Kyle Larson rallies in closing laps to win Pocono ARCA 200

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Fool Kyle Larson once, shame on him.

Try to fool him twice though, and he’ll make you pay for it.

That’s what happened in Saturday’s ARCA 200 played out at Pocono Raceway.

Mason Mitchell did a great job getting a jump on Larson on the final restart 10 laps from the finish. Mitchell began to pull away to almost a two-second lead, but Larson got up on the wheel, tracked him down and ultimately passed for the lead and the eventual win with just three laps remaining.

It was Larson’s first win at Pocono, dominating by leading 65 of the event’s 80 laps.

“That was surprising,” Larson told Fox Sports about Mitchell’s late pass on him. “We had the dominant car by far the whole race. The 98 (Mitchell) surprised me, he was really fast and pulled away from me a little bit there.

“Then he got excited a couple times in (turn) 2 that killed his run and I was able to get a run on him and get to his inside. It would have sucked to lose that race.”

Larson becomes the 17th different winner in as many ARCA races at Pocono, and the 34th overall first-time winner across all racing series at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

“It was a good day, we’re going into Sunday’s race and try to get a good finish tomorrow,” said Larson, who hopes for a weekend sweep in Sunday’s Pocono 400 Sprint Cup.

Mitchell is to be commended for the race he ran, even though he ultimately wound up with his second runner-up finish of the season and fourth overall of his young racing career.

“We made a bold move going into (turn) one on the restart but I had to do it to get in the front,” he said about passing Larson. “When we passed him on the restart, I did everything I could to hold him off. We did pretty good, going up against a Cup team there.”

While he failed to earn his first ARCA win, Mitchell will have plenty to brag about this week, taking a Cup driver almost to the end. One other good note for Mitchell: he leaves Pocono just 20 points out of the lead in the ARCA standings as the series shifts to Michigan International Speedway next weekend.

Also of note in the race was the fifth-place finish of Justin Allison, grandson of NASCAR’s fabled Alabama Gang co-founder, Donnie Allison, and grandnephew of three-time Pocono winner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison.

The third-generation racer had to finish the race with his transmission stuck in fourth gear.

“It wasn’t fun, that’s for sure,” he said of driving with just one gear. “Our car was really good all day. We ran in the top three most of the day.

“We just made the best of what we could and I’m definitely glad to come home with a top-five.”

Here’s the unofficial results from Saturday’s Pocono ARCA 200:

1. Kyle Larson

2. Mason Mitchell

3. John Wes Townley

4. Will Kimmel

5. Justin Allison

6. Josh Williams

7. Frank Kimmel

8. Grant Enfinger

9. Cody Coughlin

10. Karl Werner

11. Spencer Gallagher

12. Bobby Gerhart

13. Thomas Praytor

14. Kyle Martel

15. Ed Pompa

16. Tom Hessert

17. Tom Berte

18. Nick Igdalsky

19. Matt Tifft

20. Darrell Basham

21. Bill Catania

22. Justin Boston

23. Jay Curry

24. Austin Wayne Self

25. Brent Cross

26. Rick Clifton

27. Steve Fox

28. Don Thompson

29. Chris Bailey

30. Tim Viens

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Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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Honda Photo
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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500