NASCAR National Notebook: Ganassi Cars Impressive At NHMS

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Kyle Larson during practice Saturday for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Larson during practice Saturday for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Larson tends to undersell his prowess at short tracks in general and at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in particular.

To hear him tell it, you would never suspect that the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet finished third and second in the first two of his five starts at the Magic Mile.

And on Saturday, in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice for Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) – the second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – Larson posted the fastest lap in Happy Hour at 132.577 mph.

That was after he and Martin Truex Jr. tied for the top speed (132.186 mph) in Saturday’s first session.

One day earlier, Larson had qualified sixth for Sunday’s race, one position ahead of teammate Jamie McMurray. And though Larson’s average finish at Loudon in his brief Sprint Cup career is 14.0 versus McMurray’s 19.9 in 27 starts, Larson gave a nod to his teammate after the three-round knockout qualifying session.

“Starting sixth is better than where I typically start at short tracks,” said Larson, who started second and finished second at Richmond in the cutoff race for the Chase. “The last couple of short tracks have been good for me. So I’m looking forward to it. We made some gains, I think, with our Target Chevy at Richmond, and have taken some of that stuff to here at Loudon.

“I have a little bit more speed than normal. And I’ve figured out some things inside the cockpit that have helped me get a little bit better. I was looking at Jamie’s throttle data and how he’s driving a little bit different than me, and it’s helped a lot.”

McMurray likewise was happy with his qualifying effort, his best at NHMS since he started second and finished fourth in the 2014 Chase race at the Magic Mile.

“I thought, in practice actually, that we had one of the best cars on scuffed tires,” McMurray said after his qualifying run. “The qualifying format is interesting, because it doesn’t really matter how quick you are on stickers. It’s all about being good that second and third run.

“But with the temperatures cooling down, we struggled with being a little bit loose in (into the corners), but it was a good run for both of our Chip Ganassi Racing cars. Kyle ended up sixth, and we’re seventh, so I’m pretty excited about that. And we’ll probably get a good pit stall, which is really important here.”

In fact, McMurray’s crew chief, Matt McCall, chose pit stall No. 31, six stalls short of the start/finish line, with the opening to the Sprint Cup garage between McMurray’s stall and pit box No. 30, occupied by Truex, the second-place qualifier. Accordingly, McMurray will have a clean entry into his stall, even if he trails Truex onto pit road.


It’s bad enough to make a mistake, but it’s unforgivable to make the same one twice.

That seemed to be Jimmie Johnson’s philosophy during Saturday morning’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Last week at Chicagoland Speedway, in the opening race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Johnson led a race-high 118 laps, only to be bamboozled by a pit road speeding penalty that dropped him to 12th at the finish.

After watching video of the offending pit stop, Johnson concluded he had gunned his No. 48 Chevrolet a fraction of a second too early as he left pit road.

So when practice started at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Johnson went to work. He practiced pit road entries at the flat 1.058-mile track. He practiced maintaining pit road speed, trying to ensure he won’t be ensnared by the addition of timing lines that have shortened the timed segments entering and leaving the pits.

All told, Johnson ran 57 laps in the Saturday morning session, more than any other driver.

But his work had started earlier in the week.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this week working on pit road speed again,” Johnson said. “Any way we possibly can – from simulators and looking at the simulator that we have for the dash, which is on a workbench, to looking at my teammates to looking at everything.

“I was fine on pit road. I just left about two feet too early in the last segment. I thought the nose was at the line and evidently it was a couple of feet early, and I got burned on that. So I just might wait a bit longer before I punch it at the end of pit road.”


Chase drivers dominated Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour, occupying 13 of the top 15 positions on the speed chart. The only exceptions were the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets of Kasey Kahne and Alex Bowman, who were third and 10th, respectively…

A Friday penalty levied against Chase Elliott’s No. 24 team could also prove costly to fellow Chase driver Brad Keselowski. Demoted to last pick of pit stalls because of four written warnings for pre-qualifying inspection failures, Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, was left with stall No. 5, directly behind that of Keselowski.

Elliott starts 10th and Keselowski begins 11th in Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300, and if Elliott manages to stay in front of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford, Elliott will pit first and force Keselowski to drive around him on the way to his stall. That could cost the 2012 series champion precious fractions of a second, and those fractions could translate to valuable positions on the track.

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