NASCAR at Dover notebook: Larson posts fastest time in final Dover practice session

DOVER — Kyle Larson certainly solidified himself on Saturday as a potential breakthrough winner at Dover International Speedway.

Larson was the fastest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver in Saturday’s final practice session for today’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism race at Dover International Speedway.

And then he went out and dominated the OneMain Financial 200 Xfinity Series race, leading 137 of the 200 laps at the high-banked, one-mile oval.

Those performances have the Sacramento, California native, thinking sweep.

“To get a second (Xfinity, Monster Energy Series) sweep this early in the season would be cool,” Larson said. “(Today) will be an extremely tough race. Jimmie (Johnson) is always really good here and (Martin) Truex (Jr.) has been extremely strong as well, but I was very happy with our Target Chevy in happy hour (final practice).”

Kyle Larson in the #42 Parker Store Chevrolet enters Victory Lane after winning The 36th Annual OneMain Financial 200 that was held at Dover International Speedway on Saturday June 3rd in Dover. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

The 24-year-old driver piloted his No. 42 Chevrolet to the top of the speed charts with a fast lap of 157.411 mph in the final tune-up for today’s race. Plus, he was able to sustain fast speeds on longer runs.

Larson was followed by 10-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson (157.301) and pole-sitter Kyle Busch (157.246). Former Dover winners Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch all posted laps of 157.143 mph.

Kevin Harvick talks with Crew Chief Rodney Childers after practice as NASCAR came to Dover International Speedway on Saturday June 3rd as the Monster Energy Series Cup drivers practiced for the 48th Annual AAA Drive For Autism Race to be held on Sunday June 4th. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

“Normally happy hour (at Dover) is not-so-happy-hour, because your car drives like crap, but (Saturday) they made some good adjustments and we’re good so I’m excited about the race (today),” Larson said.

Larson lost the Monster Energy Series points lead after wrecking at Charlotte last Sunday and now sits second in the standings, trailing Truex Jr. by five points.

He’ll get the chance to seize it back at Dover.

In six career starts at the Monster Mile, Larson owns two top-five finishes, four top-10s and a series best 9.3 average finish.

In last year’s spring race, Larson led 85 laps, but failed to clear Matt Kenseth at the end of the contest and finished runner-up.

However, with an Xfinity pole position and victory and the fastest car in final practice, things are obviously going Larson’s way in Dover.

Kyle Busch closing in on laps led milestone

Kyle Busch has to lead a mere 59 laps to become the 11th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to lead 13,000 or more laps.

#24 NAPA driver Chase Elliott signs fans autographs as NASCAR came to Dover International Speedway on Saturday June 3rd as the Monster Energy Series Cup drivers practiced for the 48th Annual AAA Drive For Autism Race to be held on Sunday June 4th.
(Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

Busch could very well achieve the feat today at Dover International Speedway, considering he is starting the race from the pole position.

He led 102 laps on his way to a runner-up showing at Dover last fall and has paced the field for 1,139 circuits around the Monster Mile in his career.

Busch is winless on the season, but he’s starting to heat up. He’s finished second (Charlotte), fifth (Kansas) and third (Talladega) in his last three races, and has led at least 48 laps in each contest.

Sense of urgency heating up?

There have already been nine different race winners through the first 12 races of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

A win essentially gets a driver into the playoffs and there are only eight automatic berths left.

Justin Allgaier with his daughter receives a “brake in the race award” as The 36th Annual OneMain Financial 200 was held at Dover International Speedway on Saturday June 3rd in Dover. Special to the (Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

Drivers who won multiple races last season who have yet to visit Victory Lane in 2017 include: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.

Jimmie Johnson said the number of first-time winners this season such as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon only adds to the excitement.

“I’m excited for the conversation it’s created in our sport,” Johnson said. “I can say there is a conversation of drivers that would hope to make it in (the playoffs) on points that the wins from these drivers kind of changes that dynamic and forces their hand and forces them to go to victory lane potentially to make the first 16 (playoff contenders).”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.