Podcast Episode 26 — Kyle Larson Makes it Three in a Row at MIS

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Larson wins third Michigan race in a row

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Kyle Larson celebrates in victory lane after winning the Pure Michigan 400. Eric Young — The SuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, MI — Kyle Larson joined some elite company when he took the checkered flag in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, becoming only the third driver in history to win three in a row at Michigan International Speedway, joining David Pearson and Bill Elliott.

“That’s some awesome company for sure,” Larson said. “We kind of struggled all day. I felt like I was good when I could find clean air on my car. But any time I would get any dirty air or wake from the car in front of me I’d get extremely loose.”

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Kyle Larson crosses the line to win the Pure Michigan 400. Eric Young — The SuperSpeedway

Larson took the lead on an overtime restart, starting on the outside second row and diving to the middle, taking the field four-wide to get the win. Martin Truex Jr. was the lead car on the restart, leading 57 laps of the day and dominating much of the tail end of the race, though differing pit strategies allowed Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch to lead laps late.

Brad Keselowski was the guy at the start of the race, leading 105 laps on the day.

Larson’s win was the fourth of his career out of 134 starts in the premier series. It is also his third victory in 2017, with his other wins coming in June at MIS and at Auto Club Speedway, MIS’ sister track. He led just two laps — the last two.

“It played out exactly how I’d hoped,” Larson said. “The win, it feels amazing to steal one in a way. In my other wins I had the first or second best car. Today I think we were a top-10 car.”

Larson returned to Michigan early Sunday morning after racing in the Knoxville Nationals sprint car race the night before where he finished second. He said he feels like racing in other series has helped him be successful this season.

“I think anytime I get to race any type of car, whether it be a go-kart or a sprint car, any time I’m getting laps, I feel like it’s helping me be a better racecar driver,” Larson said. “Especially when I can get in that stuff and win. It helps my confidence when I get into the Cup car. I get to race quite a bit throughout the year and this year I’ve had a really good year in everything really, especially the dirt stuff, and I feel like for sure that carries over to Sundays.”

Team Owner Chip Ganassi said when Larson was running in the middle of the pack earlier in the race, he was starting to regret his decision to allow Larson to race in Knoxville.

“We didn’t have too good of a start,” Ganassi said. “We were sort of mired in the top 10 there. I had concerns. I was getting ready to take a lot of heat in the media for that if we didn’t have a good day.”

“It’s easy to break that star athlete, easy to break them and slow them down,” Ganassi said. “It’s a lot harder to speed him up. I don’t want to do something that’s going to slow him down. You run the risk of that when you have a talent like that that wants to go out and drive other kinds of cars and things.”

So would Ganassi let Larson run in the Indianapolis 500?

“See what you do to me?” Ganassi said to Larson, laughing. “That’s a great question. Anybody else have any other questions?”

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Larson said. “The Indy 500 is definitely on my bucket list. I just don’t know if it is right now.”

Truex wound up second, and was visibly frustrated after the race.

“I’m just angry,” Truex said.

He said Larson’s move was expected — Truex said he even held back a little bit hoping Larson would push him ahead, but he spun the tires and that cost him the race.

“I did everything right,” Truex said. “It caught me by surprise … I hadn’t spun the tires all day long, did not expect to have an issue with it, and when I did, there was nothing I could do. I was just helpless, and he had the momentum and did what everybody else would have done. It’s just my screw-up that gave him the win, basically.”

Truex won the second stage of the race, claiming yet another playoff point as the regular season winds down. It was his ninth top-10 finish in 24 races at MIS, and his 16th in 2017.

Michigan Native Erik Jones finished third, his first top-10 finish at his home track. He was the top finishing rookie on the day, and challenged for the lead late in the race.

Jones continues to improve as the season goes on, and credits returning to tracks for a second time as part of the reason for his added success. He said preparation for each weekend is what has differed the most between the truck and Xfinity series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“In trucks and Xfinity, I didn’t really have to prepare at all,” Jones said. “It kind of worked out most of the time. You get to the Cup Series and you do that and you kind of feel a little bit out to lunch when you show up and you’re off like that.”

Truex was asked if, when he was leading and Jones was in second, if he had considered letting Jones go by since Jones needs a win to make the playoffs.

“No,” Truex said. “We don’t have team orders. Nobody lets each other win. He’s going to win some races. His turn will come.”

He said Jones will get his win in the future.

“That’s not how we race,” Truex said. “Nobody out there races that way. Nobody’s going to give a Cup win up. They’re too hard to get.”

