Kyle Larson allowed to compete in select dirt track races this off-season

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With him and his girlfriend preparing to welcome their first child in December, you’d figure Kyle Larson’s off-season would be busy enough.

But the likely NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year will also be making a limited return to sprint car racing, where he developed his talents (and which he defended as a whole this summer following the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy).

Larson will drive a midget car in the famous Turkey Night Grand Prix (which he has won before) from Nov. 26-27 at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway.

He’ll then make an appearance in a winged sprint car for the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown at Cocopah Speedway in Somerton, Arizona. That event will take place Jan. 2-3, 6, and 9-10.

Finally, Larson will return to the midgets for a shot at the Golden Driller in the Chili Bowl Nationals, which take place from Jan. 12-17 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has yet to win the Chili Bowl main event, with a top finish of third in the 2012 running.

For Turkey Night and the Chili Bowl, Larson will race for Keith Kunz Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian and have backing from Target’s Cartwheel brand. In Arizona, he’ll race for Larson-Marks Racing, the sprint car team he co-owns.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to a few dirt tracks during the offseason,” Larson said in a Chip Ganassi Racing release. “As most people know, dirt racing is where I started my career, and while I always wanted to drive in the Sprint Cup Series, I really appreciate the opportunity to be back racing on dirt.

“Being able to once again participate in the Chili Bowl, and have another chance to win the feature, is something I’m really looking forward to. It is great when you work for an owner like Chip that’s a former driver because he knows how it feels and to also have a partner like Target that is supportive of me doing this. I am very appreciative for the opportunity.”

As for his boss, Ganassi said that he was “happy” that Larson will have the chance to get back to his roots.

“His results on dirt tracks and fan base speak for themselves, and I’ve been pleased to see him bring some of that success and excitement to our NASCAR team this year,” he said.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.