Kyle Larson leads Sprint Cup final practice; Kurt Busch going to backup car

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Will this be the weekend Kyle Larson out-hustles the Chasers and claims his first Sprint Cup win?

With finishes of third, second, and sixth in the Challenger Round, Larson’s been threatening to do that throughout the post-season so far. He’ll have some work to do on Sunday at Kansas Speedway with an 18th-place starting position, but he paced today’s final Cup practice session with a lap of 190.295 mph.

Four of those Chasers followed Larson to round out the Top 5 in the session: Sunday’s pole sitter Kevin Harvick in second (189.607), Kasey Kahne in third (189.215), Ryan Newman in fourth (189.102), and Kyle Busch in fifth (189.069).

Kansas native Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger, two more Chasers in Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano, and Martin Truex Jr. completed the Top 10.

The rest of the Chasers went like this: Carl Edwards in 11th, Denny Hamlin in 13th, Brad Keselowski in 16th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 19th, Jimmie Johnson in 21st, and Matt Kenseth in 25th.

Earnhardt may not have been up with the leaders on the time sheets, but still said the practice was good for him. He had the second-fastest 10-lap average behind Harvick’s.

“This is exactly the kind of practice we want, a lot closer to race conditions,” he told Fox Sports. “The practice this morning wasn’t anything like what the track’s gonna be like [Sunday]. I’m really happy with the car. We’ve got race speed. Didn’t hit a good, fast lap to put it up the board there, but the [10-lap] average is great.

“We ran a straight 10-lap run and I really, really like the way [the speed] held on. So, I’m pretty happy.”

About 10 minutes into the session, the red flag came out for Kurt Busch’s spin off Turn 4 into the wet infield grass.

Large chunks of grass were spotted in the wheel wells of the No. 41 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet, and perhaps with the soft ground in mind, the safety crew opted to use ropes to pull the car out instead of sending a tow truck to do the job.

Fox Sports reported in the final moments of its practice broadcast that Kurt Busch would have to go to a backup car and abandon his 24th-place starting position for Sunday. SHR confirmed it later on.

A second red flag came out with less than two minutes to go for Alex Bowman tagging the Turn 4 wall, causing NASCAR to slightly extend the session.

Shortly after practice ended, BK Racing also said that Bowman would also go to a backup car; he had been slated to start 33rd.

New Jersey Supercross Preview: Webb Rolls On, Forkner Returns

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Two races remain in the 2019 Supercross season and the handwriting is on the wall. Cooper Webb’s magic number is now five; all he needs to do in the final two races is finish fifth or better. Since he has finished worse than that only twice this year – and not since Week 5 in San Diego – it’s a fair assumption that he will keep his momentum alive through the end of the season.

Webb’s competition is not going to let up, however. Last week in Denver, Eli Tomac won his second consecutive race after Webb got off to a slow start. There was a glimmer of hope while Webb was outside the top five on Lap 1, but the points leader meticulously picked off the competition and settled into second. Third in the standings, Marvin Musquin finished third to keep his title hopes alive as well.

But this is Supercross. Anything can happen. Just two weeks ago in the 250 class, Austin Forkner tweaked a knee and failed to start the Feature in Nashville. His one-race cushion evaporated in an instant and his advantage over the field is only three points with two races remaining in that division.

After battling his way back into contention with back-to-back top-five finishes at Houston and Nashville, Dean Wilson crashed in Denver and injured his shoulder and kidneys. He’ll miss the final two races of the season.

Two weeks ago at Nashville, Tyler Enticknap and Ronnie Stewart crashed hard and will be missing from the New Jersey lineup.

In 250s, it took an injury for the field to catch up to Forkner. He’ll be back in competition this week and forced to answer the question of whether he is in full form after undergoing therapy on his knee for the past three weeks. Since none of the 250 East riders have beaten him on the track, the answer would seem to be a simple one.

But now the competition senses weakness which is likely to be compounded by Forkner’s propensity to struggle in practice and qualification. Chase Sexton and Justin Cooper have been racking up top-fives, but now they need to step up and win. If either rider can do that this week in New Jersey or next week in the East/West Showdown in Vegas, that should allow him to snatch the championship away from 2019’s dominator.

MORE: The Other Guys Versus the Big 4  

Schedule:

Qualifying: 11 a.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 5 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac scored his second consecutive victory at Denver over Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin.
In 250s, Adam Cianciarulo beat Dylan Ferrandis and Colt Nichols.

Last Year:

New Jersey was not on the schedule in 2018. In 2017, Ryan Dungey beat Marvin Musquin and Jason Anderson.
In 250s, Zach Osborne beat Dylan Ferrandis and Adam Cianciarulo.

Winners

450s:
[6] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, Arlington, Atlanta, and Houston)
[5] Eli Tomac (San Diego, Detroit, Daytona, Nashville and Denver)
[2] Marvin Musquin (Indianapolis and Seattle)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)

250 West:
[5] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta and Denver)
[2] Dylan Ferrandis (Seattle and Houston)
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

250 East:
[5] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis, Arlington, Detroit, Daytona and Indianapolis)
[1] Martin Davalos (Nashville)

Top-5s

450s:
Cooper Webb (13)
Marvin Musquin (12)
Eli Tomac (12)
Ken Roczen (10)
Blake Baggett (8)
Joey Savatgy (5)
Dean Wilson (4)
Chad Reed (2)
Justin Barcia (2)
Justin Bogle (2)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Brayton (1)
Aaron Plessinger (1)
Cole Seely (1)
Zach Osborne (1)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (9)
Dylan Ferrandis (7)
Colt Nichols (6)
Shane McElrath (5)
RJ Hampshire (5)
James Decotis (4)
Jacob Hayes (1)
Garrett Marchbanks (1)
Jess Pettis (1)
Michael Mosiman (1)
Chris Blose (1)
Michael Mosiman (1)

250 East:
Justin Cooper (7)
Chase Sexton (7)
Austin Forkner (6)
Martin Davalos (4)
Jordon Smith (3)
Alex Martin (2)
Mitchell Oldenburg (2)
Kyle Peters (1)
Brandon Hartranft (1)

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (332)
Eli Tomac (314)
Marvin Musquin (309)
Ken Roczen (283)
Blake Baggett (255)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (208)
Dylan Ferrandis (200)
Colt Nichols (163)
RJ Hampshire (145)
James Decotis (128)
Cameron McAdoo (128)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (151)
Chase Sexton (148)
Justin Cooper (144)
Martin Davalos (115)
Mitchell Oldenburg (105)

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