Winter Heat: NASCAR’s Kyle Larson hangs on for Night 2 win (VIDEO)

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A entertaining, three-way battle between NASCAR’s Kyle Larson and dirt-track veterans Danny Lasoski and Stevie Smith ended in favor of the Sprint Cup rookie of the year as he won the A-Main on Night 2 of the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown at Cocopah (Ariz.) Speedway.

Larson, whose journey to NASCAR’s top level began with success in the sprint car ranks, qualified third for the feature but had to fight hard to earn the win on Saturday night.

He first jumped to P1 shortly after the halfway point of the 30-lap race, when leader Aaron Reutzel’s top wing appeared to buckle and forced him to stop.

But former World of Outlaws champion Lasoski and Smith (both of whom are among the Top-10 on the Outlaws’ all-time wins list) would not let Larson get away. On the restart following Reutzel’s problem, Lasoski shot to the lead and Smith began to close in from behind.

Eventually, Smith took second from Lasoski and the fight was on between him and Larson. As they maneuvered through traffic, they swapped the lead multiple times around the 3/8-mile dirt oval.

With three to go, Larson took control but Smith remained in striking distance and on the white-flag lap, he pulled one last slide-job on the inside. But, riding the cushion, Larson was able to power past Smith in the final turn and beat him to the stripe.

“It ranks right up there mainly because I haven’t been in a sprint car in a long time,” Larson said in a track release. “To beat Danny Lasoski and Stevie Smith in a duel like that was pretty amazing. I think [the Showdown’s] a great event. It’s a great race track. The purse is really good. I think this event will grow each year.”

Said Smith: “We really wanted to win that race, but Kyle just, he didn’t give up and he earned it. We were just going back and forth and kinda just going where the other car wasn’t. When you get down to those last couple of laps and everybody is side by side, you’re just going where the opening is and just feeling your way around.”

The win was especially thrilling for Larson, who tweeted that Saturday may have been the most exciting race he’s ever been a part of:

Lasoski ended up in third position, while Joey Saldana and David Gravel completed the Top 5 on Saturday. Other notables included Friday winner Paul McMahan in ninth, and Larson’s fellow NASCAR star, Kasey Kahne, in 11th.

Saldana and Smith are now tied for the Winter Heat points lead after two nights of racing, with Lasoski three points back of them in third position. McMahan slipped to fourth in the standings but is still just 10 points out.

The five-night Winter Heat run will resume next Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. ET. Tuesday will be Larson’s final night at Cocopah, as he’ll be needed for next weekend’s Roar Before The Rolex 24 test sessions at Daytona International Speedway.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.