Chase Elliott's No. 24 damaged in practice
Chase Elliott's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet hit the wall during final practice Saturday at Auto Club Speedway, but the No. 24 team is hopeful of repairing the primary car rather than going to a backup for the Auto Club 400.
Larson hangs on for XFINITY triumph at Auto Club
RELATED: Results " Larson on pole for Sunday's race " Detailed breakdown FONTANA, Calif. -- Kyle Larson kept pole-sitter Joey Logano at bay after a restart with four laps left in Saturday's Service King 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Auto Club Speedway and held on to win by .127 seconds. Larson and Logano had swapped the lead on three successive laps before Brandon Jones plowed into the outside wall on Lap 142 to bring out the seventh and final caution of the afternoon. The lead cars pitted for fresh tires under the yellow flag, with Larson exiting pit road first and Spencer Gallagher grabbing the second spot with a two-tire stop. That proved Logano's undoing, as his No. 22 Team Penske Ford was pinned behind Gallagher's GMS Racing Chevrolet for the restart on Lap 147 of 150. Logano chased Larson to the checkered flag but couldn't prevent the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet from scoring his first victory of the season, his second at Fontana and the sixth of his career. "The racing there at the end with Joey was awesome," said Larson, a California native who got his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory at the 2-mile track. "I had just a couple-lap fresher tires than he did, and I was able to chase him down. That was a lot of fun. WATCH: Larson overcomes speeding penalty to win "I wish that last caution wouldn't have come out, because it would have been easier for me to win, I think. But a heck of a race. I honestly didn't think we would be here yesterday. I was struggling bad in practice. Fought the balance a lot throughout the race, too. Finally, the last few runs, we hit on it and it felt good for the short run and throughout the long run." MORE: Larson fast, atop Monster Energy Series standings Both the winner and the runner-up had obstacles to overcome. Larson recovered from a pit road speeding penalty to win the race. Logano sped on pit road and subsequently fell to the back of the field when the jack on the left side of his Ford dropped prematurely during an extended stay on pit road. But Logano -- who led six times for a race-high 70 laps -- was in prime position at the end, though he acknowledged that Gallagher's two-tire call deprived him of the chance to overtake Larson. "What's his number? 23?" Logano asked. "Yeah, I don't know about that move. That wasn't a good move. I don't know what they were thinking, but that maybe wasn't the best play at this race track. I knew he was going to spin them (his tires). There's no way he couldn't. It wasn't his fault. "He was a sitting duck and I was a sitting duck behind him that lost too much track position on that restart being too far behind Kyle. If not for that, we would have probably been door-to-door across the line bumping and banging or something. We were able to catch Larson the last few laps. We were definitely faster, but I needed another lap, maybe two." Kyle Busch led 55 laps and finished third after scraping the wall on Lap 122 while in pursuit of Logano, who was leading at the time. Erik Jones ran fourth and Sunoco rookie William Byron fifth as the highest-finishing series regular. The action-filled race wasn't without a number of hard crashes. Paul Menard's Chevrolet nosed hard into the outside wall after contact from Jones, who appeared to misjudge his Turn 4 exit on Lap 94. WATCH: Fiery hit for Menard at Auto Club "I don't know if he tried to push me or if he was just crossing over," Menard said after leaving the infield care center. "Definitely had a brain fart." Cole Custer took a wild ride when he clobbered the Turn 1 wall with an assist from Ryan Sieg -- and was upset when he exited the car. "I just got hooked going into the corner," Custer said. "I think I hit him (Sieg) a tick just on my side-draft going off of (Turn) 4, and then he decided just to hook us going into Turn 1 and wreck us. I thought we could have competed for a win there. We had a bad pit stop. We were going to work our way back up there, but just got our day ended by a clown move." The incident left him with a wrecked car for the second straight week. "Last week it was all my fault and I'll take that all on me," said Custer, who finished 35th. "Today it was just a clown. I don't understand what his reasoning was to pay us back that much, but that's just a joke." Notes: Byron is second in the series standings, 17 points behind seventh-place finisher Elliott Sadler… Darrell Wallace Jr. finished sixth for the fourth-straight race… Busch won both the first and second stages of the race, earning a total of two playoff points toward the owner's championship. Contributing: Staff reports </p>
Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup explained
As the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup turns 10, get the history, format and more
Chase Elliott tops chart in first Phoenix practice
RELATED: Practice results " Best 10-lap averages " Buy tickets for Phoenix Chase Elliott rose to the top of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series leaderboard Friday afternoon in opening practice at Phoenix Raceway. Elliott, driving the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet, clocked a lap of 137.101 mph around the 1-mile track. Last season's Sunoco Rookie of the Year sits third in the series standings heading into the fourth race of the season. Kyle Larson, second in the standings, notched the second-fastest lap in the 85-minute practice session. Larson pushed the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet to a best lap of 136.472 mph. RELATED: Young NASCAR stars legitimate threats at Phoenix Joey Logano was third-fastest (136.441 mph) in preparation for Sunday's Camping World 500 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM), the second leg of the NASCAR Goes West swing. Martin Truex Jr., last week's winner at Las Vegas, was fourth-best with Ryan Blaney completing the top five. Kevin Harvick, an eight-time Phoenix winner who prevailed at the Arizona facility in this race last spring, was 13th-fastest at 135.701 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled Friday at 7:45 p.m. ET (FS1). </p>
Harvick: 'Kyle Larson is the best driver to come along since Jeff Gordon'
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville With three runner-ups and a win on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, Kyle Larson's strong start to the season has gotten the attention of many in the racing industry. That includes 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, who made quite the bold statement on the current points leader during Tuesday's premiere of his radio show "Happy Hours" on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "Kyle Larson is the best driver to come along since Jeff Gordon in my opinion," Harvick said definitively. RELATED: Take 5 from Auto Club " Larson wins Auto Club 400 He went on to talk about Larson's talent, how he wins in everything he drives and how "everyone in the garage wants a Kyle Larson." "I think Chase Elliott is going to be great too, but Kyle Larson has something special," Harvick said. By the looks of it, Harvick's son Keelan is a fan of Larson's as well. I mean what the heck @KyleLarsonRacin pic.twitter.com/h5C14IV3Xh — Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) March 28, 2017
Fill-in-the-blank: Auto Club
RELATED: Read more Inside Groove I should have known it was going to be a special weekend at Auto Club Speedway when an owl interrupted practice Jimmie Johnson wrecked his primary car in practice Kyle Larson won the pole . Sure enough, I was right wrong wondering what happened to my pet owl . Auto Club Speedway always provides the most exciting westernmost fastest most recent race of the season, and this race was really no exception ordinary race onions, Animal Style, please week to have Matt Kenseth on your fantasy team . What really blew my mind was when Martin Truex Jr. didn't pit for tires at the end of the race Kyle Larson tweeted a picture of his credit card . Why would someone do such a careless misinformed silly genius thing? I guess we can't all be like Brad Keselowski Clint Bowyer Daniel Suarez Jamie McMurray Ryan Blaney Chase Elliott Chip Ganassi , who ended up having a really solid race. It's still amazing to me how Jimmie Johnson has finished every single career lap at ACS Kyle Larson is so fast this season we've been racing at Auto Club Speedway for 20 years "Ty Dillon" is an anagram for "Tiny Doll" . I think I'm going to celebrate Kyle Larson's win Clint Bowyer's best finish in nearly two years Brad Keselowski's impressive comeback Daniel Suarez's second consecutive seventh-place finish heading to Martinsville next week by stocking up some Cottonelle at Target buying some Mobil 1 at Rush Truck Centers installing Wurth auto parts on my Ford while sipping Miller Lite ordering whatever a Number 7 is at Subway logging onto Twitter and telling Dale Jr. to go faster . While it's been fun racing on something that's described as "D-shaped" out West for the past three weeks on fast tracks without Carl Edwards winning all the races with young drivers leading the pack at over 200 mph , it'll be nice to head to Martinsville next week for some good, old-fashioned short-track racing short-track tempers paper-clipping hot dog chugging paint trading -- that is, as soon as I track down my pet owl set down my phone and grab some Cottonelle short pit for fresh tires write Kyle Larson's name on my playoff grid send more angry tweets to Dale Jr.'s crew chief buy Kyle Larson gear and pretend I've been a fan for years set my clock back to East Coast time drop my Matt Kenseth diecast off a cliff so it's crash-accurate .
