NASCAR notebook: Busch-Larson finish still the talk of Daytona

Former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Donnie Allison has never been one to mince words, and his opinion of the final-lap battle between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson at Chicagoland last Sunday was no exception.

Jun 30, 2018; Joliet, IL, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (42) during practice for the Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

“Best race I’ve seen in five years,” Allison declared during casual conversation with reporters on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. “That’s what [drivers are] supposed to do.”

Larson began the lap with an aggressive charge through Turns 1 and 2, knocking Busch’s Toyota into the outside wall at the exit of Turn 2. After Larson edged ahead, Busch buried his No. 18 Camry into Turn 3 and knocked Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet sideways.

Busch’s momentum carried him into the outside wall, but he bounced off, righted his car and sped to the finish line to win the race.

How hard did Busch drive into the final pair of corners to get back to Larson’s bumper?

“I don’t recall,” Busch quipped on Thursday evening during Toyota’s announcement of the introduction of the new Supra into NASCAR Xfinity Series competition next year. “It was pretty far … I wrecked three times — I wrecked in (Turn) 2, I wrecked in 3 and I wrecked in 1 after the checkered.”

Advised of Allison’s comments, Busch was appreciative.

“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “All the racers out there, all the people that know racing appreciated what that race was. A lot of other folks, casual fans that kind of watch the sport, didn’t appreciate it for what it was, because they said it was just one guy ramming another out of the way.

“Well, they take that little snippet of (Turns) 3 and 4 and don’t even look at 1 and 2, and it’s like, they don’t see the eye-for-an-eye-type of thing. You’ve got to know what you’re watching to appreciate it sometimes.”

The eye-for-an-eye understanding explains why there was no bad blood between the drivers after the race.

“The reason why Larson and I get along, and the reason why Larson and I can have a relationship and have respect for one another is because, at Bristol, I bumped him with five (laps) to go, and I gave him a chance to come back and get me back,” Busch said. “He didn’t get there. At Chicago, he bumped me and gave me an opportunity to come back for him, right?”

But Busch, like Allison, didn’t mince words when it came to his principal rival in the Cup series, Brad Keselowski.

Jul 5, 2018; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) during practice for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

“Brad and I can’t absolutely stand each other, or hate each other, because every time he runs into me, he … wrecks me, and I’m out,” Busch said. “Like Watkins Glen that time, there was not a chance for rebuttal.

“The reason why that was a great race to the end between him and (Marcos) Ambrose was because they battled it out. But every time, he just runs over me and wrecks me, so there’s never a chance for that rebuttal. There’s never that camaraderie with racing. It’s just wrecking.”

In the eight times Busch and Larson have finished 1-2 in a NASCAR race, Busch has been the winner all eight times. It might be relevant to consider what happens to the camaraderie when Larson starts to win his fair share.

Denny Hamlin: Every race feels like the playoffs

Denny Hamlin is right to be concerned, but he also knows he can cure his anxiety with a couple of trips to Victory Lane.

Entering Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Hamlin is eighth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, comfortably inside the cutoff for the playoffs.

But Hamlin has only two playoff points to his credit, the result of a pair of stage wins, while four drivers — Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer — already have double-digit playoff points. Busch leads with 30.

To Hamlin, that engenders an urgency to increase his playoff point total over the next nine races.

“Now, when your competitors are kind of racking up points here and there, it gives you that playoff feel really throughout the entire regular season, and that’s what we aimed for, right?” Hamlin said. “So I think that [the points system is] overall working.

“With just a few guys logging a bunch of points right now, I think it makes more good cars in danger of missing the cut early on (in) one of these cutoff races. You’ve got to be aware of that and make sure you don’t take these early rounds for granted, even though you know, based on speed, you should be fine.”

Short strokes

—Ryan Preece has run three NASCAR Xfinity Series races this season, but when rain washed out qualifying for Friday night’s Coca-Cola Firecracker 250, Preece got the No. 1 starting spot based on the owner points accumulated by his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota …

—The identity of Friday night’s National Anthem singer was left “TBD” right up until race time — for a good reason. Unbeknownst to NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell, his daughter, Shannon Rose O’Donnell, was scheduled to sing. Steve O’Donnell got the surprise as he was standing in race control. An accomplished singer, Shannon O’Donnell is headed for Belmont University this fall.

—By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.


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