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Kyle Larson Wins at Michigan

Kyle Larson smoothly managed three late restarts and finally drove away from the field Sunday at Michigan International Speedway to easily post his second win of the season.  The Chip Ganassi Racing driver started from the pole, placed among the top five in each of the first two stages and led a race-high ninety-six laps – including the final fifteen trips around the two-mile Irish Hills oval.  Larson beat runner-up Chase Elliott to the finish by a full second with Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray completing the top five.  Martin Truex Junior won the first two stages and finished sixth overall, leading sixty-two laps.  Erik Jones was the highest-finishing rookie, in thirteenth place … With Larson’s victory, pole winners have now won five of the last eight Cup Series races run in Michigan.  That list includes Logano (twice), Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.  Logano was bidding to become the first driver with back-to-back wins in the track’s springtime race since Hamlin doubled up in 2010 and 2011 but had to settle for third place … Sunday’s race included just 10 lead changes among four drivers.  That’s the fewest number of drivers to lead a Cup Series race at M-I-S since the track first hosted the series in 1969.  The previous low was five, which had occurred five times before but not since 1984 … The total of eight cautions in yesterday’s race was two shy of the track record, set in 2006 … Sunday’s win was the third at M-I-S for team owner Chip Ganassi, who also won last summer with Larson behind the wheel and in 2001 with Sterling Marlin driving.

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Kyle Larson Wins California Cup Race

Kyle Larson dominated the final stage of the race Sunday at Auto Club Speedway and held the field at bay through a series of late restarts, winning the Cup Series event to complete a weekend sweep on the two-mile Southern California oval.  Larson followed Saturday’s X-finity Series victory by leading a race-high 110 laps, including sixty-four of the eighty-two that were run during the last of the day’s three stages.  His margin of victory over runner-up Brad Keselowski was seventy-seven one-hundredths of a second.  Clint Bowyer finished third with Martin Truex Junior and Joey Logano completing the top five.  Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez was the highest-finishing rookie, in seventh place … Larson’s win comes on the heels of three straight second-place finishes this season that had lifted him to the top of the series standings.  He’s opened a twenty-nine-point lead over Chase Elliott heading into the first short-track race of the season next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.  Elliott finished tenth in yesterday’s “four hundred” … Larson is just the second driver to win a Cup Series race at A-C-S after starting from the pole since the track first hosted NASCAR in 1997.  Jimmie Johnson started first and finished first in 2008.  The seven-time champion was looking for back-to-back Fontana victories on Sunday but finished only twenty-first … Dale Earnhardt Junior made his six hundredth career start and placed sixteenth in the thirty-nine-car field.  He failed to lead a lap but was one of twenty-two drivers running on the lead lap with race winner Larson at the checkered flag … Sunday’s race included seventeen lead changes among eight drivers … There were seven cautions for twenty-nine laps.

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Matt Kenseth Wins at Dover

Matt Kenseth held off a late charge from Kyle Larson on Sunday afternoon at Dover International Speedway to claim his first victory of the season, capping Toyota’s weekend sweep of all three races at “The Monster Mile.” Matt Crafton won Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race and Erik Jones followed with a victory in Saturday’s X-FINITY Series event. Kenseth led the final forty-seven laps on Sunday, nipping Larson at the checkered flag by eighteen one-hundredths of a second. It’s his thirty-seventh career victory and third at Dover. Kenseth’s last Cup Series win had come in New Hampshire last fall, twenty races ago. He started tenth on Sunday and led briefly during the first half of the race before taking control down the stretch. The race was red-flagged for more than eleven minutes after Jimmie Johnson’s transmission failure triggered an eighteen-car accident along the frontstretch less than fifty laps from the finish. Johnson, at the front of the field on a restart, could not get his car into third gear and up to speed. Martin Truex Junior drove into the rear of Johnson’s Chevrolet and the contact sent cars spinning across the track. Attrition left just fourteen cars running on the lead lap at the finish, a season low in the Sprint Cup Series. Larson led eighty-five laps en route to his second-place finish. Rookie Chase Elliott ran third with Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch completing the top five. Pole sitter Kevin Harvick led a race-high 117 laps, all in the first half, before fading to fifteenth place – enough to keep him atop the regular-season point standings.

