Kyle Larson is the 2014 NASCAR Rookie of the Year

Kyle Larson is Our NASCAR Rookie of the Year

Last year Chip Ganassi surprised us all by announcing that Kyle Larson would be moving up into the No. 42 Target Car after only one year in the Nationwide Series. Larson showed great promise in his one and only season in the Nationwide Series finishing eighth in the standings and it was expected that he would be great in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series but that it was perhaps too soon. Kyle Larson proved that wrong.

The 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year, Kyle Larson is also the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie of the year.

It’s pretty special to me to win Rookie of the Year.  I would say 80 maybe 90 percent of the people out there didn’t think we would be the Rookie of the Year at the end of the season and I don’t blame them.  Just happy with how this season has gone.” Larson added, “I want to thank all my guys for making it so fun for me this season.  Thank Target, thank Chip (Ganassi), Flex (Sabates), everybody on the No. 1 and No. 42 teams, everybody at the shop.

On many occasions Kyle Larson was giving the NASCAR veterans a run for their money. He seemed like he could win at any time. He didn’t but he will.

Larson said, “I wish we could have gotten our win this season, but we challenged for a handful of them so that is pretty awesome.  To win Rookie of the Year feels great.

We have not had such a strong Rookie of the Year candidate in a long time. The season that Kyle Larson put together is reminiscent of those by Denny Hamlin in 2006, Kyle Busch in 2005, Kasey Kahne in 2004, Jamie McMurray in 2003, Ryan Newman in 2002 and Kevin Harvick in 2001 in their rookie years.

Larson finished his Sprint Cup rookie year with 8 top five finishes and 17 top ten finishes. He also finished the season 17th in the standing, the highest finishing driver who was not in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has shown that he has everything it takes to be a Sprint Cup Champion when he comes back next season.

Larson said, “I think just being competitive and challenging for top-fives and top-10’s most every week has been really good.  There are a lot of moments that stand out, a lot of heartbreak moments as well.  We will come back next season peel the rookie stripes off and try and go out there and win a race and get into the Chase and do what Kevin Harvick did tonight.

NASCAR Sophomore driver Kyle Larson and the whole Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team will start the 2015 season stronger than ever. Look for Larson to not only win a race or two but contend for the Championship.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing

 

Homestead Miami Speedway NASCAR Championship Prerace Notes

Homestead Miami Speedway Championship Prerace Notes

Well it’s that time again; the time NASCAR fans both look forward to and dread. It is the last race of the Sprint Cup Season at Homestead Miami Speedway where we will crown a new Sprint Cup Champion and move into the dark season of no racing. Here are some notes and things to look forward to during the race.

Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman are equal in points after the end of the Eliminator Round of the Chase.  They are racing each other for the Championship. Since they all have the same number of points to start the race the driver who finishes ahead will win the Championship. There are no bonus points for leading laps. There absolutely cannot be a tie.

Kevin Harvick will start the race in 5th position and will be leading the Championship when the green flag drops followed by Denny Hamlin (8th), Joey Logano (9th) and Ryan Newman (21st).  Kevin Harvick was the fastest of the four Chase drivers in all the practices except final practice when he was 8th fastest behind Logano. That and his starting position would make it seem that he has it all in hand.

Make no mistake about it each and every driver, crew chief and crew will be on pins and needles throughout the race. One stuck lug nut, speeding on pit road, blown tire anything that removes positions on the track can lead to loss of the Championship.

Unlike other sports the other drivers who are not racing for a Championship are also competing. Jeff Gordon wants to show everyone he should have made it into the final four. He won the Coors Light Pole award and will lead the field to green. He was also very fast in practice. It is the 200th pole for Hendrick Motorsports. Of all the drivers that didn’t make it, Gordon missing by one point has really hit the fans and Gordon.

Gordon said, “You know, I think even if we win this race on Sunday, that’s only going to make it hurt a little bit more in some ways because we could have won the championship if we were here.

Other notes: Brian Scott will start the race from the back of the field due to an engine change. This is the last NASCAR race broadcast for ESPN. NBC Sports will pick up their part of the season next year.

The Homestead Miami Speedway is a 1.5 mile high banked speedway. The race is 400.5 miles or267 laps.

The Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be broadcast live on ESPN starting at 2 PM ET Sunday, November 16th.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing

NASCAR - Your driver is out of the Chase! What now?

NASCAR – Your driver is out of the Chase! What now?

When the new NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup came out many people were excited at the possibilities and many more were withholding judgment. The first three rounds of the new Chase are over, the results of which have some fans upset.

