Ganassi Duo Ready for Playoffs

Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray

Larson (7.8) and McMurray (8.7) rank second and third, respectively, in average finish among all drivers in the six races that have been contested so far this season at 1.5-mile tracks. (Photo: Getty Images)

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JOLIET, Ill. - For the second consecutive year Chip Ganassi Racing will have both Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray in the playoffs.

The duo have been strong on the 1.5-mile tracks this season and are ready to try and continue that trend in the post-season. Larson (7.8) and McMurray (8.7) rank second and third, respectively, in average finish among all drivers in the six races that have been contested so far this season at 1.5-mile tracks. Sunday's Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway will mark the first of five tracks that have the same length in the 10-race playoffs.

Larson qualified sixth for the playoff opener, his second-best start at the intermediate, 1.5-mile, tracks this year. 

“I was hoping to be a little bit better, but we got kind of caught on the track there when the No. 77 (Erik Jones) spun out," Larson said. "That was a wasted run for us, a wasted run on tires. So, it actually ended up being better than what I thought we might end up.  So, we will go with it. Our Target Chevy has been good so far this weekend and I think we learned some things that will help our race trim.” 

Larson finished second in four of the races at 1.5-mile tracks with two of those coming from starting spots of 32nd and 40th, respectively, at Texas Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway after inspection issues prevented him from posting a time.

Heading into the first race of the playoffs, Larson ranks second in the standings and had tallied 33 playoff points as a result of his four race wins, three stage wins and a 10-point bonus for finishing second in the regular season standings.

One of Larson's favorite tracks on the schedule is the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, the site of the Championship 4 race.

"Homestead to me is by far my best racetrack," Larson said. "I have a lot of fun there, go really fast.

“I just got to do everything, and our team has to do everything right in those first nine races to give ourselves a shot at Homestead. I think if we can get there, we would definitely have a very good shot as long as I stay cool and calm and don't get in the wall.”

Although he's come close to winning at a 1.5-mile track, Larson's win in the regular season finale at Richmond Raceway was his first at a track less than 2-miles in length.

“Yeah, I could have a lot of mile-and-a-half wins," Larson said. "I could have won the Daytona 500 this year. But it was nice to win at a track where I would put it down there as Martinsville as being my worst tracks. Richmond and Martinsville would be my worst tracks. For me to win at Richmond was a huge confidence booster."

McMurray, who has finished in the top 10 in five of the six races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, is making his third career playoff appearance and believes he's in the best position to start the playoffs.

"This has probably been the best year for me on the NASCAR side," McMurray said. "Even though we haven’t won, we  finished eighth in points. For our organization to have Kyle second and we were eighth, it’s the best year for Chip Ganassi Racing. We were super consistent all year long in both cars.”

On Sunday McMurray will start 19th, which marks his worst qualifying effort at a 1.5-mile track this season.

"We never could get our car to turn in qualifying trim," McMurray said. "We seemed to be really good in race trim and then we put it in qualifying trim and struggled really bad with getting enough front grip in the car. We thought we freed it up enough for qualifying and we just didn’t. It just wouldn’t turn.”

Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" will have live coverage of Sunday's Tales of the Turtles 400 from Chicagoland Speedway, beginning at 2 p.m. (ET) - with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.

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