After being worried about entering Pocono Raceway in June, Kyle Larson seems to have figured out the ‘Tricky Triangle.’ Larson set a blistering pace in the final round of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying as he even made a pass around Matt Crafton – providing him a little extra momentum thanks to the draft.
The 22-year-old was inside of the top-two throughout the pair of practice sessions held on Friday. In qualifying, he ran a lap time of 53.282 seconds. After being quickest in the second session in qualifying on Saturday, he picked up the pace by approximately six tenths of a second. Larson will be making his eighth career Truck Series start on Saturday afternoon in the Pocono Mountains 150. This is his second pole of the weekend as he set a track record during qualifying for Sunday's Gobowling.com 400.
Austin Dillon will start alongside Larson during Saturday’s spectacle. Dillon was over a tenth of a second behind Larson’s time. Both drivers are competitors for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and Larson is currently ahead of Dillon as far as points are concerned.
John Wes Townley will not be racing the No. 05 truck for Athenian Motorsports. Townley is going to be held out of competition for a week as a precaution and will be reevaluated in North Carolina early in the coming week. Replacing him is NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer. Bowyer will start the truck in the 10th position. He will not need to go to the rear of the field because he qualified the truck. The 35-year-old will be making his first Truck Series start since Atlanta of 2011.
Both Kyle Busch Motorsports vehicles missed the cut for the final round of qualifying. This is just the fourth time that the team’s championship eligible driver Darrell Wallace Jr. missed the final session of qualifying. Wallace will start in the 15th position. Meanwhile, Erik Jones – making his Pocono debut – will start in the 13th spot.
“We just didn’t get the right toe. We didn’t have enough speed in the second round. We should be just fine for the race with plenty of speed,” Wallace said after qualifying. “The track conditions are really different. We’ve had some down weekends, so I’m not worried about it. That’s (strategy) going to be the biggest thing. If we can get up front and pick up a few positions early, we’ll be just fine.”
Tyler Reddick, Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters round out the top-five in qualifying. Spencer Gallagher made the top-12 in qualifying for the first time this year, and will start a career-best 12th in Saturday’s race.
The Target Chevrolet will be a moving target for 42 racers on Sunday afternoon. Kyle Larson will lead the field to the green flag for the Gobowling.com 400 at the Pocono Raceway after setting a lap time of 49.063 seconds – a new track record. This is the 15th time in 2014 that a driver has broken a track record in 21 races.
Larson, making his 25th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start this weekend, won his first career Coors Light Pole Award on Friday afternoon. With rain approaching during qualifying, the No. 42 team was able to improve from the fourth position during the first practice session of the weekend. In doing so, he becomes the first driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole award after graduating from the Drive for Diversity program. The pole award also locks Larson into the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona in February, and it is the second time this year that a Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver will lead the field to the green flag.
“It seems like we are back on track, running inside of the top-10. Hopefully, all of that bad luck is out of the way and we can contend for some wins here. If we can get a win before the Chase – it would be great,” Larson said in a post-qualifying press conference.
Joey Logano barely missed out on Logano’s lap time by just .008 seconds. His runner-up starting position marks the sixth time this season that the No. 22 Ford will start on the front row. Logano’s Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, will start in the third position after being the second quickest car during practice.
During qualifying, Carl Edwards slid up into the wall. The right rear quarter panel of the No. 99 car received cosmetic damage. Due to not being able to complete his second attempt, he will start 26th, which is his third worst start of 2014. Moreover, Edwards’ car also received minor damage while sliding through the infield grass.
“We got knocked out of the top-24 and I think we have a pretty good car here, but we went back out. It just got away from me off of (Turn) 2 and I just blew the rear tires off. We ran the right rear into the fence and then, we had just enough time – I thought we would come down and stab it into the water and get another run. I ran it into the dirt and that just added insult to injury. I don’t think it tore up the front end, but we do have some cosmetic damage in the right rear,” Edwards said after his qualifying run.
After making the second qualifying session by the skin of his teeth, Jimmie Johnson qualified his No. 48 Chevrolet in the 17th spot. Johnson started 20th in the June race at Pocono, but worked his way up through the field until he had a collision on pit road with Marcos Ambrose.
“We’re getting there. We’re getting better. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to that next round, but there is still a practice session tomorrow and then the race on Sunday. And we didn’t have a ton of speed in qualifying when we were here in the spring race, but we raced just fine. So, we clearly wish we were faster, but that’s just how it is,” Johnson said.
With 43 drivers entered for the 400-mile spectacle, no drivers missed the race.
Paul Menard is back in victory lane for the first time since he won the Brickyard 400 in 2011. However, this win is in NASCAR’s second-tier division, the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Menard has won his second career Nationwide Series event in 183 starts as he came out victorious at the Michigan International Speedway on Saturday afternoon for the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200. With five laps to go, Joey Logano had to pit after leading 43 laps during the race. Logano’s right rear tire gave out as he had a 1.3 second gap over Menard, handing over the No. 33 team their first victory of the year.
“This is a brand new car. It’s good to be back in victory lane. This feels really good,” Menard said. “I was trying to run him down and we were going to catch him a little bit, but we weren’t going to pass him.”
The Wisconsin native lone Nationwide Series win prior to Saturday’s event came in 2006 at Milwaukee while he was driving for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. In eight prior Nationwide Series starts at Michigan, Menard earned seven top-10s, and nearly went to victory lane in 2012 after leading 37 laps. The victory also marks the first win for Richard Childress Racing in any of the top-three NASCAR divisions since Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix towards the conclusion of the 2013 season.
Sam Hornish Jr., who was racing the No. 20 car for the first time this season, gave Menard a run for his money, but came up less than a half of a second short for the win. Hornish spun out of the second lap after getting loose in Turn 2 – forcing him to race his way from outside of the top-30 to the front of the field. He has finished no worse than fifth in his three Nationwide Series starts this season.
On Lap 79, Dylan Kwasniewski got loose while trying to get around Trevor Bayne for the 11th position. Kwasniewski slid right into Bayne’s No. 6 Ford, sending both cars hard into the outside wall in Turn 2.
"I have to start driving smarter. This is all my fault," Kwasniewski said on the wreck.
Elliott Sadler was running in the second position with 25 laps to go when there was a piece of debris on the grille of his No. 11 car. Sadler attempted to get the debris off his car by letting Earnhardt Jr. go by him, but he was unable to do so – forcing him to pit.
Regan Smith continues to hold the drivers points lead as he is 14 markers ahead of Sadler. Chase Elliott, who finished sixth, is six points behind Sadler in the third position. Elliott was battling Kyle Larson for the lead for the majority of the race, but the two opted to stay out during a caution flag while the majority of the lead lap cars pitted. Then, a caution came out several laps later, forcing them to take four tires while their competitors took either two tires or fuel-only. Larson ended up finishing eighth after leading a race-high 46 laps.
Here are some notables from the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200 at Michigan:
-Ryan Reed recorded the second best finish of his career and the best result of his season as he finished 11th in the No. 16 Ford.
-Ty Dillon led nine laps early in the race, but ended up finishing ninth as he is 35 points behind Smith in the standings.
-Ross Chastain recorded his best career Nationwide Series finish in his second start as he finished in the 12th position for Hattori Racing Enterprises.
-Landon Cassill raced his way to his seventh top-15 of the season for JD Motorsports as he finished 14th.
-There were six different leaders for a total of 14 lead changes.
After a dominating performance on Saturday afternoon at Pocono, Kyle Larson showed once again that he has a boatload of talent. However, Larson also utilized his NASCAR Nationwide Series crew from Turner Scott Motorsports.
Larson’s crew, led by Scott Zipadelli, proved to be the difference maker in Saturday’s ARCA 200 at Pocono. The No. 4 car had a lead over Matt Tift at one point the event which surpassed 20 seconds – that’s nearly half of the entire Pocono Raceway.
After making a green flag pit stop, Larson received a pit road speeding violation – forcing his Chevrolet to have a pass-through penalty. Due to his large lead, Larson still held a five second lead over Tift. A large part of holding a 20 second lead was because of his Nationwide Series pit crew, who noticeably had about a five-10 second quicker pit stop compared to the rest of the top-10.
