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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MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Friday notebook

Photo: Tony DiZinno
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INDIANAPOLIS – Teams have loaded in for this weekend’s Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, with testing set all day on Saturday and Sunday for all three rungs of the series: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Some notes from the day are below.

  • Pabst Racing has been busy with testing its new Tatuus PM-18 in recent weeks, to add to its trio of USF-17s. The team has two PM-18 chassis with one completed and built up, and which Calvin Ming will test this weekend. Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team won the team championship in USF2000 this season.
  • Look for Ayla Agren to test Pabst’s PM-18 next week for several days. The talented Indianapolis-based Norwegian/Swede is a past F1600 champion and has raced in parts of the last three USF2000 seasons with Team Pelfrey and John Cummiskey Racing; Agren is working on stepping up into Pro Mazda next season.
  • Another intriguing Pabst USF2000 product this weekend is New Zealander Hunter McElrea, a 17-year-old go-kart veteran who completed his first season of car racing this year in Australian Formula Ford. He was unlucky to only end fourth in the year’s championship, with several poles and wins but a bit of inconsistency that cost him the title. His father, Andy McElrea, has been in the U.S. before moving back home, where he’s enjoyed success as a driver, engineer and team director. The younger McElrea said he “learned heaps” this year and is optimistic of building a budget to come Stateside in 2018, and said it was a bit surreal to have his first real run at IMS. Born in the U.S., McElrea holds both U.S. and New Zealand dual citizenship.
  • Arguably the busiest driver in the month or so since the Watkins Glen season finale has been Dutchman Rinus VeeKay, who’s had several Pro Mazda tests with three different teams (Pabst, Juncos Racing and Exclusive Autosport) and will run this weekend with Belardi Auto Racing in Indy Lights, and will work with engineer Kent Boyer. VeeKay would succeed in North America for a second year, as he contemplates whether to move up from USF2000 into Pro Mazda or emulate RC Enerson in going from USF2000 straight to Indy Lights. VeeKay’s No. 4 car was Shelby Blackstock’s chassis from the 2017 season.
  • Teammate Nico Jamin, who was busy with several different types of cars this year besides his primary role in Indy Lights, will test Belardi’s No. 5 car, which was Santiago Urrutia’s chassis, and work with engineer Tim Neff. Jamin got the call a couple weeks ago and has come back from his home country of France, where he’s been since shortly after the season ended.
  • The third Belardi car, the No. 9 car still in the Mazda “soul red” livery for 2016 Pro Mazda champion Aaron Telitz, is on site this weekend. Telitz will test with RJB Motorsports’ USF2000 team – the car having been returned from ArmsUp Motorsports for this test – and the Birchwood, Wis. native will have the chance to work with open-wheel veterans Alex Barron and Mirl Swan as part of RJB’s crew. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Telitz also running in other cars and series this weekend.
  • At least for this test, Cape Motorsports’ Pro Mazda car has a cool “magic 8 ball” livery for Oliver Askew. The primarily black with some white paint scheme probably wouldn’t stay that way provided Mazda’s scholarship comes with the switch to a “soul red” livery once the season properly commences.
  • Jake Craig, who will test with Newman Wachs Racing this test, has been awarded the eKartingNews.com Karting Entry Ticket for this year’s Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout. The 19-year-old native of Mission Viejo, Calif. is the 12th driver who has a confirmed ticket so far for the shootout, which takes place in December in Arizona.
  • Colton Herta is in a funny spot with regards to World Series preference depending on whether the New York Yankees or Houston Astros wins tonight’s Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, as the Yankees lead the series 3-2 heading into tonight’s game and look to advance to the World Series to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. Herta grew up a Dodgers fan but his Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing team features team principal George Michael Steinbrenner IV, son of Hank Steinbrenner, and the Steinbrenners of course are the Yankees’ principal owners. Perhaps it’s a good problem to have?
  • Myles Rowe, who’s won three races in six starts in the Lucas Oil School of Racing, will be in one of John Cummiskey Racing’s Tatuus USF-17 chassis this weekend. The Smyrna, Ga. native has a good head on his shoulders and could well impress.