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NASCAR Cup Series

Chastain lands big opportunity with Ganassi

After a busy 2019 saw him compete in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions, Ross Chastain will start of the 2020 campaign with another double-duty effort.

It was announced Thursday that Chastain will drive the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports for the Daytona 500 in a car that will be prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing with AdventHealth serving as the primary sponsor.

The deal bears a resemblance to the deal between Spire and CGR last season when Jamie McMurray ran the Daytona 500; however, Chastain’s opportunity will span two races as they will come together again for the Coca-Cola 600 in May.

“To have the opportunity to run the DAYTONA 500 is awesome, and it’s great to do it this year with AdventHealth on board my car,” Chastain said in a press release. “I’ve only had one start in the DAYTONA 500, and can’t wait to run that race again in what I know will be a competitive car. I’m also looking forward to racing the Coca-Cola 600. That’s another iconic race that all of us want to win.”

The move also serves as a reunion of sorts of Chastain and CGR who came together during the 2018 season for three races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where Chastain captures his first win and earned himself a contract with the team.

Unfortunately, that did not include any races last season though due to lack of sponsorship with DC Solar filing for bankruptsy.

It’s no secret that Chastain made the most of a bad break though, as he captured wins in Xfinity and the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, and even brought his Niece Motorsports’ truck all the way through to the Championship 4.

Now this opportunity is Chastain’s biggest yet, though.

Some people may be thrown off by the Spire Motorsports label associated with the ride, but this is without a doubt his best opportunity yet in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Rewind back to the Xfinity races at Daytona International Speedway last season, where Chastain ran strong in both races with Kaulig Racing, winning the summer race. While it may be NASCAR’s second-tier series, Chastain proved to be a quality superspeedway driver.

Now, he’ll be in even better equipment in the sport’s biggest race of the season with CGR.

Chastain himself he knows that this will be a competitive car that will give him a chance to steal a win, which could lead to bigger and better things as after all, Chip Ganassi likes winners.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson Recovers For Top-10 At Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Entering Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Larson had only finished worse than eighth twice in the last ten races and had hoped to keep that rolling. He was able to do that, despite some adversity. 

He started the race gaining points with ninth-place finish in Stage 1 and showed improvement with a third in the second. Appearing as a possible as a contender for the win, Larson’s hopes would be quickly be diminished after a pit road penalty for a safety violation, and then getting damage during one of the late restarts.

However, the California-native would still manage a solid rebound, finishing the South Point 400 in the eighth position.

“Our car was better than what I had thought it was going to be and felt like we probably had a car that could potentially win,” Larson told POPULAR SPEED. “But we got a pit road penalty there and then the restarts were pretty wild and I was just trying to be safe and probably cost us a little bit, but still, to be able to avoid some trouble and get a top 10, not bad.”

For him, a driver that has not scored any points-paying wins, being able to be out front has been quite the confidence builder.

The driver is entering the playoffs in the right state of mind, believing he can go and win races during the season’s most critical point. A trip to victory lane is expected, not just hoped for in the coming weeks.

“Our cars are definitely been good enough to win,” Larson said. “We just got to put the whole races together at this point, on my end, on pit road, and practices, if we want to win. I will keep working at it and hopefully, we can knock one out before the season’s over.”

Following the 400-mile race, Larson sits eighth in the standings, with a 17-point cushion over the cutoff.

Next weekend, the No. 42 team, along with the rest of the series will tackle Richmond Raceway. Larson will hope for a better result than his visit their earlier in the season, where he crashed early and finished last.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Larson Feels Like Bristol Doesn’t Owe Him a Victory

As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for the eighth race of the season, Kyle Larson is returning to his favorite track. The California native has never won at the high-banked short track in the Cup Series, but hopes to find victory after being so close many times in the past.

A victory would be critical at this time as unfortunately for Larson, it hasn’t been the smoothest start of the season for the 26-year-old. He only has two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 15.1. Last year, he placed second in both races at Thunder Valley.

