Kevin Harvick

1 2 3 9

NASCAR: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart elected to IMS Hall of Fame

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   Five-time Brickyard winner Jeff Goron and two-time winner Tony Stewart have been elected to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, marking the first time a member of the NASCAR community has been given the honor.

Starting with this year’s ballot, which was due in February, voting for the IMS Hall of Fame was expanded to include members of the NASCAR and Formula 1 communities that “have made major contributions to auto racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Gordon and Stewart were chosen from a ballot of 14 nominees by a panel of auto racing journalists, participants and historians.

Gordon, who attended Tri-West High School in Pittsboro, Indiana, won 93 races in NASCAR’s top series, including the Daytona 500 three times. He won the NASCAR series championship four times following a career in USAC open-wheel racing where he was the 1990 national Midget series champion and 1991 Silver Crown titlist. He added an overall win in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2017.

Stewart, from Columbus, Indiana, won the national Midget series championship in 1994 and the Triple Crown (Silver Crown, Sprint Car, Midget) in 1995. He won three IndyCar events and the 1996-97 series championship. After moving to NASCAR, Stewart won 49 races in Cup series and three series championships.

The 2018 inductees were announced on “Founder’s Day,” the 109th anniversary of the day the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company was officially formed. They also are the first to be enshrined under the Hall’s new name and scope, which includes the stars of the Brickyard 400 and United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis for the first time. The induction ceremony will be held May 24.

“We are thrilled that the first class of inductees with our new name and election criteria honor two drivers who mean so much to fans in Central Indiana and around the world” said Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Famewas founded in 1952 as the Auto Racing Hall of Fame under the auspices of the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA). The Hall of Fame was moved to the original Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum under the direction of then-Speedway president Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr. in 1962.


Another honor for “Lone Star J.R.”

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford will be honored in April by the Road Racing Drivers Club prior to the IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

It will mark the 10th straight year the organization has feted some of the greatest drivers in open-wheel racing. Previous honorees were Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Roger Penske, Jim Hall, Brian Redman, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, George Follmer and Emerson Fittipaldi.

“Johnny has always been a tough, accomplished racer on the track and an absolute gentleman off the track,” former IndyCar star Bobby Rahal, who serves as RRDC president, said in a release. “He always has time to sign an autograph or pose for a selfie. He’s been the ultimate ambassador for our sport.”

Born in 1938 in Coffeyville, Kansas, Rutherford began his racing career in modified stock cars in 1959 and he won his first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1963, capturing one of the twin 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 driving for Smokey Yunick. That victory made him the youngest-ever NASCAR winner at that point.

Rutherford also became a driver to watch in the open-wheel ranks, especially on dirt, when he drove his No. 9 to the 1965 USAC Sprint Car Championship. His IndyCar breakthrough came a decade later when he drove for McLaren and delivered Indy 500 wins in 1974 and 1976 and finished second in 1975.

In 1980, Rutherford raced Jim Hall’s “Yellow Submarine” Chaparral, winning the Indy 500 again and capturing the series championship. His victory in the Indy 500 made him one of only nine drivers to win the storied race three times (A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears are the only four-time winners).

Rutherford also was an accomplished road racer and drove a Porsche 935 to second in the 1978 Daytona 24 Hours.

RRDC was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety. Today, it mentors new drivers at both the amateur and professional levels, and its reach has been impressive, especially since the club started a free on-line training seminar dubbed

The site has featured RRDC members and other industry experts in videos covering subjects from physical and mental preparation to driving techniques, driver safety, to car setup and sponsorship. To date, the club says more than 550,000 racers in 171 countries have viewed nearly 3 million video tutorials in 70 languages.

Martin Truex Jr. grabs 1st win of NASCAR season at Fontana

This gallery contains 1 photo.

FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. saw nothing but clean air and green flags down the stretch in his first victory of the new NASCAR Cup season.

Truex didn’t get much of a look at Kevin Harvick, whose bid for four straight wins was ruined by an early crash at Fontana.

So even while Truex’s Furniture Row Racing Toyota team celebrated, it was a wee bit disappointed not to get a duel with the early-season king.

“I think we would have had something for him today,” team owner Barney Visser said.

Truex roared to victory at Fontana on Sunday, beating Kyle Larson by 11 seconds to claim the first win of the season for last year’s series champion.

Truex won both stages before rolling to the checkered flag on his 16th career victory and his first since that glorious championship day at Homestead last November. His first career victory at Fontana even moved Truex into the overall points lead, thanks to Harvick’s woes.

