‘The other Kyle’ continues run as most consistent driver in last 4 Sprint Cup races

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Pop quiz: What Sprint Cup driver has two top-fives and one other top-10 finish in the last four races?

Brad Keselowski? Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Jimmie Johnson? Jeff Gordon? Kyle Busch?

If you picked Kyle Busch, you were kind of half-right.

Hard as it may seem to believe, Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson has been the hottest and most consistent driver in the series since Bristol four races ago.

He finished 10th at Bristol, second at Fontana (also won the Nationwide Series race there that same weekend), 27th at Martinsville and rallied back for a fifth-place showing in Monday’s rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

And in doing so, not only was he the top-finishing rookie of the race, the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet jumped four spots in the Sprint Cub standings, climbing from 19th to 15th.

If the Chase for the Sprint Cup were to start tomorrow, Larson would be in the field of 16. Think about that.

Larson is doing so well of late, that all he’s missing is his first career Sprint Cup win. And even though the series is going to the uber-difficult Darlington Raceway this coming weekend, Larson has just the right amount of talent and moxie to win at the so-called “track too tough to tame.”

“I think so,” Larson said when asked if he thinks he’s ready to win in NASCAR’s marquee series. “I feel like we’ve been a top‑10 car most races.

“We were good at Bristol, good at Fontana, good here. I think if we just keep keeping ourselves in contention, things will work out late in the races or we might have a dominating car one day and get our first win.

“I feel like right now it could come at a 1.5-mile or a little bit bigger track (Darlington is 1.366 miles around). Hopefully that comes soon because there’s a lot on the schedule.”

Larson might have finished a bit higher Monday – maybe fourth or even third – but wasn’t able to get any forward movement following the final restart.

“I’m happy we didn’t lose any spots,” Larson said. “A little bit disappointed we didn’t gain any because we were on four fresh tires.

“The 24 (runner-up Jeff Gordon) and 55 (fourth-place Brian Vickers) had two and beat us. All in all, a pretty good day. Going on to Darlington, a track I really like, and try to do even better.”

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.