Why would one be upset? We had the most exciting races in a long time. We had lots of drama, fights and desperation moves on the track. Everything that we need to put some real excitement into NASCAR racing.

Well for one thing those teams leading the points all season are now out. At the end of the regular season it looked like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski were going to battle to the end. Jimmie Johnson wasn’t his usual stellar form but he was still fifth in the standings. Matt Kenseth hadn’t won a race but was the highest finishing driver who didn’t win a race and was sixth in the standings. Finishing out the top ten in the standings only Joey Logano 4th, Kevin Harvick 7th, and Ryan Newman 8th, are still alive and have a chance to win the Championship.

Ryan Newman made a great “Win and You’re In” move last week by driving into the corner on the last lap without lifting and using poor Kyle Larson’s car to keep him for certain disaster in order to pass one more car and make it to the final round. Like it or not but that is exactly the move that this new Chase format was intended to encourage. The only problem is that Ryan Newman hasn’t won a race, which is exactly what this new format was not supposed to be about.

The one thing I have always hated about NASCAR since I became a fan is that almost every fan has their favorite driver and that’s it. My driver is done so the racing sucks let’s get into the car so we can beat the traffic. It’s sad. I’m glad I have never been that way. So your driver is out of the Chase, what now?

Well now is a fine time to pay attention to not just your driver but the other drivers on the track and the potential drama that will enfold. Even I was caught off guard when Newman bonsai’d the corner on Kyle Larson. I thought that play was over when Larson had passed him some laps before. That is why I love NASCAR.

It might be Win and you earn the Championship but it might also end up that the race for the Championship is much further back. Remember there will be no bonus points for leading laps or the most laps. There cannot be a tie. The position on the track for Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman determines who will win the Championship. What can be better than that. There are no clinch scenarios, whichever one is up front wins. We will have a new first time Champion at the end of the race at Homestead Miami Speedway.

If you cannot get to Homestead Miami Speedway for the Ford EcoBoost 400 it will be broadcast live on ESPN Sunday, November 16th starting at 2 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 302952 Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images

Is the "Gentleman's Agreement" gone in NASCAR?

NASCAR – Its Wreck Your Mother Time at Phoenix International Raceway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is over at Texas Motor Speedway, the fines have been assessed and the penalties handed out. Now it’s on to Phoenix International Raceway for the Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500. Can this new Chase for the Sprint Cup get any more exciting?

All week NASCAR fans both hard core and casual have been talking about the move Brad Keselowski made on Jeff Gordon, the after race mêlée on pit road and the penalties for those involved. Never in as long as I can remember has NASCAR been talked about on the national news for more than one day after a race.

Whether you are in the Brad Keselowski camp where winning at all cost is expected or the Jeff Gordon camp where racing with respect is important you cannot say that this isn’t the most exciting racing we have had in ages each and every week.

This week NASCAR has the last race in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The events of last weekend has tightened up the eight drivers who are still in contention for the Chase. In fact not one of them is out but after Phoenix only four will have a shot. See Chase Grid Below:

Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman are the only drivers who can clinch Championship berths at Homestead regardless of how others finish. They need to finish 11th, 11th and 9th or better respectively not including bonus’s for leading laps.

Brad Keselowski showed last week what he will do to keep himself in contention. Years ago Tony Stewart said he would “Wreck his Mother” to win a Championship but it appears that Keselowski would actually do it.

I’m here to win races for Roger Penske and for my team. That means when there’s a gap, I have to take it. If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that’s okay. It’s not anything I don’t expect on the other side.  Plenty of times where I got rubbed. It will go both ways.  That’s okay by me. I’m not asking anyone to take. I’m not trying to dish out something that I couldn’t take myself.” Keselowski added, “But these guys have their own code, and they race differently than that. That’s their right.

Can this new Chase for the Sprint Cup get any more exciting? Well if the precedent that Keselowski set carries through to the other seven drivers then install a seat belt on your chairs, that interesting looking one mile speedway at Phoenix is going to be exciting.

“Win and Your In” will be the phrase of the day.

If you cannot get to Phoenix International Raceway for the Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN starting at 2 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 302712 Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images

Credit: NASCAR Media
Credit: NASCAR Media
Shame on the NASCAR Teams for Gaming Qualifying

Shame on the NASCAR Teams for Gaming Qualifying

Qualifying for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was always going to be different. NASCAR announced well over a month ago that during the first round of qualifying the cars would be split into two separate groups with 12 cars moving on from each to the second round. Some teams overthought their strategy such that two higher level full time teams did not qualify and will therefore miss the race.

