Lar­son, El­liott on verge of first NAS­CAR Sprint Cup wins

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - Staff RE­PORT

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.”

GETTY IM­AGES FOR NAS­CAR

Kyle Lar­son will get the chance to win his first ca­reer premier se­ries races in Sun­day’s Coca-Cola 600 at Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way.

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