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Recap of Last Year’s Geico 500

Dale Earnhardt Junior got some timely blocks from teammate Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps and drove on to his first victory of the season. Johnson – who finished second – first turned back a late charge from Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, and then kept Paul Menard in his rear-view mirror as Hendrick Motorsports teammate Earnhardt took the checkered flag. It was “Junior’s” sixth win at Talladega but first since 2004. He finished fifteen one-hundredths of a second in front of Johnson with Menard, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Junior completing the top five. Earnhardt led six times for a race-high sixty-seven laps including the final twenty-seven trips around the mammoth Alabama oval. Pole sitter Jeff Gordon led forty-seven laps, but a pit-road speeding penalty during the second half of the race forced him off the pace and he finished thirty-first … Trevor Bayne’s spin on Lap-47 triggered Talladega’s “big one,” a fifteen-car wreck along the backstretch. Kyle Larson, David Ragan, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick were among the drivers who got swept up in the accident. The red flag was displayed for more than eleven minutes while the safety crew cleaned up the track. When the race resumed, Harvick rallied to finish eighth.

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Bristol Track Facts

NASCAR haulers will roll into Bristol Motor Speedway today as preparations continue for the weekend’s Sprint Cup/X-FINITY Series doubleheader. The first on-track action will come with Sprint Cup Series practice at 11 a.m. (ET) on Friday with a pair of X-FINITY Series sessions to follow … There are seven Sprint Cup Series drivers who have signed up for double duty this weekend in “Thunder Valley” – Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano, who is the defending winner of Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. Busch has won seven of the last eleven X-FINITY Series races run at Bristol including three in a row during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

With Busch’s victory last weekend in Texas, Toyota has taken over the top spot in the Sprint Cup Series manufacturer standings – holding a two-point edge over Chevrolet heading into Sunday’s Food City 500 in Bristol, Tennessee. Toyota also leads the X-FINITY Series standings in the chase for the Bill France Performance Award while Chevrolet tops the manufacturers in the Camping World Truck Series, posting two wins through the first three races.

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Fontana Track Facts

Kevin Harvick, bidding for his second straight X-FINITY Series win on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway oval, started seventeenth and finished sixth in Saturday’s race – which included twelve lead changes among eight drivers with four cautions for sixteen laps … Austin Dillon’s victory was his seventh series win in 102 starts and first since October of last year at Charlotte … It’s just the second A-C-S victory for team owner Richard Childress in the X-FINITY Series. The only other win came courtesy of Jeff Burton in 2007 … There was balance at the top of the field Saturday with each of NASCAR’s three participating manufacturers grabbing a spot among the top three finishers: Chevrolet with race winner Dillon, Toyota with runner-up Kyle Busch and Ford with Roush Fenway Racing’s Darrell Wallace Junior in third place … Chevrolet has now won the last three X-FINITY Series races at Auto Club Speedway: Kyle Larson in 2014, Harvick in 2015 and now Dillon with his first victory on the two-mile Southern California oval.

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Recap of Last Year’s Sprint Unlimited Race

Matt Kenseth was strongest when it counted the most, leading all but one of the final twenty laps to give Joe Gibbs Racing its second straight win in the Sprint Unlimited.  Kenseth started sixteenth in the twenty-five-car field that featured pole winners from the previous season and past winners of the non-points special event.  He held off a fast-closing Martin Truex Junior on the final lap with a timely block coming out of Turn-4 to notch his first victory in the traditional season-opening race of Speedweeks.  Kenseth’s margin of victory over Truex – who led a race-high twenty-eight laps – was two-tenths of a second with Carl Edwards, Casey Mears and Kyle Larson completing the top five.  Pole sitter Paul Menard led only the first seven laps and finished twenty-first.

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