Spotlight on Nascar: Larson finally collects checkered flag while Bowyer comes on strong

Published 10:56 pm Friday, March 31, 2017

After finishing second in three straight races, Kyle Larson finally broke through for his first win of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Larson paced his No. 42 Chevrolet in leading 110 laps and captured Stage 1 of the race in last Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
With the win, Larson pushed his lead to 29 points over Chase Elliott and has recorded six playoff points.
The win gave Larson a complete sweep of the weekend’s races at the speedway as he also crossed in first place in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race to become the 17th driver to sweep a national series weekend.
Larson hopes to keep the momentum this weekend as the teams loaded their haulers and headed back to the east coast. They will be taking to the shortest track on the circuit when they visit Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia for Sunday’s STP 500 at 2 p.m. ET.
His highest finish at Martinsville has been third.
Bowyer finally back on top
It has been a long time coming, but when Clint Bowyer finished third in Sunday’s race behind Larson, it marked the first top-five finish the driver has had since he finished fifth at Bristol on August 22, 2015.
The finish marked the best finish Bowyer had since he came in third at Sonoma on June 28, 2015. Bowyer has two top 10’s under his belt this season which is only one less than he had last season where he finished 27th in the final standings.
Bowyer sits 100 points behind Larson right now in the point standings which is good enough for eighth place.
This season is Bowyer’s initial season racing for Stewart-Haas Racing taking over Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Ford after Stewart retired at the end of 2016.
Truex proving to be no fluke
For those who thought that Martin Truex Jr. was just running on luck are starting to take note of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing driver who won a career-high four races last season.
Truex Jr. has powered to a strong start for 2017 recording one win while finishing with two top fives and three top 10’s in the first five races of this season.
He leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with eight playoff points and is tied with Kevin Harvick for first in stage wins with three. His 7.4 average finish also ranks second-best to Larson (3.8).
Truex Jr. finds himself in third place in the points standings as he trails Larson by 38 points.
Young drivers sitting pretty for playoffs
While 2017 is still young in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series season, if the season were to conclude right now there are six drivers under the age of 27 who would make the playoffs: Kyle Larson (24), Chase Elliott (24), Joey Logano (26), Ryan Blaney (23), Erik Jones (20), and Trevor Bayne (26).
Of those six, three would be first-time playoff participants including Blaney, Jones, and Bayne. Jones would join Elliott (2016), Chris Buescher (2016), and Denny Hamlin (2006) as the fourth Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to ever make the playoffs.
Johnson leads all drivers at the Paperclip
If you were looking for Martinsville’s finest driver, Jimmie Johnson would have to be considered the top contender as the No.48 driver for Hendrick Motorsports has captured nine wins at “The Paperclip.”
Johnson has had his struggles this year with only one top-10 finish, a ninth-place finish at Phoenix, but this weekend he can turn his season around at arguably his best track.
Aside from the nine wins, Johnson has recorded 19 top fives, 24 top 10’s, a 7.8 average finish and an 117.7 driver rating.
With his win at Martinsville last season, Johnson clinched his spot in the Championship 4. Hendrick Motorsports has a track-record 24 wins.
Busch looks to defend Spring Martinsville Victory
Kyle Busch hopes to defend his spring title he earned at Martinsville when he takes to the track on Sunday for the STP 500.
Last season, Busch led 352 of the 500 laps on his way to his first win of 2016. The No. 18 Toyota driver has done very well at the Virginia short track having recorded one win, 11 top fives, and 12 top 10’s at Martinsville.
In 2017, Busch is sitting in 10th place, 107 points behind Larson, with a finish of 38th at Daytona, 16th at Atlanta, 22nd at Las Vegas, third at Phoenix, and eight last week at the Auto Club. He won stage 1 at Daytona as well.
Keselowski running strong in 2017
While most of the talk to the start of the 2017 season has been surrounding Larson, there is another driver that is off to a blazing start through five races.
Brad Keselowski driving the No. 2 Ford has shown tons of consistency as he has strung together four straight top-five finishes, including his win at Atlanta and last week’s runner-up finish at the Auto Club.
At the Starting Line
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: STP 500
The Palce: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Sunday, April 2
The Time: 2 PM ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 PM ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 263 miles (500 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 130), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 260), Final Stage (Ends on lap 500).
Next Race: My Bariatric Solutions 300
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, April 8
The Time: 1:30 PM ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (150 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200).
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Alpha Energy Solutions 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Saturday, April 1
The Time: 3 PM ET
TV: FOX, 2:30 PM ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 131.5 miles (250 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 70), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 140), Final Stage (Ends on lap 250).

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