road Sunday at Michigan International Speedway visibly disappointed as he was comforted by the man who won three premier series championships in the very same Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon . "We just talked about the race a little bit," the dejected Elliott said of his conversation with Gordon. "And some of the things we battled and just looking at the positives, I guess, and trying to get down the road." The Pure Michigan 400 was a familiar scene at the 2-mile track for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Candidate, who walked away with a dominant car but earned a less-than-satisfying runner-up finish. During the June stop at MIS, Elliott led for 35 circuits but finished second, behind Joey Logano . Elliott battled 1-2 at the second Michigan stop with eventual race winner Kyle Larson , even leading 31 of 200 laps, but watched the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet take the lead following a Lap 191 restart; Larson never let go. "Once that guy (Larson) got out front, it was really hard to pass," Elliott said of the restart. "My guys did such a good job today of making the most of pit road. That was the only place you could make a large sum of ground in a short period of time. They did exactly what I asked them to do. I said, 'You guys are going to have to bail me out here, I messed up.' (And) they did. They got us the lead just like I asked and I gave it away again." Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 team, saw other issues during the day's final restart. "(It's) just a huge factor getting into Turn 1," Gustafson explained while decompressing with the team, sans Elliott, in the garage area. "It's the push, obviously. The guys in (the) second row were pushing really hard and the 2 (of third-place finisher, Brad Keselowski ) and 42 (of Larson) did a little better than the 24 and the 21 (of Ryan Blaney , fourth)." The 20-year-old clocked in his seventh top-five finish and his first since the season's first race at the Irish Hills, breaking a stretch of nine consecutive results outside not only the top five, but the top 10. Elliott now sits 11th in standings -- six points ahead of Austin Dillon -- and 14th on 16-spot Chase Grid, the highest for anyone in the 2016 rookie class. The Sprint Cup Series field heads to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and Elliott only wishes for one thing. "Hopefully another fast car (which) is all you can ask for," he said. "Just trying to hunker down and keep everybody's head up." And Gustaftson promises, "We're gonna do everything we can to do that."
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.
Junior causes PR freak-out after 'married' Instagram photo
"DALE EARNHARDT JR. IS MARRIED. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. JUNIOR IS MARRIED." When the Hendrick Motorsports driver posted the above photo to Instagram on Friday, it sent off alarms that likely sounded a lot like the above in the heads of just about every commenter on the photo, but also to his public relations staff, whose collective blood pressures undoubtedly hit an all-time high. However, if you read the caption on the photo, it's clear that Junior is not married. Yet, anyway. "First time I've seen it in print. It's not quite official yet but sure is cool to think its about to be," Earnhardt said in the caption. Mike Davis, director of Brand and Communications for Earnhardt, gave the driver a hard time about it on Monday's edition of " The Dale Jr. Download ," saying,"You sort of caused a little bit of a ruckus over the weekend, did you know that? ... You sent off 100 fire alarms for the PR people." The photo was just a mistake on a form. Earnhardt was just excited to see it in print for the first time. "I did not know that people didn't read," Earnhardt said. Always read the fine print, people. Always.
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.
Patrick: 'Chad Knaus would've killed me'
Host shares story of his last NASCAR experience Chatting with Kansas winner Joey Logano on his NBCSN simulcasted talk show, "The Dan Patrick Show" on Monday morning, host Dan Patrick shared a funny little story about the last time he was at a NASCAR race -- and why he might not be welcome back. "I was in Chicago a couple of years ago and I almost leaned on Jimmie Johnson 's spoiler, pre-race," Patrick said. Uh oh. " Chad Knaus, I think, would've killed me. I was talking to Jimmie right before the race and I almost leaned on his spoiler." Logano, quick on his feet, noted that if he bent it the right way, Knaus may have even thanked him. "If you were pulling it back, or something, ( Chad ) might've been okay with it." Not that he would know anything about those sort of hijinks. RELATED: NASCAR to police flared skirts in 2015 Still, Logano wants the host to come out to a race to cheer him on – well, maybe. "I don't know if you want me out there, Joey," Patrick said. "Because then I'm going to want to get in your pits and I'm going to want to work the pits." Logano, entrenched in a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup run, can't take any risks and responded appropriately. "Then just don't come."
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