“I don’t feel like I’m owed anything anywhere, but that’s the one track where I feel like time after time I’m close to winning a race there every time I go,” Larson said. “I just don’t get it done. Not that it owes me anything. I just need to do a better job at the end of the races.”

The Sprint car expert is no stranger to losing close races in dirt competition as well. During this year’s memorable Chili Bowl, Larson lost the event with a few laps remaining against rival Christopher Bell.

Both drivers come from dirt racing backgrounds and have proven to be successful on asphalt. Larson’s aggressiveness in a Sprint car sometimes transitions to stock cars, which may be a reason why he hasn’t been able to close out a Cup Series race at Bristol.

“I think you’ve got to be really aggressive to run a winged Sprint Car and maybe sometimes I’m over-aggressive in a stock car,” Larson said. “Other than that, I think there are more good habits than bad habits. I think racing any type of car helps for any type of car, too. I mean the aggressive side of things is also good in NASCAR. You need to be aggressive. But, I don’t know; maybe sometimes I get over-aggressive. I’m not really sure. But, I think racing winged Sprint Cars helps me more than anything.”

While Bristol is just another race this year, it will play an important moving forward in NASCAR. Last week, the Cup Series schedule for 2020 was released, with the half-mile becoming the first cutoff race in the playoffs. Other  significant modifications includes the changing of the season finale from Homestead-Miami Speedway to ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.

Larson is enthusiastic about the schedule change and the cutoff races.

“Overall, I think the schedule is really good,” Larson said. “It just adds a lot of excitement to the year. I think going to the West Coast before Atlanta is good. I think all the cutoff races in the Playoffs are really intense, exciting places that the points can change a lot throughout those events. Yeah, I think it was good. Having a two week break is nice. Some weekends take some Sprint Car races away from me, but others add a lot more, too. So overall, I think the schedule is really exciting.

“Even though Homestead has been a track where I can lead a bunch of laps and also challenge for wins, I feel like it needs to go somewhere else. I’d still like to see it go, and Joey Logano mentioned it on TV this week, but go to a different track every year just like the Super Bowl does. Like for me, Homestead is my best track and everybody says if I make it to the final four, I’ve got the best shot. Well it shouldn’t always be like that. It shouldn’t go to Phoenix where Kevin Harvick has got the best odds to win every year. It should be able to move around. I think if tracks could bid on it or however it works in football, I think that would be cool.”

The 2020 Cup Series schedule is the first of changes to come to the sport heading into the future. Revising the schedule has been in the talks the past few years and the adjustments show that NASCAR is listening to the fans.

Nonetheless, this season is still young and there is a lot of racing to be run before we think about next year. As for Larson, he still has time to become more consistent and contend for wins.

This weekend at Bristol may very well be what turns around the No. 42 teams’ season and it couldn’t come at a better time in the schedule.

EMAIL BRANDON AT: brandon.rivero@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MrBrandonRivero

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Ganassi Shows Strength At Atlanta

Could 2019 be the year of improvement for Chip Ganassi Racing?

Well, if the team continues to perform as they did during Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, that may be the case, as their drivers, Kurt Busch, and Kyle Larson, both turned out solid results.

Busch, who started the race eighth, placed third, the best finish for the No. 1 team since the Charlotte ROVAL (second) last October, and only their 12th since the end of the 2015 season. This accomplishment is exactly what Ganassi could’ve hoped for when he hired the 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion in December in quick fashion.

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

Not to forget that the run is a big momentum boost for Busch, who shows his ability since leaving Stewart-Haas Racing. While CGR hasn’t been at the level of SHR, the early success could pave the way to continue to establish themselves as a bigger threat moving forward into the season.

Then there is Larson, whose 12th place finish does not represent the kind of day he had.

For the majority of the event, the 26-year-old proved to the class of the field, leading a race-high 142 laps before a costly speeding penalty put him in a hole he couldn’t get out of.

Now the lack of capitalization on such a dominant day will be understandably frustrating for the team, but this run is ultimately a positive.

