Kyle Larson holds on to win Nationwide race at Charlotte

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Kyle Larson held off late charges from Sprint Cup regulars Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick to win Saturday’s History 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It was the second NNS win of the season for Larson, who is also in his rookie season on the Sprint Cup Series.

“I love Charlotte and we’ll be trying to get a 600 win tomorrow,” Larson said of possibly doubling up Sunday in the Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 event.”

“It was nice looking in the rearview mirror seeing them get smaller and smaller on each lap.”

Larson led 82 laps in the 200-lap event, the most of any driver. His winning margin was nearly 1.5 seconds. It also was a great present for team owner Chip Ganassi, who celebrated his birthday Saturday.

Busch looked like he had the car to win, qualifying on the pole earlier in the day. However, he couldn’t get enough grip late in the race and couldn’t get to Larson as the final laps clicked off.

“We struggled real bad and came home with a third,” Busch said. “All things considered, we should be happy, but I’m here every time for a win.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished sixth, led the second-most number of laps (67), while Busch led 27 and Keselowski led 22.

Harvick finished fourth, followed by Brian Scott, Kenseth, Regan Smith, Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon.

“We were just off a little bit today,” Harvick said. “They (his team) tried and we just came up a little bit short today.”

It was a down day, however, for rookie NNS driver Chase Elliott, who suffered mechanical failure in his JR Motorsports Chevy and ended with a disappointing 37th-place finish out of the 40-driver field.

“It definitely was a bad day,” Elliott said.

Elliott also lost his lead in the NNS standings, dropping to third place, leaving him 28 points behind new series leader Regan Smith and 23 points behind second-ranked Elliott Sadler.

“We’ve dug ourselves a hole, so now we have to dig ourselves back out of it,” Elliott said.

Smith said of taking over the points lead, “I don’t want to discount it but also don’t want to put much stock into it still this early in the season.”

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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.