Harvick dragged his damaged car to a 35th-place finish after early contact with Larson ruined his day. But after dominating at Auto Club Speedway, Truex’s team was no longer certain Harvick has the fastest ride in the field.

“It just feels good to win,” said Truex, who became the third driver to win from the pole at Fontana. “I don’t really worry about who else is fast. Obviously (Harvick) has been quick. They’ve got a great team, and Kevin is an awesome driver. But as we’ve seen today, we can put together a run as well.”

Truex took the lead for good with 32 laps left by getting past Kyle Busch, who finished third. Brad Keselowski was fourth.

“People kept asking, ‘When are you going to win again?'” said Truex, who led 125 laps overall. “‘When are you going to win any stages?’ Well, here you go.”

When Truex got a series of post-race questions about Harvick, the defending champ suggested that Furniture Row proved early on that it can hang with Stewart-Haas Racing.

“That first pit stop was under green, and he came in pretty close (to me),” Truex said. “We left pit road, and I drove away from him. That was the only gauge I really had of that. … I’m sure we’ll have plenty of chances to race each other throughout the rest of the season.”

Here are more things to know about the race at Fontana:

KEVIN’S SMACK: Harvick’s bid to become the 14th driver ever to win four straight races ended when he hit the wall after side-to-side contact with Larson on the 37th lap. Harvick’s flapping bumper was the most obvious problem, but he made a nice save down the track to avoid an interior wall.

Harvick took the blame for the mistake.

“I went down to side-draft and (Larson) was coming up and we touched, and it just knocked the thing to the right and spun out,” Harvick said. “I don’t know that it’s his fault. I think that’s my fault for coming down the racetrack right there and trying to side-draft, and then as we touch, it just came back up the racetrack. I was just trying to get a little too much right there.”

Harvick’s car was repaired, and he managed to earn two standings points. Harvick had won in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix before arriving in his home state for an attempt to become the second driver in this century to win four straight.

CLEAN SWEEP: Truex won both stages and a race for the third time in his career. He also accomplished the feat at Las Vegas and Chicagoland during his championship 2017 season. “I would have liked to be one spot better, but I couldn’t even see Martin,” said Larson, the race’s defending champion.

JJ IN 9TH: Six-time Fontana champ Jimmie Johnson finished ninth for his first top-10 finish of the season, ending a 10-race skid outside the top 10 — the worst such stretch of his career. Johnson’s winless streak reached 28 races, also his longest in a career that began in 2001.

BACK AND FORTH: Truex and Busch traded the lead during the final stage, but Busch had a problematic pit stop that left his car handling poorly. Truex passed Busch for good with 32 laps to go. Busch was less than pleased afterward.

WHO’S HOT: Larson didn’t let that early contact stop him from recording his best finish in 13 races since last season.

WHO’S NOT: Trevor Bayne’s day ended on the 108th lap when he smacked the wall.

UP NEXT: Martinsville on March 25.



Sunday from the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 200 laps, 60 points.

2. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 2043.

3. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200, 51.

4. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, 49.

5. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 200, 45.

6. (25) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200, 39.

7. (4) Erik Jones, Toyota, 200, 39.

8. (8) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200, 29.

9. (33) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 200, 38.

10. (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, 27.

11. (26) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 199, 30.

12. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, 199, 25.

13. (28) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 199, 24.

14. (7) Kurt Busch, Ford, 199, 27.

15. (29) William Byron, Chevrolet, 199, 23.

16. (31) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 199, 21.

17. (15) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 199, 20.

18. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 199, 19.

19. (14) Paul Menard, Ford, 199, 18.

20. (19) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 199, 17.

21. (9) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 199, 16.

22. (32) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 199, 15.

23. (30) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 199, 14.

24. (34) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 199, 13.

25. (21) David Ragan, Ford, 199, 12.

26. (22) Michael McDowell, Ford, 199, 11.

27. (17) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 198, 10.

28. (37) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 198, 9.

29. (36) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 198, 0.

30. (12) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 197, 7.

31. (18) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 196, 6.

32. (20) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 194, 5.

33. (35) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 193, 0.

34. (24) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 193, 3.

35. (10) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 191, 2.

36. (23) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 189, 1.