But with a car that was clearly going to be dominating this weekend with his Nationwide Series team, should he have raced on Saturday? Wouldn’t have participating in the ARCA Series test at Pocono been enough for the 21-year-old?
Well, on Friday Larson told Speedway Digest that he did not believe it was going to hurt him by racing the ARCA Series race. However, at the time, he believed it wasn’t helping him an exceptional amount considering the differences between the ARCA Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Not only does the ARCA Series use a different tire combination as they throw on Hoosier tires to their cars, but they also have less horse power than the Cup Series. In the Cup Series, drivers have been shifting at least two-four times per lap at Pocono. Moreover, the ARCA Series does not shift at all at Pocono besides on the restart. Larson even joked about how Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates was making his practice shifting by driving around town in a manual vehicle – a Chevrolet Camaro to be specific.
The only driver who was able to contend with Larson for the victory was Mason Mitchell. Mitchell led several laps after the final restart, but as the field was coming to two laps remaining in the 200-mile spectacle, Larson flew by Mitchell, who owns his own team – Mason Mitchell Motorsports. He ended up beating Mitchell by approximately one second.
Justin Boston and Matt Tift had strong cars that might have been able to contend with Larson, but they’re days came to an end early as both of them got into a wreck with 15 laps remaining in the event. Justin Allison also had a strong car, yet his No. 88 Ford was stuck in fourth gear and caused him to fall back mightily on the restart.
Larson might have dominated the race, but he stated that he learned a few things which could help him on Sunday for the Pocono 400. He had to maneuver through traffic for the majority of the day, and also had an intense battle with Mitchell. Another thing which Larson could have learned this weekend was the line which he takes going to pass drivers in the corners. But that is about all he could learn with such drastic differences in the two divisions.
The California native was 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice held early Saturday afternoon after running 25 laps – the third highest amount behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski. He was also inside of the top-10 in the second practice of the weekend, and was fourth of nine cars to run 10 consecutive laps.
Larson will start his first Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono in the 14th position.
Kyle Larson has won his first career ARCA Series event. Larson, 21, led the majority of the Pocono 200 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. However, even after dominating the race, Larson was passed by Mason Mitchell on the final restart with less than 15 laps to go.
Mitchell held the lead over Larson until Larson got around him with less than three laps to go. Once he passed Mitchell, Larson checked out and defeated the no. 98 Ford by more than a second. This is the fifth time Mitchell has come up just short of a victory, and the second time he has done so this season after finishing in the runner-up position at Toledo.
The only major incident in the race occurred when Matt Tift got into Justin Boston as the two were battling for position inside of the top-five. Tift got loose in Turn 1, sending both cars hard into the outside wall. The No. 52 car owned by Ken Schrader was able to continue in the race, but finished 19th – five laps down.
Austin Wayne Self had two speeding violation after contending for the lead with Larson after the first round of pit stops. Then, Self had a mechanical failure just laps later, forcing the No. 22 Dodge to go to the garage. The team Tweeted out that Self believed he damaged the radiator while going to pit road, but the damage was permanent.
Larson has a 21 second lead over Tift, but also had a speeding penalty on pit road. The No. 4 car came back down pit road, but due to his large lead, he came back out and still had a five second advantage over Tift.
John Wes Townley finished third after earning a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Texas on Friday evening. Since Townley was in Texas on Friday, Brennan Poole practiced and qualified Townley’s car – forcing Townley to start at the rear of the field on Saturday. Townley was mired outside of the top-20 early in the race after receiving damage to the front-end of his No. 15 Toyota. He went a lap down, but due to several late race cautions, Townley worked his way back on the lead lap and took advantage of the final caution by racing his way into the top-five.
Unofficially, Grant Enfinger leaves Pocono with a 20 point lead over Mitchell in the ARCA Series points standings.
Here are some notables from the ARCA 200:
-Karl Weber tied his best career finish with a 10th place run.
-Josh Williams earned a sixth-place finish in the No. 6 car. Williams earned his second top-10 of the year after not racing in the first two events of 2014.
-Kyle Martel ran in the 14th position in his first race of 2014.