Larson leaves impressive impression
• In an example of statistics not always showing the whole story, Kyle Larson didn’t leave Charlotte Motor Speedway with any weekend trophies, but he did leave with something perhaps more important for his racing career – respect. Larson put on quite as show during Friday night’s Nationwide Series race and was in contention for the win until slapping the wall late. Saturday night, while making his Sprint Cup Series debut, Larson was equally impressive and at times was running as high as 11th before his car lost a cylinder and eventually the engine. Something tells me this weekend was the first of many when Larson will leave fans and media talking about him.
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• It might seem at times that Brad Keselowski doesn’t really care what his fellow competitors say about him, but he has a deep passion for the sport and cares what the people around it think of his contribution. It was evident in his discussion Saturday night when he talked about not wanting to go winless the year after winning the championship. A trip to Victory Lane won’t put him back in the Chase but did signal that perhaps there was not as much wrong with Keselowski and his Penske Racing team as some seemed to think there was.
• Taken as a whole, Saturday night’s race certainly wasn’t the best this season, but the final 25 laps or so might have been some of the best one-on-one driving between two competitors as there has been all season. The show Kasey Kahne and Keselowski put on will be much, if not all, of what fans remember.
How the Chase contenders faired:
1 Matt Kenseth (2,225): It was yet another race which looked like Kenseth could lose his points lead only to see him rally and continue to hold serve.
2 Jimmie Johnson (-4): Johnson appeared to be in good position to win the race and take the points lead until a caution on Lap 308 sent everyone to pit road and bunched the field. Johnson restarted third but fell back to seventh before rallying to finish fourth.
3 Kevin Harvick (-29) : Harvick and his Richard Childress Racing team brought the same car to Charlotte as he won with the previous weekend at Kansas, but the performance was nary the same. He did manage to rally for a sixth-place finish and declared his team “miracle workers.”
4 Jeff Gordon (-36) : Early in the race, Gordon looked like a contender for the win, but as the race went on he could not get his No.24 Chevrolet to handle as he liked.
5 Kyle Busch (-37) : Busch lost a lot of track position early when he was forced to make a second pit stop under caution for loose lug nuts.
6 Greg Biffle (-58): Biffle and his Roush Fenway Racing team could never seem to get a handle on his car and ended up in 16th and a lap down.
7 Kurt Busch (-59): Late in the race, Busch had fallen a lap down and was in position to earn the free pass but never got the caution he needed.
8 Clint Bowyer (-63): Bowyer was among a handful of drivers whose cars had engine woes derail what looked to be strong runs. He did manage to finish 11th.
9 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-66): It was a tail of two halves for Earnhardt. He appeared to be a contender for the win in the first half and led 19 laps. The longer the race went on, however, the further his car fell off, eventually finishing 15th.
10 Carl Edwards (-67) : The only other Ford driver besides race winner Brad Keselowski to finish among the top 10.
11 Joey Logano (-75): An odd race when the two Penske Racing drivers ended up with such diametrically opposite performances. Keselowski won while Logano struggled to 18th.
12 Ryan Newman (-78): Newman bounced back from a bad weekend at Kansas to finish eighth.
13 Kasey Kahne (-81) : His runner-up finish didn’t do anything to dig him out of the Chase cellar, but it was a welcome sign for the spirits of Kahne and his team.
Five key moments
1 . Hendrick Motorsports teams came out of the gate strong, as its four drivers – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne – combined to lead 73 of the first 74 laps.
2 . Kyle Larson, making his first Cup start, was running as high as 11th when he lost a cylinder and eventually his engine.
3 . Johnson appeared in command of the race, having led 130 laps until a caution on Lap 308.
4 . The caution brought everybody down pit road and Kahne came off pit road first but took only two new tires. Several drivers, including Brad Keselowski and Johnson, took four.
5 . Keselowski and Kahne swapped the lead several times before Keselowski finally moved out front for good on Lap 326.
Camping World 500
Where: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Last year’s winner: Matt Kenseth