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The Canadian Press

Larson settled in Hendrick for a month in a new job

LAS VEGAS – Kyle Larson has been out of NASCAR long enough to wonder if he would still feel comfortable in a World Cup car. He raced at almost 100 events last year, but not on 3,400 pound stock cars. Would it feel the same as when he remembered? Had your familiarity with the countryside diminished? Did your instincts slip? Larson, who won 42 out of 83 open-wheel races during his NASCAR suspension for using a racial slur, has returned to the old routine. “I thought there would be cobwebs and rust. But maybe because I raced so much last year in race cars and open-wheel cars … I felt as refreshed as ever, “said Larson.” When I got in the car, I put on my head and neck protection and buckled my belt, everything looked normal. It didn’t feel like I had been out of the car for a long time. “Even changing gears and going down the pit road and stopping at my pit signal and things like that, as if everything had happened naturally.” Larson, fired by Chip Ganassi Racing after using a racial slur during an iRacing event in April , was hired by Hendrick Motorsports when his ban was lifted at the end of last season, his official comeback was last month at the Daytona International Speedway, where he opened his second chance at NASCAR with 10th place on the Daytona 500. He was racing in the top three with seven laps remaining a week later on the Daytona road circuit, when Larson, in a moment of admitted aggression, turned his Chevrolet and fell to a spot in 30. Last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Larson led five laps and finished fourth, marking consecutive weeks that he believed he had a chance to win. Next is Sunday’s race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. prayed and is the day before his fourth and final World Cup race a year ago. The season was paused for the pandemic, Larson was suspended during the stoppage and missed the final 32 races of the year. Despite his layoff and moving to a new organization, he is already fitting well into Hendrick Motorsports. The team won its first win of the season last week from William Byron, a playoff driver who normally stays around the cut mark, but is now automatically qualified. Alex Bowman had one of the fastest cars on the Daytona 500, and series champion Chase Elliott could have won the Daytona 500 and the road race a week later. Chad Knaus, vice president of competition, believes that Hendrick’s drivers could have won the first three races of the season and Larson could win the victory soon. Leaving suspension, Larson also left a strong impression off the track at Hendrick. It was a welcome addition to the driver’s comments, which no longer include seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson downloading information for the first time in nearly two decades. “I am really impressed with Kyle. Having him here, he was very open, very open with information about what he is feeling, ”said Knaus. “It is an open book. He has been doing very well and we couldn’t be more satisfied with his performance. ”He also noticed a patience in Larson, particularly in Homestead last week, when Larson could have been very aggressive with his favorite style of running against the wall. “Everyone also thought about Kyle, fast, but he falls. Or fast, but it hits the wall, fast, but it does a lot of these things, ”said Knaus. “Homestead would have been a great opportunity to compromise the car and he didn’t. He ran in the top five all day, he didn’t think he had more than that and he didn’t want to push the bar.” high level of maturity that I didn’t know he had. ”NEW WINNERS Las Vegas should be the track that returns some normality to victory after three surprise winners in the first three races. Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell scored their first career wins to open the season and Byron won his second World Cup victory. But the traditional 2.5-mile Las Vegas middle lane represents the type of lane that World Cup cars frequent the most and the best teams really stand out. Six of the drivers on Sunday’s field are previous Las Vegas winners, including two-time race winner defenseman Joey Logano. Denny Hamlin, the current World Cup points leader, has never won in 18 games in Las Vegas. ODDS AND FIM Harvick is the 5-1 favorite to win Las Vegas, where he won in 2016 and 2018. Martin Truex Jr. it’s 13-2, while Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin have 8-1. Teammates Penske Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are 9-1 and Logano is the winner of the race. … Chase Briscoe is leading the rookie of the year ranking by nin and points over Anthony Alfredo. Briscoe last season was the first driver of the Xfinity Series to win the Las Vegas races. … Raiders’ quarterback, David Carr, is the great marshal. … Spectators returned to the track for the first time since last February’s race. The track was allowed to receive approximately 12,500 fans and tickets sold out for the three days of racing. Indoor camp was not allowed. “This is the first time that I remember being disappointed to announce an exhaustion,” said Chris Powell, the track’s president. Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press

Paula Fonseca