Let’s make it clear; the No. 42 was not a dominant force last year. While there were some high moments, this team’s season was ultimately forgettable, with zero wins, and an early playoff exit, a disappointment magnified by their four victories in 2017.

However, if Larson and company can continue to be a force, week in and out, and avoid the mistakes that keep them from solidifying their results, they could very well be on their way to another successful year.

The point being, Atlanta proved CGR can hang with the top teams of the sport. Now even if they are unable to build on this in the future, after all the disappointment and changes to the team recently, a day like this is one they needed to start this year. The progression of this organization will be something to watch in the coming weeks as the season continues on in its early stages.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Larson Lacking Speed Prior to the DAYTONA 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — This season’s edition of Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway has not been the best for Kyle Larson. The driver of the No. 42 Credit One Chevy Camaro has encountered problems during his time at Daytona this month.

Starting with last Sunday, when Larson qualified 32nd for the Great American Race. Later on in the day, he wrecked his race car during the Advance Auto Parts Clash. Larson knew that things needed to turn around Thursday during the Gander RV Duel, but it still didn’t go his way.

Larson finished 12th after he was left from the main pack due to losing the draft in the race. A lack of speed is something that is concerning Larson about his race car.

“I felt a little bit loose, but like I said we need more speed, like I lost the draft there,” Larson told POPULAR SPEED.

Larson seemed a bit frustrated with his car but knows it can improve on Sunday during the race. After winning last July in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver looks to use his skill as an advantage.

Hopefully, it can go better than his previous DAYTONA 500 attempts with only one top-10 in five appearances which came back in 2016. Larson might also want to get up front and lead some laps, as he’s only led 16 laps in his entire career at Daytona in the Cup series.

His car is not where he wants it to be, but Larson is not panicking. His veteran experience in these types of races still give him the thought that he can take the victory on Sunday.

“Well you just, I don’t know you don’t get a good idea how your car is, you’re just working on single car runs,” Larson  said.“So it’s kind of it is what it is here.”

On Friday, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars had two practice sessions, with Larson was scored in 35th in the first.

“I’d like to be a lot faster, but I think it’s too late to find speed like that,” Larson said.

On a positive side, single car run speeds do not make a big impact to the race. Larson has a chance to be consistent in the pack and work his way to the front. He will be starting 26th for the DAYTONA 500 on Sunday.

“It doesn’t even matter once you get in the race, either you just try to miss some wrecks and hopefully have a clean car by the end of the race.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Hiring Kurt Busch Was The Right Move For Ganassi

On Tuesday, Kurt Busch finally announced his plans to move to Chip Ganassi Racing to take over the No. 1 Chevrolet. It was also confirmed that he will be bringing his longtime sponsor, Monster Energy, with him to his new team.

The move comes after a disappointing season for the No. 1 team, who missed the playoffs for the second time in five years, had only two top-five finishes, and they were held winless for the fifth consecutive campaign.

Meanwhile, Busch comes from Stewart-Haas Racing, where he finished the 2018 season seventh in points with one win, six top-five’s, and 22 top-10’s.

While it remains to be seen if this will be a good move for Busch, this was the exact decision that Ganassi needed to make.

Why?

Just look at Busch’s track record. He started at Roush-Fenway Racing, won them another Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Then, he replaced a retiring Rusty Wallace at Team Penske with success, winning each season with the team. A few years later, he brought a Furniture Row Racing team that was nowhere as competitive as they have the past couple of seasons, to the playoffs for the first time. After that, he was assigned to a brand new entry for Stewart-Haas Racing, whom he won a Daytona 500 with and made the postseason each season he was there. Not to forget, Busch even came close to bringing an underfunded Phoenix Racing to victory lane at the sport’s level.

Do you see the trend here? Everywhere the 2004 champion as went he has proven to be a valuable asset to a team, which is exactly what the No. 1 team needs.

