RIGHT ON TARGET: Kyle Larson won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of 2017 – and the second of his career – at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., over the weekend. That broke an unusual but dominant streak for the 24-year old as he had finished second in four of his previous five races. The California native is atop the point standings, 29 ahead of second-place Chase Elliott. Larson moved into the points lead two weeks ago, which marked the first time a Chip Ganassi-owned car has led the points since Sterling Marlin in 2002. Jamie McMurray led the points after winning the season-opening Daytona 500 in 2010, but that was in an Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
With all of his recent success, Larson should be a driver to watch in next week’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Also, he made his first visit to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway this past November when he won the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge NASCAR XFINITY Series race. Larson has run in seven previous Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway with a best finish of fifth coming in this spring event in 2014.
DIRT TRACK ADDS SPONSOR AND RACING LEGEND: Texas Motor Speedway’s Dirt Track event during next week’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 weekend will now be known as Tony Stewart’s Texas Sprint Car Nationals Presented by Machinery Auctioneers. The company, based in San Antonio, auctions, buys and sells all types of machinery, including everything from trucks and trailers to auto and lawn and garden equipment.
Joining the impressive list of drivers competing in the event will be Danny “The Dude” Lasoski (right). He is a former World of Outlaws champion, four-time Knoxville Nationals champ and the winner of 90 WoO events. Lasoski will be joining an already stout lineup featuring host and three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell, former NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace and three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell.
Tony Stewart’s Texas Sprint Car Nationals Presented by Machinery Auctioneers is set for April 7-8 at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. Tickets are available at texasmotorspeedway.com or by calling the TMS ticket office at 817.215.8500.
A “COOLER” DIRT TRACK EVENT: For this dirt track event only, fans will be allowed to bring their coolers into the Tony Stewart’s Texas Sprint Car Nationals Presented by Machinery Auctioneers on April 7-8.
DANICA AUTOGRAPH SIGNING: Danica Patrick will be signing free autographs at one of the special driver souvenir stands on Friday April 7, beginning at 4 p.m. The event will take place at Stand 8 located behind section 417 on the main concourse. Fans can come by the same location to get a wristband starting at 10:30 a.m. Friday. Everyone must have a wristband in order to get in line for the Danica autograph session.
FIVE FOR FIVE FOR FIVE: It would seem parity is at the all-time highest in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series thus far. The season is five races old, and there hasn’t been a repeat winner yet. Kurt Busch with Stewart-Haas Racing won the season-opening Daytona 500 while Brad Keselowski took his Team Penske Ford to Victory Lane the next weekend at Atlanta. Martin Truex Jr. took his Furniture Row Racing Toyota to Victory Lane at Las Vegas and Ryan Newman ended a long winless drought at Phoenix in his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Last weekend in Fontana, Kyle Larson took his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy to victory. Five races, five different winners, five different teams.
There are two teams missing from that list and they are arguably the two largest in the sport – Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. Those two teams have dominated NASCAR’s premier series the last several seasons, but have yet to win in 2017.
Texas Motor Speedway and next week’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 may be the remedy for either of those two powerhouses. Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing have combined to win eight of the last nine races at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick owns six of those nine but JGR swept last season with Kyle Busch winning in the spring and Carl Edwards in the fall.
On top of all of this, all three of the manufacturers have won as well. Fords have led 567 overall laps, but majority of those came in the first two weeks. Chevy has led 373 laps while Toyota has led 368.
HITTING THE STAGE: The enhanced race format this season provides drivers with additional opportunities to earn points throughout an event. Each race is composed of three stages — Stage 1, Stage 2 and the Final Stage. Drivers that finish in the top 10 in Stage 1 and Stage 2 earn additional race points, with the winner of each stage earning 10 points, second place earning nine, third earning eight, etc., down to one point for 10th place. The Final Stage produces the race results and awards points across the field.
Kyle Larson is on top of this list as well with 70 points that is highlighted by one stage win. Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have the most stage wins this season with three each, but are in fourth and fifth place with 53 and 40 points, respectively. Chase Elliott is second on the list with 63 (one stage win) and Brad Keselowski is third with 58, but has yet to win a stage.
As a reminder for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500:
DALE EARNHARDT JR. HITS 600: Dale Earnhardt Jr. became the 25th driver in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series history to make 600 or more starts with his start last weekend at Fontana. The 25 drivers with 600 or more starts comprise less than one percent (.009%) of the total number of drivers to make at least one start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (2,537). Only one active driver boasts more than 600 starts (Matt Kenseth, 619). In those 600 career starts, Earnhardt Jr. has posted 26 wins, including two Daytona 500 victories (2004, ’14), 148 top fives, 252 top 10s and 13 poles.
THIS WEEK’S VIDEO: Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones talks about coming up through the ranks with other young drivers that are all competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the current time.
10TH ANNUAL SILVER DOLLAR AT THE RANCH FUNDRAISER SET FOR MAY 20th: The 10th Annual Silver Dollar at the Ranch will be held Saturday, May 20th, at the XO Ranch in Aubrey, Texas.
The country western event benefits Speedway Children’s Charities Texas, with every donated dollar supporting children that are battling cancer in DFW. This year’s Silver Dollar grant beneficiaries are a Wish with Wings, ManeGait Therapeutic Horsemanship and Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center. Hosts Chip and Mardi Ferrier annually hosts hundreds at the ranch for a raucous and rowdy night of dancing, dinner, games and silent auction. Country music artist Neal McCoy will provide the entertainment.
The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be hosted by NBC 5’s Kris Gutierrez and TV personality Dawn Neufeld. XO Ranch is located at 7701 Bull Run, in Aubrey. Individual tickets are $150, and tables of 10 are available for $1,500. Sponsorships start at $3,000, and are still available through the event’s website.
Since its inception in 2008, the Silver Dollar at the Ranch event has raised more than $2.25 million for cancer research and programs on both the local and national level. This year’s event is sponsored by PrimeLending, NBC 5, Frisco Style Magazine and Fort Worth, TX Magazine.