Larson, Elliott on verge of first NASCAR Sprint Cup wins
NASCAR Wire Service
NASCAR fans got a glimpse of the future recently as rising stars Kyle Larson, 23, and Chase Elliott, 20, battled for victory in the waning stages of consecutive races.
Two weeks ago at Dover, Larson and Elliott seesawed back and forth from the second and third positions in the closing laps as they each tried to run down Matt Kenseth for their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins. Larson almost cleared Kenseth to take the checkered flag, but the Joe Gibbs Racing veteran beat him to the finish line by a mere .187 seconds.
Last Saturday in the final 10-lap shootout of the Sprint Showdown exhibition, Larson and Elliott banged doors for nearly the entire race. At the conclusion of their mad dash to the finish, Larson bumped Elliott’s right door to slow him down and edged him out for the win by only .016 seconds.
Larson and Elliott get their next chances to win their first career premier series races in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX). The two will attempt to parallel fourtime series champion Jeff Gordon – Larson’s childhood idol and Elliott’s predecessor in the No. 24 Chevrolet – who jumpstart- ed his legendary career with his first of 93 wins as a 23-year-old in the 1994 edition of NASCAR’s longest race.
“I certainly wouldn’t complain if I was battling for wins for the next 10 years,” said Elliott after Dover. “It would be great on my watch. I don’t know about (Larson), but that’s the way I would do it. That would be great. I’d love to be in the mix for wins moving forward.”
Larson agreed with the prospect of dueling with Elliott for wins over the next decade.
“It was fun racing with him,” Larson said. “We’ve had a lot of good battles through the XFINITY Series and even K&N. Hopefully we’re battling up front for many years to come.”
Elliott finished 18th in his Charlotte Motor Speedway debut last spring and has claimed three top 10s in four NASCAR XFINITY Series starts there.
“We were fortunate enough to run the 600 last year,” Elliott said. “I think that’s good experience to have. That place is so temperature sensitive, so it was good to get all of that information. I’m excited to get back and hopefully take what we’ve learned and get a little bit better.”
Larson’s best Charlotte showing was a sixth-place finish in fall of 2014. He won the spring 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at the 1.5-mile track.
“The 600’s a really tough race,” Larson said. “I’ve seen drivers who’ve run well at the All-Star Race who didn’t run well in the 600. Hopefully that’s not the case this week. We’re going to work really hard to try to have a good run and hopefully it all works out.”
Jones, Suarez look to continue XFINITY success at Charlotte
The Joe Gibbs Racing stable houses two young drivers etching their marks in the series where names are made.
Erik Jones, 19, leads the NASCAR XFINITY Series with two wins and ranks fifth in the point standings, as well as first in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year rankings.
Daniel Suárez, 24, sits second in the series standings on the strength of four top fives and nine top 10s in 10 starts. He paces the series with a 6.7 average running position and is second on the circuit with a 106.9 driver rating.
The duo takes the track next in Saturday’s Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
In 2015, Jones placed 15th at Charlotte in the spring and followed it up with a runner-up Queen City showing in the fall.
“Charlotte has been a place where I’ve run fairly well myself and JGR has always run well,” he said. “We’ll see as the week goes on, but I think our mileand-a-half program has been pretty stout this year everywhere we’ve gone, no matter what mile-and-a-half it may be. We’ll see what we can do.”
Suarez finished sixth in the Charlotte spring race last season and improved with a fourth-place showing at the 1.5-mile track in the fall.
“We hope the race trucks (last week) helped us learn some things from the track, to close with a good result on Saturday in the XFINITY race,” said Suárez, who is looking for his first career win. “Victory is near.”
Kyle Larson will get the chance to win his first career premier series races in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.