It could be even argued that this change could be necessary for the entirety of the CGR organization. After all, the lack of success was not just with one. Kyle Larson, who drives the No. 42 for Ganassi, had won four times in 2017, but did not reach victory lane once last season. The problems did not stop there, as it was clear throughout the year that this organization was not on the same level as the top teams in the sport.

With the addition of Busch’s veteran experience through his long and storied career, along with his shown ability and skill, this move may prove to be exactly what this team needs to reassert themselves with NASCAR’s best.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Chastain Closing a Chapter Saturday in the Ford Ecoboost 300

HOMESTEAD, Fla – From racing on Saturday nights at his home track in Punta Gorda, Florida to winning in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2018, Ross Chastain sure made this year memorable. Recently, it was announced that Chastain would run full-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in their No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 2019.

The 25-year-old hasn’t had it easy accomplishing what he did this year, but he’s proven that if you work hard you can achieve your dreams. Many competitors have different opinions about Chastain’s driving style, but that never distracted him. He continued to work hard and eventually grabbed an opportunity that led him to victory lane.

Seat time was a key figure for Chastain to learn how to become successfull, including racing with different teams in the top three levels in NASCAR.

“Yeah, it’s just a combination of everything,” Chastain told POPULAR SPEED. “Just racing as much as I can be the biggest thing I can do, and I’ll do it anytime and anywhere, I’ll race it. Getting laps helps me more than everything else.”

Although Chastain is not racing for a championship this weekend, he fulfilled goals that many do not even become close to. Beyond the XFINITY Series victory, he scored three top-fives with two different teams, and captured a pole. Prior to the 2018 season, Chastain only had one top-five finish with no pole awards to his credit.

Saturday, Chastain will make his last appearance with JD Motorsports in the Ford Ecoboost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Throughout his tenure there, he gained experience and had strong finishes that may have ultimately caught the attention of Chip Ganassi, among others.

The lessons gained extend to away from the track as Chastain has learned that racing is not the only thing in the world. As he has evolved as a driver, he has figured out that what happens at the race track stays at the track.

“Mainly it’s just, at least for me when stuff happens it’s not the end of the world,” Chastain told POPULAR SPEED. “There is going to be another race, you’re going to wake up the next day. Racing is not the end of the world and I was this way when I started as a racecar driver because we get so self-centered and so focused on our racing that one little thing goes wrong we wake up Monday morning and can’t get out of bed because we’re so passionate and sick to your stomach that you made a mistake.”

Chastain will be closing that chapter in his career, but will always look back and be thankful for the opportunities he had coming up in the ranks. As he walks out of Miami on Saturday after the Ford Ecoboost 300, he’ll go into the off-season knowing that all the challenging work he has put into his racing career is paying off.

EMAIL BRANDON AT: brandon.rivero@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MrBrandonRivero

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Strong First Round Places Poole in Championship Conversation

CONCORD, N.C. – Brennan Poole didn’t enter the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs among the title favorites, but that quickly changed after the Round of 12.

A fifth-place finish in Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway marked the Chip Ganassi Racing drivers’ third consecutive top-five to begin the post-season. 

He also placed highest among championship contenders in two of three races including on Saturday night, showcasing what he could be capable of in the remaining Playoff races.

“I’m just proud of the effort,” Poole told POPULAR SPEED. “I’m proud of the fast race cars that we’re bringing to the race track.” 

After only capturing one top-five in the regular season, clicking off three consecutive shows increased speed out of the No. 48 team.

Not only did Poole finish well on Saturday but he rebounded after receiving damage early in the race, attesting to the team’s resilience that could play into their title chances.  

“Tonight we had to battle through a lot of adversity,” Poole told POPULAR SPEED. “The car’s torn to pieces but the guys did some great jobs repairing on it. We just never gave up, and we fought through it.”

The 26-year-old now resets sixth on the Playoff Grid to begin the Round of 8, 20 points behind leader William Byron and three behind Daniel Hemric in the final spot that advances to the season finale.

Poole’s confidence is high heading into the next set of tracks as he looks to make up the difference.

“Kansas has been a great race track for me,” Poole told POPULAR SPEED. “Of course Texas I’m excited to go to. Not only is it my home state but also being very similar to Kentucky where we were so strong at the first race. And ending up at Phoenix, a place where I have several top-10’s and just looking forward to getting into this next round and taking care of business.”

Stage racing has been a difference maker throughout 2017, and the most significant impact may come as the field is narrowed from eight to four cars in this round.

“It’s just going to come down to stage points,” Poole told POPULAR SPEED. “The field is so tight. Tonight we got caught up in an incident that kept us from getting stage points. We’re just going to have to have a little bit of luck, a little bit of things go our way since the field is so tight.”

With Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 team winning two of the first three Playoff races with Tyler Reddick at Kentucky and Alex Bowman at Charlotte, the organization’s second entry is now seemingly on the verge of victory.

“I feel like we’re more than capable of even winning a race in these next three races, we’ve been so good here recently,” Poole told POPULAR SPEED.  

A strong first round delivered Poole some of his best career results and allowed him to show that he’s capable of competing for the championship.

Now it will again be about rising to the occasion in the Round of 12 and placing his team in the Championship 4 where Poole believes that he could hoist the trophy at Homestead-Miami.

“I really believe that this team has what it takes to win it all,” Poole told POPULAR SPEED.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson Finishes Second at Knoxville Nationals

Kyle Larson came up a little short in Saturday night’s 57th Annual 5-Hour Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals, but not by much.

Larson, who drives the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, finished second to Donny Schatz, who won the nation’s biggest sprint car race for the 10th time. Schatz drives for Tony Stewart Racing, the sprint car team owned by the three-time Cup champion.

This afternoon, Larson will be strapped back into his CGR Cup car as he goes for his third consecutive victory at Michigan International Speedway. Larson, who won from the pole at MIS in June, will start ninth today.

https://twitter.com/KyleLarsonRacin/status/896602273161162756

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Categories
XFINITY

Ganassi Duo Solid in Phoenix XFINITY Race

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Chip Ganassi Racing had a solid Saturday in the DC Solar 200 at Phoenix Raceway.

Tyler Reddick completed every lap for the first time in a NASCAR XFINITY Series race while Brennan Poole posted an eighth-place result.

Reddick, who ran the No. 42 at Daytona in February, was involved in an early accident at the superspeedway and salvaged a 20th-place result two laps down. But he stayed out of trouble at the desert oval and ran in the top five midway through the event. However, late restarts gave the 21-year-old racer trouble near the end.

“All day yesterday in practice, we had a really hard time getting the take-off speed we needed,” Reddick told POPULAR SPEED. “Honestly, for most of the race, we had pretty good take-off speed on the restarts — better than we were expecting.

“We freed it up too much at the end of the race hoping for a long green flag run. We probably could have finished inside the top 10, but mistakes there at the end cost us a good finish.”

Reddick finished 14th in his second career XFINITY race and was pleased with his performance nonetheless. He said racing on paved short tracks has been difficult in his NASCAR career.

“These short tracks are going to be tough for me,” he said. “[Asphalt racing] isn’t something I knew a lot about growing up. I did a lot of dirt track racing, and being on the top for restarts wasn’t the place for us all day long. Being loose at the end cost us a lot.”

Poole, who sits seventh in the standings, called the final 40 laps of the race “wild.” But he said his confidence is up after Saturday’s performance and thinks a win will come soon.

“The restarts were crazy. Everyone is trying to get what they can get,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “We battled all day. Our car was not really where we wanted in practice, and we didn’t get a great qualifying result. But at the end of the day, we worked through every stop to make the car better and wound up getting an eighth-place finish.

Both CGR drivers had sweat dripping down their face when they climbed out of the car after the race. That’s what a 200-mile event in the Valley of the Sun will do to a person. But both men still had quite a bit more energy afterward.

They both said they could go “another 200 laps.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.