The Kyle show: Busch fastest, Larson next in Cup Happy Hour at ‘Dega

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It was the Kyle and Kyle show in Friday afternoon’s final Sprint Cup practice for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Or maybe we should call it a half-practice, as only 21 drivers took part in Happy Hour.

The speeds were significantly slower than the morning practice – by more than 5 mph – when Clint Bowyer topped the field at 200.385 mph.

MORE: Clint Bowyer leads first Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

As for the afternoon practice, Kyle Busch was the fastest at 195.205 mph, followed by rookie Kyle Larson (195.118 mph).

Two other drivers surpassed 195 mph: Kasey Kahne (195.106) and Jeff Gordon 195.015).

Because of the small field, there were surprising speed performances from several drivers: Casey Mears was fifth-fastest (194.983), as well as Reed Sorenson (194.856), Denny Hamlin (194.393), Joe Nemechek (194.176), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (194.082) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (192.827).

The rest of the field was:

11 Justin Allgaier 192.820 mph

12 Ryan Blaney 192.816

13 Josh Wise 191.804

14 Matt Kenseth 191.562

15 Jimmie Johnson 189.947

16 Mike Wallace 189.936

17 Brad Keselowski 189.684

18 Danica Patrick 189.193

19 Michael Annett 188.159

20 Greg Biffle 187.964

21 Joey Logano 160.510

Logano made only one lap, so his speed is not too concerning.

But Johnson’s speed is. The defending and six-time Sprint Cup champ is in a must-win situation Sunday to advance to the Eliminator Round.

Of course, also in must-win situations are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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.