H2H: Chase hits halfway; Talladega tempest next
RELATED: See the Chase grid " Chase Bubble Watch The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason is making the turn for home -- five races down and five to go. This weekend's stop on the 10-race ride is among the most pivotal of them all, Sunday's Alabama 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) at Talladega Superspeedway . With the playoff field about to be cut from 12 drivers to a final eight, our Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle pressing topics ahead of a true Chase wildcard: *** Halfway through the Chase , Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr . have each won twice, leaving Jimmie Johnson as the only other race winner in the postseason's first five races. Will the champion be one of these three or is there still room for a Chase dark horse? Cain: It is highly likely that the champion will come from among these three drivers, who have not only won lately but set the bar this year. With half the Chase remaining, someone else may -- and needs to -- step up, figuring it would be Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano or one of the four remaining Toyota drivers who have led the way. No dark horse here. Albert: There's time left, but that clock -- not to be confused with the Camping World Truck Series' caution clock -- is ticking more urgently. Harvick, Truex and Johnson may be the main Chase triumvirate so far, but I'm holding the door open for a Keselowski-led Penske effort or another Joe Gibbs Racing entry to stage a Round of 12 rally, starting at Talladega. Next year, a schedule shake-up for the Chase's Round of 12 will have Kansas trading places with Talladega to be the three-race series' elimination event. Do you favor the move or was the Charlotte-Kansas-Talladega progression a suitable schedule? Cain: Depending on whom you talk to, Talladega settling the third-round Chase grid was either a huge opportunity or a crazy wild card. Everyone goes into the unpredictable Talladega race feeling like either he/she has a big opportunity or scant chance to emerge. That makes for a heightened excitement level, but the question is whether this type of race should solidify the next round of elimination. Cases can be made either way, but I think the switch-up is a good idea. Albert: Talladega races are heart-clenching enough as it is -- whether it's in the regular season in May, in the playoffs in October or a 20-lap offseason trophy dash for funsies (just a suggestion). Making the schedule shift may slightly reduce spectator palpitations, but the track loses little in stature as the middle event in a three-race series. A more conventional venue such as Kansas makes more sense as the host of an elimination race. The Chase's current bottom four: Austin Dillon , Denny Hamlin , Brad Keselowski , Chase Elliott . Of those four, who is best positioned to take out the math and guesswork and emerge with a season-saving Talladega win? Cain: I truly see any and all four of these with the possibility of point-climbing their way up to Chase advancement. Among them, it's hardest to argue with Keselowski's Talladega resume. He already has two restrictor-plate wins at Daytona in July and at Talladega in the spring. He has lots of good Alabama juju -- scoring his first-ever Cup win at Talladega in 2009 and amassing four total wins there. He's finished in the top five in three of his last trips to the track. Albert: With such a stacked quartet in the Chase basement, this is a tough one. All four drivers have the backing of teams with standout superspeedway programs, and Keselowski has evolved into one of the sport's best at the large, fast ovals where horsepower is restricted. While still imagining some No. 3 magic for Dillon or a No. 24 breakthrough for Elliott, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin gets the slight nod from these parts in a plate-track pick 'em.
Looking for a Loudon Leap: Tony Stewart Chase watch
Tony Stewart gained ground at Kentucky Speedway, helping him stay within the top 30 in the points. Several races, and potential winners, remain before the Richmond cutoff, so is Tony Stewart safe with only his win at Sonoma?
