Kyle Larson fifth at Pocono, ties for second-best Sprint Cup finish of season

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Well, color Kyle Larson Target-red, as in blushing and surprised.

The leading candidate for NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year somehow turned a marginal car into a near-winner in Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Instead of where he thought he would wind up at in the 160-lap event, Larson drove both his butt and the tires off his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, coming home with a fifth-place finish, tying his second best showing thus far this season.

“Yeah, I’ll take it,” Larson said. “It was a lot better finish than I thought we’d have today.

“After Happy Hour (on Saturday), I thought we’d have a 15th-place car. But I knew from the drop of the green, we had a really good Chevy and throughout the race it got better and better.”

Larson’s finish equaled his fifth-place showing at Texas. His best performance to date in 2014 was runner-up at Fontana in March.

In addition, he remains 10th in the Sprint Cup standings after Sunday’s race.

Overall, it was an excellent weekend performance for Larson, who made his first-ever visit to the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

On Saturday, he won the ARCA 200 race there, and while he wound up short of a weekend sweep on Sunday, Larson put his overall performance in fitting terms:

“Getting a top-five here at the Tricky Triangle and a win yesterday in the ARCA Series — I guess you can’t ask for a much better weekend.”

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).