37. (13) Trevor Bayne, Ford, accident, 108, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 147.528 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 42 minutes, 41 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 11.685 Seconds seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M.Truex 1-10. Ky.Busch 11-28. J.McMurray 29. Ky.Busch 30. M.Truex 31-63. J.Logano 64-72. M.Truex 73-89. Ky.Busch 90-93. M.Truex 94-123. Ky.Busch 124-130. K.Kahne 131. W.Byron 132. Ky.Busch 133-160. M.Truex 161-163. D.Hamlin 164. Ky.Busch 165-168. M.Truex 169-200

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Truex, 6 times for 119 laps. Ky.Busch, 6 times for 56 laps. J.Logano, 1 time for 8 laps. W.Byron, 1 time for 0 laps. D.Hamlin, 1 time for 0 laps. K.Kahne, 1 time for 0 laps. J.McMurray, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 3. A.Dillon, 1. M.Truex, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 216. 2. Ky.Busch, 207. 3. J.Logano, 197. 4. B.Keselowski, 183. 5. R.Blaney, 181. 6. D.Hamlin, 176. 7. K.Larson, 174. 8. K.Harvick, 170. 9. C.Bowyer, 155. 10. A.Almirola, 148. 11. Ku.Busch, 144. 12. A.Dillon, 141. 13. E.Jones, 132. 14. R.Newman, 117. 15. A.Bowman, 115. 16. P.Menard, 115.

Truex claims 17th NASCAR Cup pole in Fontana

FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. claimed the pole for the NASCAR Cup series race in Fontana after a qualifying session in which 13 drivers didn’t complete a lap.

Truex won back-to-back poles for the first time in his career Friday, following up his pole in Phoenix with another speedy performance.

He turned a lap at 186.567 mph in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, claiming his 17th career pole on the weathered 2 miles of asphalt at Auto Club Speedway.

“Not a perfect lap by any means, but we did what we had to do today,” said Truex, who earned the pole at Fontana for the first time.

Kyle Busch was second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 186.437 mph, and defending Fontana champion Kyle Larson was third. Erik Jones is fourth and Austin Dillon is fifth.

But only 24 cars recorded a qualifying attempt in the opening round after 13 failed to clear pre-qualifying inspection in time.

Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Chase Elliott were among the drivers who will start from the back. All four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets didn’t turn a lap.

Truex was the only driver who improved his time in the final session of qualifying.

Here are more things to know about qualifying for the fifth NASCAR Cup race of the season:

STILL FAST: Kevin Harvick will start 10th when he attempts to win his fourth consecutive race early in the season. His rivals shouldn’t get too excited, however: Harvick set the track qualifying speed record at 188.744 mph in the first round in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

SILVER LINING: The drivers who didn’t record a lap will start from the back Sunday, but they’ll be on sticker tires. That matters on a track like Fontana. “It’s a huge advantage on that first run, especially if it goes long,” said Truex, who got a similar edge last month in Atlanta. “In my mind, if you’re not probably in the top four, you’re probably better off being 25th. It’s going to be a big deal. Hopefully we can get out front and get a big lead early, or get some clean air and get separated.”

LET IT GO: Busch doesn’t think anyone should be too hard on the cars that failed to record a lap, because every team is still working on learning the finer points of NASCAR’s new rules. “This is a whole new system,” Busch said. “This is our (fifth) week on it. You’ve got to give them a little more time.”

HENDRICK ZERO: Jeff Andrews, the vice president of competition for Hendrick, said the team’s cars all had trouble with an issue relating to the rear decklid. “They were all similar, in the same area of the car,” Andrews said. “We’ve got to go back. We have to talk internally and talk with NASCAR. We felt like we were making changes in the area affected, and we were not seeing the results when we went back through (inspection).”

GOOD START: Busch’s result is particularly important with Toyota Racing Development headquartered in nearby Orange County. “The guys in Costa Mesa, they always put this one on the calendar,” Busch said. “They always want to come out here and perform well.”


More AP auto racing:

NASCAR docks Chase Elliott 25 points, fines crew chief after Phoenix infraction

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP / USA Today Sports)   —   The NASCAR police stopped another big-name driver Wednesday.

A week after leveling stiff penalties on Kevin Harvick’s team, NASCAR hit the Hendrick Motorsports team of driver Chase Elliott with similar penalties after inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center revealed a rear-suspension issue on the car he drove to a third-place finish last Sunday at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

NASCAR said the team failed to comply with a rule that requires the trailing arm space/pinion angle shim surface to be in complete contact at all points and at all times. Failure to meet that requirement could create additional sideforce, NASCAR said.

The team was penalized 25 driver points and 25 owner points, and crew chief Alan Gustafson was  fined $50,000. Car chief Josh Kirk was suspended for two races.

The loss of points dropped Elliott from 16th to 23rd in the driver standings.