Chase Elliott tops final New Hampshire practice
RELATED: Final practice results " Practice 2 results Rookie Chase Elliott zipped to the top spot in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Elliott guided the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet to a best lap of 131.347 mph in the 55-minute final prep session for Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 20-year-old driver will be making his first Sprint Cup start Sunday on the 1.058-mile track. Denny Hamlin , a two-time New Hampshire winner, turned the second-fastest lap at 131.302 mph in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota. He was just ahead of JGR teammate Matt Kenseth , another two-time winner in the Granite State who clocked the third-best lap at 131.044 mph in the No. 20 Toyota. Kevin Harvick , the top points-earner in the Sprint Cup Series this season, was fourth-fastest in final practice at 130.941 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevy. Defending race winner Kyle Busch landed the fifth-fastest lap in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota at 130.891 mph. Jimmie Johnson , who will start first in Sunday's 301-lapper after securing the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was seventh-fastest in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet. Alex Bowman , the replacement driver this weekend for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, registered the 22nd-fastest lap in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. Sunday's event, the first of two New Hampshire stops for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season, is the 19th of 36 points-paying races this year. Edwards edges ahead in second practice " Results It was a Joe Gibbs Racing parade at the top of the board with the race team taking the top three spots in the first of two Saturday practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Carl Edwards (No. 19 Toyota) paced the 55-minute session with a fast lap of 131.456 mph, with his JGR teammates Denny Hamlin (131.284 mph, No. 11 Toyota) and Matt Kenseth (131.193 mph, No. 20 Toyota) taking second and third in the session, respectively. Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet) and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) completed the top five with fast laps of 130.914 mph and 130.855 mph, respectively. Defending race winner Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota) made it four-for-four for JGR cars in the top 10 as he posted the seventh-fastest lap. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) came in 14th in the session a day after scoring his first Coors Light Pole Award of 2016. Alex Bowman , who is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend, placed 24th. Earnhardt is out for Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with concussion-like symptoms.
Hemric looks to overcome early Chase setback
RELATED: Truck Chase Grid Daniel Hemric clinched his spot in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase playoffs with remarkable consistency and a sizable nest egg of points. Now facing a significant deficit after a perilous postseason opener, stockpiling points may not be enough to keep his championship hopes intact. Hemric enters Saturday night's DC Solar 350 (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a much firmer focus on scoring his first victory of the season. "At the end of the day, this deal rewards winning," Hemric said last weekend after finishing a season-worst 28th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "Yeah, we did it the other way to get here, but I don't know if with the day we had here, we'll be able to salvage it on just points. We've got to go win." The 25-year-old driver for Brad Keselowski Racing spun early in last Saturday's Chase opener, saying he believed he ran over a piece of debris that punctured his left-rear tire. The spent rubber became entangled in the brake assembly, triggering a small flash fire on pit road and eventually forcing his No. 19 Ford behind the wall for extended repairs. The deficit Hemric faces is even more daunting based on the fact that his fellow Chase competitors enjoyed relatively trouble-free days at New Hampshire. Aside from Hemric, the remaining seven Chasers all finished in the top 11. Two races -- this weekend at Vegas and Oct. 22 at Talladega Superspeedway -- remain before two of the eight drivers are eliminated from the playoff picture. Just 27 points separate New Hampshire winner and points leader William Byron and seventh-place Ben Kennedy , but Hemric sits another 20 points behind Kennedy and 21 points behind sixth-place Johnny Sauter . Hemric's regular-season run of reliability -- with top-fives in half of the 16 races -- had earned him a share of the top spot with Byron in the series standings before the points were reset for the postseason. The task of escaping the Chase's bottom two on the basis of points isn't mathematically impossible, but Hemric would rather convert an automatic transfer with a win. "I believe we can," said Hemric, who has come close with seven finishes in the top three this season. "Especially our mile and a half program's been really solid and we've shown that time and time again. That's it. We know what we have to do." While Hemric knows he has two opportunities to regain lost ground, there may extra urgency to find momentum at Las Vegas this weekend rather than roll the dice in the opening round's elimination race at Talladega, where large crashes and wild-card winners are much more probable. "That's the thought," Hemric said. "Nobody wants to go to Talladega knowing they've got to win when everybody has that mentality. The past has shown what happens. Now with the new format, we feel a lot more confident we can just go do our jobs at Vegas and not have to worry about it."
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