Fourth place went to Ryan Newman, with fifth going to Trevor Bayne.

Overall the race was clean, with only five cautions for 28 laps. Two of those were for stage finishes, but on Lap 140 Kasey Kahne and Daniel Suarez got together, with both cars collecting the wall and ending their day.

The last caution of the day came on with just three laps to go after Michael McDowell and Paul Menard got together in turn two. The race was red-flagged for a five and a half minutes to clean up oil before an overtime restart. The official race distance was 202 laps after overtime.

Also leading laps on the day were Hamlin with 16, Kyle Busch with 14, Jones with five and Suarez with three.

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Kyle Larson’s crew celebrates after Larson wins the Pure Michigan 400. Eric Young — The SuperSpeedway

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Kyle Larson lights up his tires during his victory celebration. Eric Young — The SuperSpeedway

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Larson’s car is barely visible, buried in confetti after his win at Michigan Sunday. Eric Young — The SuperSpeedway

PREVIEW — Pure Michigan 400

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BROOKLYN, MI — Kyle Larson will look to defend his victory last year in the Pure Michigan 400 when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes to the track Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, but he’ll have to deal with some tough competition if he wants to make it three in a row at the 2-mile speedway.

Larson will start ninth Sunday.

The field will be led to the green by the Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Keselowski took the pole Friday with a speed of 203.097 miles per hour.

“Paul Wolfe and my team, they kept dialing in on the car and working on it,” Keselowski said. “I’ve got goosebumps. It feels really good to run well here at Michigan. This is my home track. A lot of fans here. I have to put my glasses on so nobody can see me. Really cool. Really special.”

Logono was knocked off to top starting spot by just .034 miles per hour, or 0.006 second. He said he was happy with how competitive he and Keselowski were, and felt it would translate over to the race as well.

“It seems like Team Penske has brought some speed, even the 21, and really most of the Fords look pretty good here,” Logano said. “That’s a good sign. I think we were really good in race trim too. I feel good about it. Obviously a good starting spot and a good pit stall is gonna be key, and hopefully we can just maintain that track position and we need to win, so this is a good start.”

Logano is fighting for a chance to contend for a championship this season. His one win was encumbered earlier this year, and he now finds himself in a must-win situation if he wants to make the playoffs.

“I love the pressure,” Logano said. “I’m all right with pressure. It’s good. I’d rather be in, but the pressure part is OK. You’ve got to get used to that, but that’s what this sport is, especially during the playoffs. We just have to turn into playoff mode a little bit earlier than everybody else to get in, but so far so good, and we’ll just get this Shell/Pennzoil Ford and do our thing. Like I said, execute our race. If we have speed, it makes it a lot easier, kind of like earlier this year, and make something happen here.”

If there was a track where Logano could turn things around, Michigan could be just the ticket. The 2-mile oval has been kind to him in the past. Logano has two wins at MIS, five top-5s and 12 top-10s. His average finish at MIS is 12.06.

Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne will need to work a little harder if they want to get a victory Sunday. Both will drop to the tail end of the field due to going to backup cars after catching the wall in final practice Saturday. Johnson will give up a 22nd-place starting spot, while Kahne will fall from 23rd.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also hit the wall in final practice, but the crew was able to repair the car so he could finish out final practice.

Kyle Busch also hit the wall during one of the practice sessions, but the crew was able to fix that car as well. He will roll off sixth.

Keselowski tops final practice at MIS

PM 400 Saturday-3177.jpgBrad Keselowski takes a lap during practice Saturday at MIS.
Eric Young/The SuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, MI — Brad Keselowski won qualifying Friday. He won final practice Saturday. He hopes he takes home the trophy Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Keselowski was fastest in final practice at MIS Saturday with a lap of 200.865 miles per hour. Keselowski starts from the pole Sunday.

He was one of only two cars to top 200 miles per hour during final practice. Martin Truex Jr. was second fastest with a lap of 200.172.

Final practice was pretty eventful, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne all hitting the wall. Kahne and Johnson will go to backup cars and fall to the rear Sunday. Stenhouse Jr.’s crew was able to fix his car, and he returned to the track during practice.

Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five at the end of final practice.

The Pure Michigan 400 takes the green flag at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Matt Crafton on the Pole for the LTi Printing 200

PM 400 Saturday-3328.jpgMatt Crafton takes a lap in the first round of qualifying Saturday at MIS.
Eric Young/The SuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, MI — Matt Crafton won the Keystone Light Pole for the LTi Printing 200 at Michigan International Speedway Saturday.

