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Mortality Confronts Larson

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 11 2015
Kyle Larson will not race at Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

Kyle Larson. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By John Sturbin
NASCAR Wire Service

FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Larson’s recent sheet time at hospitals in Martinsville, Va., and Charlotte drove home a fact of life most 22-year-olds are not ready to accept.

“Yeah, definitely when you are young you think you are bulletproof, and sprint-logo-08that’s just one little instance that shows you that you aren’t,” Larson said Friday upon resuming his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career at Texas Motor Speedway. “You’ve got to take care of yourself as you get older; (I’m) definitely going to try and do a better job of that.”

The 2014 NASCAR Rookie of the Year, Larson fainted during an autograph session at Martinsville Speedway on March 28. Medically cleared to resume driving last week during the Easter break, Larson qualified his No. 42 AXE Chevrolet SS fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates ninth Friday afternoon for Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500.

Larson has been advised to change his diet…specifically to start his day with breakfast and avoid junk food, dude. “Yeah, it stinks when you come here to Texas and they have the Fuzzy’s Tacos that are really good and you can’t go over there and eat them probably,” Larson said. “I hate breakfast, so I’ve got to find some things that I like to eat in the morning and just make sure I drink enough fluids. I feel like I take decent care of myself. That morning was a little bit different because I overslept and had to rush out to the car, but we should be good.”

Larson was replaced on the half-mile Martinsville Speedway by Regan Smith. In addition to tracking “his” car, Larson also went to school on the series’ short-track specialists.

“Yeah, it’s never good when you have to miss a race,” Larson said. “Actually, I felt like I was still able to learn some things by sitting in the hospital bed watching the race. Martinsville is where I struggle the most on our tour. I was able to watch the good guys really because I’m never around the good guys during the race at Martinsville. The cameras are on them a lot so I can see what they are doing and listen to radio communications and things like that. Definitely learned a little bit.”

Larson will be making his fourth start on TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval in search of his first laps-led. He has two top-10s and a best finish of fifth in the events scheduled for 334-laps/501 miles.

“I like Texas because it’s pretty bumpy and the surface is worn-out,” Larson said. “You can move around on the racetrack, you can run the bottom all the way to the top. (Turns) 1 and 2 are really tricky to run the top because there are so many bumps. So it’s just a technical racetrack that I seem to do well at, I guess. I hope we can go out there and improve on those top-10’s and turn them into two top-five finishes this year. Two wins would be good.”

Following the recommendations and guidance of NASCAR officials, the management of Texas Motor Speedway recently completed a two-day installation project to add 250-feet of tire barriers in preparation for the Duck Commander 500.

The tire bundles were added to five inner-wall areas of the 1.5-mile quadoval per the instruction of NASCAR as to the specific locations, length of runs and general construction of the safety addition. The inner wall at the exit of pit lane was the most wide-ranging area with 115-feet of tire bundles while areas near pit lane entry, the jet truck staging area in Turn 1 and emergency vehicle cut-out areas in Turns 1 and 4 varied between 30 and 35-feet each.

Approximately 450 tires were used in constructing the barriers, which complement the existing, extensive SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction ) Barrier system that encompasses the majority of the walls.

Meanwhile, the management of the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway _ another track in O. Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. empire _ also has updated its SAFER system. Jerry Caldwell, BMS’ executive vice president and general manager, announced in early April that SMI engineers recently secured an additional 600 feet of SAFER Barriers and will complete the build-out of the front and backstretch outside walls before the Food City 500 on April 19.

Cup regular Carl Edwards said he wasn’t sure how the additional walls would affect the racing line on NASCAR’s most aggressive bullring.

“When they first did the SAFER Barrier, that affected things quite a bit or at least we thought it would,” said Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Stanley Racing For a Miracle Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. “Really, the race gets going and everybody finds the line and it wasn’t that big of a factor. I’m not even sure where they added them. So now they just go down the straightaways on the bottom and top? That’s great, so now it will just be narrower.

“That place is so fast and so narrow already. I don’t think it will make much of a difference. I do applaud them, all the track owners in NASCAR for doing that. Really there should be no place that there isn’t a SAFER Barrier if they can afford it and it sounds like that’s what we’re moving to.”

Reigning Cup champion Kevin Harvick agreed that what comprises the straights at BMS will be narrower and tighter. “You already have to kind of come back off the corners when you’re running the top,” said Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS fielded by Stewart-Hass Racing. “If you’re running the bottom, it’s just going to give you less space to let the car have its head up off the corner. So, it’s probably going to make the bottom even worse than it was.”

Native Texan Chris Buescher has been in the news throughout the NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Buescher drove the No. 60 Safety-Kleen Ford Mustang to a ninth-place finish in Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, overcoming an embarrassing scrape against the Turn 2 wall on Lap 1.

With 25 laps remaining, the second-year XFINITY Series driver was running in the top-five. A tight condition in the closing laps dropped him to ninth _ his fourth top-10 of the season. Buescher is second to Ty Dillon in the XFINITY driver standings, just two points out of the lead.

Earlier Friday, Front Row Motorsports announced that Buescher would drive the No. 34 CSX “Play It Safe” Ford Fusion in Sprint Cup races next weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway on May 3.  The deal will extend Buescher’s run with Front Row to five races. He has been filling the seat vacated by team regular David Ragan, who continues to sub for the injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota.

A native of Prosper, Buescher qualified the No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford 40th for Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at TMS _ a scenario he always had envisioned.

“I didn’t really think about actually making it happen,” Buescher said. “I grew up about 45 minutes east of here and made a lot of trips out here. I sat in the grandstands for the first race here in the monsoon that happened (in 1997), and been coming back a lot since. I’ve been telling everybody that I’ve got hundreds if not thousands of laps on the quarter-mile on the frontstretch and the fifth-mile of the dirt track out back. We’ve run the road course through the infield in different cars, just not a whole lot of laps around the big track, so it’s pretty awesome to be able to do it.

“I didn’t really see it coming back in ’97, but it’s pretty neat to be out here and doing this. It’s a dream come true, really, and I’m trying to take advantage of it right now. I know the Cup side is temporary, but it’s still cool to say that I’ve made it up and ran a Cup race at my home track.”

Joe Gibbs Racing marked Erik Jones’ first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at TMS Friday night without the presence J.D. Gibbs, team president and son of team founder Joe Gibbs. The team announced in late March that J.D. Gibbs, 46, is undergoing treatment for symptoms impacting brain function, possibly from past head injuries.

Gibbs’ symptoms include speech and processing issues. The eldest son of Joe Gibbs is continuing most of his day-to-day functions at the team’s shop in Huntersville, N.C., but his presence at NASCAR tracks will be limited.

“J.D., we talked to him tonight,” Joe Gibbs said during Jones’ post-race news conference. “Erik talked to him and J.D…is special. I talked to him tonight and he said, ‘Man, I wish I could be there.’ So that’s something that…gets to you. He’s doing good.”


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 11 2015
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