NASCAR: Late-season stumbles put Bowyer, Larson on ropes heading to Richmond

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After the dust settled on last night’s Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, noted motorsport journalist Lewis Franck made the following observation:

Indeed, one year after helping to trigger Michael Waltrip Racing’s race manipulation scandal at Richmond International Raceway, Bowyer is set to return to “The Action Track” as a center of attention once again.

It’s attention that he could do without.

Bowyer finished 38th last night after having to go to the garage early with a broken shifter, which led to a transmission replacement and more than 20 laps lost.

Now down 23 points to Greg Biffle for the 16th and final Chase Grid position, Bowyer may need a “Hail Mary” of his own like that of Atlanta winner Kasey Kahne in order to make the post-season.

“It seems like if it weren’t for bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck,” Bowyer said last night. “We’ve been good at Richmond but we are going to have to have a really good finish, if not a win, to make it into the Chase.”

He makes an important point there, as Bowyer’s won twice in his Cup career on the 3/4-mile RIR bullring.

But his Atlanta problems again emphasize how disastrous late-season mishaps can be for those like him that are on the Chase bubble.

Take Kyle Larson, for example. Going into Michigan three races ago, Larson was +9 points over the cutoff at 15th on the Chase Grid.

Then he crashed just before the midway point of that race and finished dead last, 43rd place. Larson promptly dropped out of the Grid to 19th, at -24 points behind the cutoff.

And with 16th place Greg Biffle on a perfectly-timed run of Top-10 finishes (his 10th-place result last night was his fifth Top-10 in a row), Larson’s solid results of 12th at Bristol and eighth in Atlanta have done nothing to close the deficit – which is again at 24 points with only Saturday’s regular season finale at RIR to go.

“[A] Top‑10 is not bad, but it doesn’t really matter anymore because Kasey won,” Larson said. “So happy for Kasey, but that pretty much ends our Chase hopes unless we win.”

And if neither Bowyer or Larson can get a win in the Commonwealth of Virginia, they’ll clearly know how, when, and where things went wrong for them.

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup