Busch holds off Larson at Bristol’s finish line
Kyle Larson’s first chance to get a big win in NASCAR ended with him claiming a controversial win.
With a shot at grabbing his first Nationwide Series win Saturday, he wasn’t going to make that same mistake again.
Especially not against Kyle Busch.
Larson stalked Busch over the closing laps around Bristol Motor Speedway waiting to make a move. It came as they closed in on the finish line, and Larson made a last-gasp push on the high side that fell just short as Busch held on for his second win of the season. But in chasing the win the right way, the 20-year-old Larson cleaned up some of the criticism that had followed him from Daytona last month after spinning C.E. Falk III on the final lap of the “Battle at the Beach” late model race.
“You certainly want to try to win races the right way,” Busch said. “He played it smart today. That was good on his end. I think a lot of people have been looking at him to try to see if he’s going to be to a wrecker or a checker. Today he didn’t get the checkers, but that’s how you get them. You drive into the corner, or drive into the back of me, I’m going to be here for a while and if he keeps coming up through the ranks, he’s not going to have fun dealing with me every week.”
Hamlin fine puts spotlight on Carl Long’s plight
Denny Hamlin’s recent refusal to pay his $25,000 fine has reawakened the plight of Carl Long, a driver who lacks the financial resources to settle his debt with NASCAR. Long’s career as a Sprint Cup Series driver essentially ended when his team was penalized for having an illegal engine at the 2009 All-Star race. Long’s crew chief was fined $200,000, an amount he was unable to pay.
Under NASCAR rules, the fine was reverted to the car owner, which was Long’s wife, DeeDee. Unable to drive until the fine is paid, Long was still able to work in the Sprint Cup Series garage because his wife was technically responsible for settling the debt. But last year, Long said NASCAR transferred the fine to his name and he’s no longer allowed inside the Cup garage.
“Last year at Daytona, they issued me as the driver the fine, and I couldn’t pay $200,000, so I was escorted out of the Cup garage,” Long said at Bristol Motor Speedway. “NASCAR basically let me know that anybody on the crew roster could be held responsible for the fine, all the way down to the tire guy. Anybody on the crew roster, they can leverage the fine against him, no matter who. Actually, no matter what, if you are signed in on a crew roster, you are hanging by a thread.”
Long is allowed to work in NASCAR in any other series, and he’s currently a jack of all trades for Rick Ware Racing in the Nationwide Series. He’s also a part-time Nationwide driver, and has made 37 starts since the All-Star race incident. But he said he’s clearing just over $35,000 a year after paying all his expenses, which means he’ll likely never be back in a Sprint Cup car because he lacks the means to clear his debt with NASCAR.
“People keep seeing me here and they’re like, ‘Did NASCAR just drop it and wipe it under (the rug?)”’ Long said. “They’ve been pretty strong about their (feeling) that, ‘You owe us money.’ “
Hamlin was fined $25,000 last week for criticizing NASCAR’s new car and angrily said he’ll be suspended before he’ll pay. He’s since said he won’t appeal the fine and has no intention of writing a check, and NASCAR has indicated it will garnish the money from Hamlin’s race winnings.
Doug Kalitta leads Top Fuel qualifying at Gatornationals
Doug Kalitta qualified first in the NHRA Gatornationals on Saturday with a run of 3.779 seconds at a top speed of 326.32 mph. Kalitta moved around defending series champion Antron Brown on his final qualifying attempt at Auto-Plus Raceway. Kalitta will face rookie Leah Pruett in the first round of the eliminations today.
Brown, who briefly held the top spot at 3.787 at 324.20, will open against three-time series champion Larry Dixon in the opening round.
Cruz Pedregon topped the Funny Car field, Mike Edwards led the Pro Stock competition, and Matt Smith was the fastest in the Pro Stock Motorcycle season opener. In Funny Car, Pedregon raced to his 51st No. 1 with his Friday run of 4.047 at 296.05. Edwards claimed his third consecutive No. 1 position of the season and 44th of his career with his record time of 6.473 at 214.31. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith earned his 18th No. 1 with his Friday run of 6.804 at 197.28.