FONTANA, CA (AP) – Even after ending dominant Kyle Larson by 2023, the brand new NASCAR Cup Collection season has entered a brand new season stuffed with uncertainty.
“Going to a brand new automobile, you simply do not know if you are going to win or not,” he mentioned.
Larson not has to surprise after simply two races into the brand new yr within the new automobile – though his path to victory included a fateful collision with fellow grumpy teammate Chase Elliott on a busy day at Fontana.
NASCAR Cup Collection champion defending Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez received a tense ultimate on Sunday, surviving the restart with 4 laps remaining to win at Auto Membership Speedway for the second time.
Earlier than the chaotic end, Larson and Elliott known as in slightly below 20 laps, with Larson pinching his teammate Hendrick Motorsports right into a wall whereas combating to remain forward of Joey Logano. Larson apologized for the collision over the radio, saying he hadn’t seen Elliott make a daring transfer to overhaul him – however Elliott, who completed 26, and his staff have been definitely upset.
“I had no clue that it was coming,” Larson mentioned. “I hate that I ended his day after they labored so laborious to get again on the primary lap. Possibly it was simply an trustworthy mistake from each components. … I do know they’re upset, however I’m not going to fulfill my teammates and deliberately ban them late.”
Larson then had the win on the horizon by eight laps earlier than Elliott took off, forcing warning quantity 12 within the race. NASCAR followers have run out of hypothesis on-line that Elliott’s flip was a deliberate try to wreck Larson’s possibilities of profitable.
Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels rejected this concept, believing there could be no long-term harm to their relationship with Hendrik.
“I do know we’re all nice buddies collectively,” Daniels mentioned. “I do know it is nothing they’d do on goal. I do not blame Chase in any respect for doing what would have been the (beforehand) race-winning transfer. …unlucky, however I do know we’re all going to get to the identical web page.”
The hype with Elliott arrange one other nice race for Larson, who hasn’t received a race wherever but in 2023. After ranging from behind beneath a penalty, the relentless Northern California-based multidisciplinary competitor secured one other victory at Fontana in a race Entertaining that includes ample passing, loads of bugs and top-down stunts on veteran asphalt in 5 strokes.
Larson pulled off the pits first after the final warning, and led the ultimate reboot. He was uneven with Suarez, who briefly led earlier than Delon entered the draft to take his shot on the captain.
Larson caught with all of it and raced for his seventeenth profession win, the eleventh in his additional yr at Hendrik Motorsports Chevrolet. However he solely added one other well-known windsurfing trophy to his 2017 award after clinging to the highest with an exhilarating end within the first race of NASCAR’s next-generation automobile on an intermediate circuit.
“There have been undoubtedly some guys on the market who have been sooner than us, however they’d their dangerous luck,” Larson mentioned. “We simply stored our heads in all of it day. … The entire race was loopy, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly good to win in California.”
Dillon got here in second, Suarez slipped to fourth behind Eric Jones with Chevrolet taking the highest 4.
“We had a quick automobile, however we went by loads of ordeals,” Suarez mentioned. “It is a lot enjoyable to race like this.”
Lugano completed fifth, whereas Daytona 500 champion and Daytona 500 champion Austin Cendrick completed sixteenth.
the day you need me
Tyler Riddick received the primary two phases and drove 90 laps on Sunday – greater than he is pushed in his earlier Cup profession mixed – however his race slipped off the lead by 48 laps. He obtained an residence shortly earlier than William Byron undressed and pushed him in opposition to a wall, ending Byron’s day.
Riddick is again, however he takes twenty fourth place. The California native was additionally main the showdown on the Colosseum three weeks in the past earlier than he was sidelined attributable to a prop shaft failure.
On the thirty second Cup Collection race at Fontana, the drivers tied the 2008 document for 12 cautions — and that was for a 500-mile race, as a substitute of the present 400-mile iteration.
RAMS GO RACIN’
The closest NASCAR race to Hollywood had just a few of the standard film stars, together with Danny Trejo, however the greatest names have been from esports in Southern California. Slugger Albert Pujols drove the quick automobile, whereas the Los Angeles Rams left and Andrew Whitworth was joined in his duties to the Grand Marshal by Matthew Stafford.
Whitworth mentioned his second date along with his spouse Melissa was at a NASCAR race whereas she was reporting on it. Stafford known as himself an unofficial fan of the race, however was cheering Elliot as fellow No. 9 with connections to Georgia.
Neither Whitworth nor Pujols had any bulletins about the way forward for their enjoying. Stafford mentioned he needed his 40-year-old blind guard again, however would respect any resolution Whitworth makes as a result of he’s an “outdated man”.
The West Coast swing continues at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 6. Larson received the spring race in Vegas final yr.
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