Clint Bowyer leads first Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

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Clint Bowyer popped the fastest lap in today’s first Sprint Cup practice session at Talladega Superspeedway, topping out early at 200.385 mph in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.

Only two Chasers were among the Top 10 speeds in the first session, and none were within the Top 5. Bowyer’s lap was enough to eclipse Aric Almirola (200.268), defending GEICO 500 champion Jamie McMurray (200.117), Michael McDowell (199.971), and Travis Kvapil (199.883).

Kyle Larson was sixth-fastest, followed by Landon Cassill in seventh, Chaser Brad Keselowski in eighth (199.238), Kurt Busch in ninth, and another Chaser, Kyle Busch, in 10th (199.160).

McMurray also claimed the best 10-lap average speed in the session at 196.586 mph across Lap 3-12 of the 18 laps that he logged.

The other Chasers ran as follows: Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 12th, Matt Kenseth in 14th, Kasey Kahne in 16th, Ryan Newman in 24th, Denny Hamlin in 28th, Joey Logano in 31st, Jimmie Johnson in 32nd, Jeff Gordon in 33rd, Kevin Harvick in 37th, and Carl Edwards in 38th.

Logano and Harvick need not worry too much as they’re safely in the Eliminator Round already with recent wins (Logano at Kansas, Harvick last week at Charlotte). As for Johnson, one of several drivers that effectively need a win this weekend to stay alive in the Chase, his work in Practice 1 was largely outside the draft. His best lap of 32 in the session was at 195.748 mph.

Final practice for the Cup series will begin later this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Talladega – Practice One Times

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.