In the first group of the first round of qualifying, the drivers waited most of the round to go out and make their laps. The thought was that the first cars out did not have a chance of posting a fast lap as the cars behind would get the benefit of the draft and post a much faster time. As they say, it looks good on paper.

Denny Hamlin didn’t buy into it and went out by himself. He posted a slow lap but eventually got some benefit of the draft in order to improve but still paid the price for going it alone and was the slowest of that group.

In the second group of the first round of qualifying, Tony Stewart and Reed Sorensen did exactly what Denny Hamlin did in the first group. They went out alone and also paid the price by posting the slowest laps of the cars that were up to speed. The rest of the drivers did exactly the same as the first group, except they waited too long. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did not make it to the line in time to take the flag on their up to speed lap. The official time for those drivers was that taken during a warm up lap.

So what exactly happened? There are six spots in the field reserved for those cars highest in owners points that have not qualified for the race on their speed (time). The 43rd and final spot is reserved for the most current champion that has not qualified for the race on their speed (time).  With so many great cars not posting a competitive time and so many cars that needed to make the race actually posting a time there was in a sense “No room at the Inn”. Justin Allgaier, 29th in points; and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 27th in points, were out.

Jeff Gordon will start last as he was the slowest of the drivers who are in the race by owner points. Although it would look like he used his past champion provisional, he did not need it since it was his spot if he didn’t use it.

In the end Reed Sorenson was the last to make it into the field on time since Joe Nemecheck was disqualified due to unapproved openings around the oil tank. Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick—the drivers who were the slowest of those who actually took full speed laps—took the first three provisionals. Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Jeff Gordon took the last four provisionals.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, and Joe Nemecheck will miss the race.

Shame on these teams “gaming” the system in order to get an edge in qualifying. We as fans wanted to see cars running around the track nose to tail trying to get a fast speed to make the race. Instead we saw cars sitting on pit road waiting for the last two minutes then going on the track. It was stupid and looked even more so.

The silly part is if it takes about two minutes to get up to speed and make a fast lap why wait for the last two minutes? If all the drivers had gone right at the beginning and run nose to tail only the truly slow cars would have gone home.

Oh and by the way, Brian Vickers won the Coors Light Pole Award—not that qualifying at a superspeedway is important; unless of course you don’t.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday, October 19th 2014 starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 302428 Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Pos Car Driver Team Speed
1 55 Brian Vickers Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota 196.129
2 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet 195.732
3 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products Chevrolet 195.496
4 12 Ryan Blaney(i) SKF Ford 194.015
5 2 Brad Keselowski Redd’s Wicked Apple Ale Ford 194.007
6 95 Michael McDowell Jordan Truck Sales Ford 193.693
7 33 Travis Kvapil Little Joe’s Autos Chevrolet 193.603
8 5 Kasey Kahne Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet 193.498
9 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 193.431
10 7 Michael Annett # Golden Corral Chevrolet 193.162
11 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 191.302
12 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet 190.981
13 20 Matt Kenseth Home Depot Toyota 193.415
14 23 Alex Bowman # Dustless Blasting Toyota 193.376
15 99 Carl Edwards Subway Ford 193.291
16 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 192.401
17 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 192.278
18 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 192.096
19 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 191.908
20 27 Paul Menard Moen/Menards Chevrolet 191.773
21 38 David Gilliland Long John Silver’s Ford 190.985
22 26 Cole Whitt # Bad Boy Mowers Toyota 190.97
23 49 Mike Wallace(i) Royal Teak Collection Toyota 184.729
24 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 191.577
25 34 David Ragan Dockside Logistics Ford 191.42
26 9 Marcos Ambrose Black & Decker Ford 191.214
27 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet 191.149
28 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet 191.134
29 40 Landon Cassill(i) Carsforsale.com Chevrolet 191.13
30 3 Austin Dillon # Dow Chevrolet 191.027
31 1 Jamie McMurray Cessna Chevrolet 190.818
32 83 JJ Yeley(i) Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota 190.689
33 15 Clint Bowyer PinkLemonade5HrEnergybnftLBBC Toyota 190.681
34 66 Michael Waltrip MyAFibStory.com Toyota 190.586
35 98 Josh Wise Dogecoin/Reddit.com Ford 190.507
36 36 Reed Sorenson Zing Zang Chevrolet 189.305
37 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
38 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx One Rate/Deliverminator Toyota
39 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
40 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
41 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Halloween Toyota
42 42 Kyle Larson # Energizer Chevrolet
43 24 Jeff Gordon Axalta Chevrolet
DNQ 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
DNQ 51 Justin Allgaier #
DNQ 29 Joe Nemechek(i).

 

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