Kyle Larson got the best of rookie Chase Elliott on the day’s final restart Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, leading the last ten laps to record his first career Sprint Cup victory. Larson was ready to pounce when the green flag flew for the final time while Elliott briefly spun his tires, opening the door for Larson to drive his Number-42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet straight into Gatorade Victory Lane. The winning margin over Elliott was one-point-four seconds. Brad Keselowski, the only Michigan driver in the forty-car field, finished third. But his Number-2 Team Penske Ford failed post-race inspection, with any penalties likely to be announced at mid-week. Rookie Ryan Blaney grabbed fourth place with Kevin Harvick completing the top five. Pole sitter Joey Logano led twenty-four laps and finished tenth in his bid for a season sweep on the two-mile Irish Hills oval after winning in June … Larson led a race-high forty-one laps in helping to give Chevrolet a one-two sweep. Elliott drove his Number-88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to second-place finishes in both Sprint Cup Series events at M-I-S in 2016. Larson’s first Cup Series win comes in his ninety-ninth start and gives team owner Chip Ganassi just his second Michigan victory. The first one came fifteen years ago with Sterling Marlin behind the wheel … Larson’s victory capped an historic weekend for NASCAR during which first-time winners celebrated in each of the sanctioning body’s three national series: Brett Moffitt in the Camping World Truck Series, Michael McDowell (X-FINITY) and then Larson on Sunday in Michigan.
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Justin Marks got the best of his thirty-nine X-FINITY Series rivals on Saturday by mastering a soggy circuit and driving to victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Marks, widely known as a road racing specialist but making just his twenty-fifth career series start, led a race-high forty-three laps in his Number-42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – including the final ten, beating pole sitter Sam Hornish Junior to the checkered flag by more than three-and-a-half seconds. Ryan Blaney took third place with Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier completing the top five. It was a banner day for Chevrolet as the manufacturer grabbed four of the five top finishing positions. Marks started sixteenth in the forty-car field but charged forward at the drop of the green flag. He took his first lead just eleven laps into the race as rain soaked the two-point-two-mile natural road course. It did subside and the track began to dry at the mid-point of the race. But the skies opened up again in the second half, which opened the door for Marks to claim his first career win. Darrell Wallace Junior had the lead on the day’s final restart fourteen laps from the finish but went off the course in the wet conditions, surrendering the top spot to Dillon with Marks in hot pursuit. Dillon slid off the track himself a short time later, giving Marks the opening he needed to reclaim the lead and drive on to victory … Series leader Elliott Sadler started fourth and finished ninth, which was enough for him to stretch his advantage to twenty-five points over second-place Daniel Suarez, who labored to a twenty-third-place finish … Erik Jones was the highest-finishing rookie, coming home in sixth place.
NASCAR X-Finity Series will run its second “stand-alone” race of the season, Saturday night’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. Sam Hornish Junior won the first one on June 19th – also at Iowa, driving a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. This weekend, he’s entered in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet … Ryan Blaney won last year’s race but is not entered this weekend. Brad Keselowski will drive the Number-22 Team Penske Ford.
A number of NASCAR Sprint Cup teams took part in a two-day organizational test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday and Wednesday. The test was in advance of the Crown Royal presents the Wounded Warrior Coalition 400 to be held on July 24. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, and Kevin Harvick were among those at the test that were consistently fast in each of the sessions. Two sessions were held on Tuesday, with teams working through the lunch break Wednesday due to a threat of weather in the area. Matt Kenseth who was second quickest in the opening session on Tuesday noted that the tire fall off was significant with the new lower downforce package being used this season and expected that fall off to translate to good racing. Others taking part in the test included Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Brian Scott, Chris Buescher, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. AJ Allmendinger and his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team were originally scheduled to attend the test, but following two incidents on Saturday night in Kentucky that injured Allmendinger’s hand, the team passed on attending the test. Allmendinger has been cleared to return to NASCAR competition following an X-ray on Monday.
Brad Keselowski stretched his final fuel load right to the finish line to notch his third career Kentucky win and second straight victory of the season. The closing laps saw several teams try to stretch the final fuel run hoping for a caution, only to be forced to pit. Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. dominated the race leading a combined 174 laps but were among those who needed to pit for fuel finishing ninth and tenth respectively. Carl Edwards was also working fuel strategy and was able to run down Keselowski in the closing laps, but was not able to pass him and was forced to settle for second. Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five. The newly repaved and reconfigured surface of Kentucky Speedway proved to be a challenge to many drivers over the course of the evening. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the first driver to struggle with the new lower downforce aero package at the speedway, wrecking on lap nine. He was not the last, as a total of nine drivers would eventually be involved in accidents that brought about a track-record tying eleven cautions for fifty-three laps on the evening. Jimmie Johnson, who crashed his primary car in practice, saw a repeat performance in the race, spinning in turn-4 and making contact with the wall.
Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott also were involved in accidents throughout the evening. By virtue of his early departure, Ryan Blaney has now dropped out of the top-sixteen in Championship points which will place a great deal of pressure on the rookie driver in the final eight races of the regular season. Jeffery Earnhardt, who finished twenty-eighth, was the highest finishing rookie, on a night when many drivers struggled with the new track conditions.
After last week’s races, here are the updated facts for the Iowa Speedway.
► With his victory in Sunday’s X-FINITY Series race, Sam Hornish Junior and the Number-18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota snapped Ford’s three-race winning streak at Iowa Speedway. Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski had won the last three events on the seven-eighths-mile Newton oval.
► It’s Joe Gibbs Racing’s third victory at Iowa, which ties the organization for second place on the track’s win list –matching Roger Penske. Jack Roush leads with five.
► William Byron’s win Saturday night in the Camping World Truck Series race and Hornish’s victory on Sunday afternoon gave Toyota a weekend sweep at Iowa Speedway.
► Byron’s victory extends Toyota’s Truck Series domination at Iowa in recent years. The manufacturer has now won five of the last seven races – two by Timothy Peters, two by Erik Jones and now Byron’s victory on Saturday.
NASCAR fans have just two days left to vote and give one of their favorite drivers a spot in the 2016 Sprint All-Star Race, which is scheduled to be run on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The ballot includes thirty drivers not presently eligible for the non-points special event … led by Danica Patrick, who’s twice been voted in, and Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year candidates Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott and Brian Scott.
Fans can vote once daily at NASCAR-dot- com/Sprint Fan Vote. Balloting ends Friday. The top two vote-getters will earn a spot in the All-Star Race.
Kyle Busch passed Tony Stewart for his final lead of the night thirty-seven laps from the finish and kept the Number-18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in front the rest of the way Saturday at Kansas Speedway, notching his third victory of the season. Busch started sixth, took his first lead just twenty-six laps into the race and beat runner-up Kevin Harvick to the checkered flag by one-point- one seconds. It’s Busch’s thirty- seventh career Cup Series victory but his first in seventeen starts on the Kansas City oval. Kurt Busch finished third with Matt Kenseth – one of Kyle Busch’s J-G- R teammates – grabbing fourth place.
Rookie Ryan Blaney completed the top five. Pole sitter Martin Truex Junior led a race-high 172 laps and seemed headed for his first victory of the season. But with less than sixty laps remaining, Truex was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on his Number-78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. After returning to the track, Truex could do no better than fourteenth in the final running order.
Harvick’s second-place finish was enough to keep him atop the regular-season standings, though his lead over Busch has shrunk to four points … Through the first eleven races of the season, there have been six race winners: Busch, with a series-leading three victories … Harvick, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin … There were three drivers in the field who consider Kansas Speedway their “home track” and none cracked the top ten Saturday night. Edwards (Columbia, Missouri) finished eleventh, Clint Bowyer (Emporia, Kansas) ran nineteenth and Jamie McMurray (Joplin, Missouri) placed twenty-first.
NASCAR fans can now vote to give one of their favorite drivers a spot in the 2016 Sprint All-Star Race, which is scheduled to be run on Saturday, May 21st, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The ballot includes thirty drivers who are not presently eligible for the non-points special event … led by Danica Patrick, who’s twice been voted in, and Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year candidates Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott and Brian Scott. Fans can vote once daily at NASCAR-dot-com/Sprint Fan Vote. Balloting ends May 20th at 6 pm.
NASCAR fans can now vote to give one of their favorite drivers a spot in the 2016 Sprint All-Star Race, which is scheduled to be run on Saturday, May 21st, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The ballot includes thirty drivers who are not presently eligible for the non-points special event … led by Danica Patrick, who’s twice been voted in, and Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year candidates Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott and Brian Scott. Fans can vote once daily at NASCAR-dot-com/Sprint Fan Vote. Balloting ends May 20th at 7 p.m. (ET).
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