Harvick, Kyle Busch impressed by Larson’s poise in furious N’Wide finish

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For any driver, claiming your first checkered flag is a special accomplishment. But for Kyle Larson, who earned his inaugural Nationwide Series victory today at Auto Club Speedway, this has to feel doubly special.

Larson took the lead off the final restart with 16 laps to go but then had to hold off not one but two of the best stock car drivers on the planet in Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

But while the Sprint Cup superstars continuously filled Larson’s rear view mirror in the final dash to the finish, neither of them could put Larson in theirs.

Racing the high line to perfection with Busch right behind him, Larson still withstood a last-lap attack on the low line from Harvick to win the race.

Afterwards, both Harvick and Busch couldn’t help but be impressed.

“Since the first race he’s come in here, he’s been competitive,” Harvick said of Larson before expanding his praise to include another young gun, Chase Elliott, who finished sixth.

“He’s a lot like Chase [Elliott]…It’s like, ‘No big deal.’ They just go out, drive, and act like they’ve been here for 20 years. It’s pretty fun to see.”

Third-place finisher Busch also complimented Larson, who will start 11th in tomorrow’s Auto Club 400 for the Cup Series at Fontana.

“He held everything together – he was a little loose running on the edge and right up against the wall but that’s what Larson likes to do,” he said. “We see it a lot of weeks out of the year that he can do that, and he proved it again here today and didn’t buckle under the pressure [from] either Kevin or I up alongside him.

“He knew what he needed to do to win, and he did that.”

While Harvick and Busch obviously wanted to win as they drove their guts out every bit as much as Larson did, the fact that they were able to lay it all on the line seemed to make their own near-misses a bit more tolerable.

“You race as hard as you can, and I think if we had got our butt kicked today and finished third by a straightaway, it probably wouldn’t been as easy to swallow as it was [while] racing for a win and going back and forth with these two guys and having fun,” Harvick said.

“You want to come out here and win – that’s what we’re all here to do,” said Busch. “But when it all comes down to the end like that and it’s a great finish happens, there shouldn’t be anybody happier than the fans in the stands…All in all, the fans won today.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race the No. 3 vs. IndyCar stars in Michigan iRacing

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).