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Kyle Larson Will Run Knoxville Nationals Tonight

Kyle Larson has gotten the blessing from NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi to compete in tonight’s Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals, the most prestigious sprint car race of the year.

Wednesday at Knoxville Raceway, Larson won qualifying night at the Knoxville Nationals, which locked him into tonight’s championship race, where he’ll start ninth.

Originally, there was some question about whether or not Larson would get the OK to race, given that his day gig driving the Ganassi-owned No 42 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car is keeping him busy.

Yesterday, Larson qualified ninth for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, where he has won the last two Cup races.  And Saturday morning, Larson was fastest in the opening round of practice.

But Ganassi relented after an aggressive social media campaign on Twitter featuring the hashtag: #LetKyleRace.

“Chip is allowing me to go to Knoxville (Saturday), which is great,” Larson said Friday at MIS. “So, I will get to go and compete in the A-main there and then come back and try and go for three in a row here.  Cool weekend for me and really excited for it.”

Larson thanked his team owner for giving him the go-ahead.

“Ultimately, it’s all Chip’s decision,” said Larson. “I know my fans really appreciate it.  All my sprint car fans and NASCAR fans, so Chip is a hero today and this weekend.  I appreciate it.”

E-MAIL TOM AT tom.@jensen@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @tomjensen100

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.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: Will 2017 Indy 500 Mimic Last Year’s?

Four races into the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series, the focus shifts to two big events this month – the IndyCar Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, followed by the Indianapolis 500 two weeks later.

With the Diamond Desert West Valley Grand Prix of Phoenix now complete, questions have arisen, including this will scenarios influencing last year reveal themselves in 2017?

As was evidenced last year, Chevrolet prevailed at Phoenix and Honda struggled to keep up. However, when the teams made their way to Indy, the tide changed. Honda won the pole position with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe and fellow manufacturer affiliate Andretti Autosport led a majority of the laps on race day, with Alexander Rossi taking the trophy. Let’s look at what could allow for a similar story.

Andretti Autosport has strength in numbers with six cars in their stable. One of them is driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who until suffering a pit road collision seemed primed to win the 1ooth Indianapolis 500. The team however, does have some hurdles to jump. They enter May just removed from frustrating results at Phoenix by all four full-time pilots. Also they are without Carlos Munoz, who joined A.J. Foyt Racing during silly season. Finally, there is the presence of current Formula One driver Fernando Alonso that could present a roadblock to their goal of victory. The Spaniard garners attention, but will his inclusion take away from the effectiveness of its regulars?

There are also questions raised from some of the other Honda teams. Chip Ganassi Racing returns to HPD’s camp for the first time since the 2013 Indy 500. CGR’s pairing with the engine option since IndyCar began using the Dallara DW12 chassis a year previous has been hot and cold. In 2012, CGR surged from mid-pack to grab a one-tw0 sweep for Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon. The following year, Ganassi could not replicate the result as they fared no better than 14th.

Unknowns also surface around 2016 pole winners Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who enter this May at a slight disadvantage. After being held out of a portion of the IndyCar oval test last month at Texas Motor Speedway due to an engine rule violation, SPM has less experience with the new aero package as opposed to some others who will be in Gasoline Alley.

Now things are not all rosy for the Chevrolet party either. Team Penske has momentum following back-to-back IndyCar wins, but early season triumphs were not backed up last year. The Captain’s quartet failed to make an impact on race day as contact and misfortune pushed them out of contention. Without GM’s top dog, Honda took center stage.

The question is who will step up to uphold the Bow Tie’s legacy if Penske cannot?  Although four Chevy runners placed in the first ten in 2016, two of those squads are absent this year. As mentioned, Ganassi Racing has crossed over to rival territory, and KV Racing ceased operations. The missing in action reports, leave Ed Carpenter Racing as GM’s second in command. While J.R. Hildebrand enters this month off an excellent effort at Phoenix, team boss Carpenter was stuck among the back markers all weekend.

So in summary, Embury’s Outlook sees how an Indianapolis 500 close to a year ago could occur. However, five major threats from Chevrolet will keep the big three sharks from HPD honest from day one of practice.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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 Believes Lug Nut Situation is ‘Silly’

The day one his crew chiefs was suspended for violation at Pocono Raceway, team owner Chip Ganassi repeatedly used the word “silly” with Claire B. Lang of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio when discussing the current lug nut situation in the Sprint Cup Series.

“They (NASCAR) come out with a rule, and then they sort of change it and no one really knows where we’re at with the whole lug nut thing,” Ganassi said on Dialed In. “Our lug nuts were at least on there they just weren’t tight. I think that’s sort of one level of the penalty, and it’s another penalty if you don’t have a lug nut on there at all. Everybody in the garage is sort of, I don’t want to say up in arms, but sort of confused about the whole lug nut thing. I think it’s silly.”

Chad Johnston was suspended for one race and fined $20,000 by NASCAR on Wednesday morning. Johnston will serve his suspension this weekend as the series visits Michigan International Raceway as Ganassi appeared to acknowledge the team would not appeal. He did not say who would act as the crew chief of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson, but that there are qualified individuals within the organization.

Larson finished 11th in Monday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono. He is currently 21st in the point standings.

“That’s the other thing, these suspensions you can have the guy on the phone, you can have him on the computer, but he can’t be at the track,” Ganassi said. “It’s kind of confusing to me. What’s the point of being suspended? You can probably suspend everybody on the team but the pit crew. It’s silliness. It’s complete silliness.”

NASCAR went back to mandating lug nuts after several complaints from drivers and teams, the most recent and outspoken being Tony Stewart. The sanctioning body had stopped policing how many lug nuts teams were installing after the 2014 season and in 2015 went to a Pit Road Officiating (PRO) system that uses HD cameras instead of officials monitoring each pit stop.

With no policy in place, teams began looking for ways to save time during stops by either not gluing on all five lug nuts or not tightening all five. Following a safety outcry, NASCAR informed teams they would go back to mandating not only the use of all five lug nuts but they had to be secure, and failure to comply would result in a penalty.

Johnston is the fourth crew chief to be suspended for a violation since the update in April.

“I like to stay out of that sort of stuff. I just want the playing field to be level among all teams, and as long as that happens, I’m OK. I guess I have to take it on the chin a little bit with the penalty and our crew chief being suspended, but I think the whole lug nut thing is a silly thing,” Ganassi said when asked where the sport should go regarding pit stops.

“We’re in a major sport that on any given weekend we have over 100,000 people show up and watch, and it’s the most watched sport on television sometimes on the weekend and we’re sitting here talking about lug nuts. Are you kidding me? Please. They move to the conversation to something a little more relevant than lug nuts.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@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.