Crafton and Johnny Sauter will lead the field to the green. John Hunter Nemechek, Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson will round out the top five.

Crafton’s pole-winning speed was 184.256. It is his first pole in 2017 and his 13th of his career. He has won the pole at MIS two other times.

Sauter will start in the top 10 for the 11th time this season with his second-place qualifying run. Nemechek will start in the top 10 for the first time at MIS.

Briscoe is the fastest qualifying rookie.

The Camping World Truck Series will take the green at 1 p.m. Saturday for 200 laps, 100 miles.

See the full starting lineup below.

 

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Pure Michigan 400 Weekend Schedule

 

original.pngBROOKLYN, MI — The Nascar Camping World Truck Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series invade the Irish Hills of Michigan this weekend as they make their final stop in the Great Lakes State in the 2017 schedule.

The Camping World Truck Series drivers will compete in the LTi Printing 200 on Saturday, with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series taking to the track Sunday for the Pure Michigan 400.

Action gets started on the track Friday with practice for both series and qualifying for the Monster Energy drivers. Saturday the trucks qualify and the Cup cars have their final practice before the truck series takes the green flag.

Below is the tentative weekend schedule for all the on-track action at Michigan International Speedway this weekend.

Friday, Aug. 11

11:30 a.m.-12:55 p.m. — First MENCS Practice

1 p.m.-1:55 p.m. — First NCWTS Practice

3 p.m.-3:55 p.m. — Final NCWTS Practice

5:05 p.m. — MENCS Qualifying

Saturday, Aug. 12

8:30 a.m.-9:25 a.m. — Second MENCS Practice

9:30 a.m. — NCWTS Qualifying

11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m. — MENCS Final Practice

12:30 p.m. — NCWTS Driver Introductions

1 p.m. — Nascar Camping World Truck Series LTi Printing 200 (100 laps, 200 miles)

Sunday, Aug. 13

2:20 p.m. — MENCS Driver Introductions

3 p.m. — Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 (200 laps, 400 miles)

Can Kyle Larson win three in a row at Michigan? History says probably not

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Note: This is the first in a series of stories that will be published during the weekend of the Pure Michigan 400 as part of The SuperSpeedway’s coverage of the events from the track.

BROOKLYN, MI — If Kyle Larson can get to the checkered flag first Sunday, it will be his third win in a row at Michigan International Speedway. So how likely is it that Larson will earn his fourth win in his career at MIS and keep the streak alive?

Well, the truth is, not very likely. In fact, if he managed to pull it off, Larson would become only the third driver in history to win three in a row at the 2-mile Irish Hills speedway.

Many drivers have won two in a row at Michigan, but only two have won more consecutively.

The first time it happened was 1972 and 1973. David Pearson won the Motor State 400 in 1972, and followed it up later in the year with a win in the Yankee 400. He then won the Motor State 400 again the following year — the only Cup race at MIS, to end his streak at three races. Richard petty ended the streak in the 1974 Motor State 400.

The second time it happened, and the last time, started in 1984 when Bill Elliott won the Miller 400. People who have attended races at MIS for many years will tell you Elliott was one of the best there. And he proved it over those four races, winning the 1985 Champion Spark Plug 400, and doubling down the following season, winning both races again. Elliott holds the record for the most MIS races won in a row with four.

That’s it. No one else has done it.

Kyle Larson currently is among the ranks of drivers like Greg Biffle (he won two in a row twice), Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Cale Yarborough, and Bobby Allison as drivers who have won two races in a row at the track.

Speaking of Yarborough, he won two in a row just once, but he won a lot more races than that at MIS. He won eight times, including the first time in 1969. But the record for most wins at MIS is held by Pearson, who did it nine times over his career.

So if Larson is able to pull out a win this weekend at MIS, he will join some very elite company. It could happen, but the deck is certainly stacked against him.

Podcast Episode 24 — Kurt Busch is a Free Agent … Or Isn’t He?

Show notes:

Recap of the Overtons 400 at Pocono

Silly Season Discussion

  • Kurt Busch Out at SHR. 2 car team?  

NASCAR restrictions for Cup Drivers

Preview the I love New York 355 at the Glen

  • What to expect.
  • Last road course of the year. What track do you like more?  
  • James’ Pick: Jimmie “the Jimmer” Johnson
  • Eric’s Pick:  Kyle “Shrub” Busch

Shout outs
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