After Harvick won at Las Vegas, his team was fined for rear window and sideskirt violations. Harvick’s team did not appeal the penalties, though Harvick reacted aggressively to the punishment and said the penalties were largely fuled by social-media response from fans.

Hendrick Motorsports plans to appeal.

Also Wednesday, Lowe’s announced that it will end its sponsorship of driver Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team at the end of this season. The Lowe’s-Johnson partnership has been one of the strongest in the history of the sport. Lowe’s is not expected to sponsor another NASCAR team.

Lowe’s has been a Hendrick sponsor since 2001 and with Johnson since he made his Cup Series debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway that October.


Kevin Harvick is home in Bakersfield, California, to race with the minor leaguers he lobbied for after his victory Sunday in Phoenix.

The NASCAR star is racing for the first time at Kern County Raceway Park, the half-mile oval that replaced the Mesa Marin track where he got his start.

Before heading south for the weekend Cup event outside Los Angeles, Harvick will compete in the K&N Pro Series West’s Bakersfield 175 on Thursday night. The event also features a Late Model race — the Happy Harvick 50 — and an all-night Happy Hour.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have won a lot of races and do a lot of things in my career,” Harvick said. “The goal here is to try to expose other drivers who just need a break.”

He also drove in a K&N West race last year at Sonoma.

“I would love to build the K&N West Series back to what it needs to be — that enthusiasm, get to the right race tracks, help those kids,” Harvick said. “For me it was an eye-opener last year when I went to Sonoma and saw the impact that running that race had on the competitors, the series.

“The fans will sometimes say, ‘You’re cherry-picking.’ I would tell you, nobody would know who Will Rodgers is unless it was for us running that race, having him on the radio show, bringing him to the pit box the next day, these guys take him in.”

After racing to his third straight Cup victory Sunday in Phoenix, Harvick and car owner Tony Stewart took time to promote grassroots racing — and took a jab at ISM Raceway President Bryan Sperber for dropping K&N West from the Phoenix track’s schedule.

“I’ve been mad at Sperber here for a couple years now because he won’t have the K&N cars come race here because it doesn’t help his budget,” Harvick said. “It’s kicking those guys low on the K&N West Series that they don’t get to come and race at this particular race track because of … a budget, what is right, what is wrong, from a sanctioning fee side on Trucks and Xfinity. So they cut the K&N guys out.

“Cutting the grassroots side of things out is not the right way to do things. Those guys, they just want to race. This is a crown jewel race for those guys. The thought process for me is broken. When I look at our hardcore fans, they’re all sitting at those short tracks and they’re mad.”

Harvick and Stewart used to race in the Copper Classic at the Phoenix track.

“Didn’t matter how many people sat in the grandstands,” Harvick said. “As competitors, those guys, this was their Daytona. … This is where everybody wanted to race.”

Stewart said he got a career break in the Copper Classic.

“I ran second to Mike Bliss here,” Stewart said. “That one race got me a huge opportunity to drive for some really big teams. Now, you don’t have things like that.”

Stewart mentioned the Phoenix track’s expensive redevelopment project.

“We can afford to spend $170 million to move the frontstretch from there over to there. I still have no idea what the reason for that is,” Stewart said. “I guess we probably can’t afford to run any support races here that cost the track some money.”


NASCAR – Phoenix takeaways: Kevin Harvick promotes short-track racing; Fords keep flying

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —    AVONDALE, Ariz. — Five takeaways from Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway as teams prepare for the third and final stop on the West Coast swing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. this weekend:

HARVICK GOES SHORT-TRACKING: Next up for Sunday winner Kevin Harvick is Kern County Speedway.

Harvick is scheduled to race Thursday night at the half-mile Kern County track (near his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif.) in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race. It’s a one-off “fun” race for Harvick, who left Bakersfield for national racing stardom, but it also is part of his mission to boost local short-track motorsports.

After winning at ISM Sunday, Harvick gave a spirited endorsement of short-track racing, saying grass-roots tracks form a major support base of fans for major-league racing. He also criticized ISM track management for no longer scheduling the Copper Classic race, for many years a favorite “big track” race for regional short-track drivers.

“I’ve been mad at Sperber (ISM president Bryan Sperber) here for a couple years now because he won’t have the K&N cars come race here because it doesn’t help his budget,” Harvick said. “In the end, without those grassroots fans, those grassroots people, coming and being able to race here, whether it fits your budget or not, 10 years from now you better hope your ass has some people that will sit in the stands up here wanting to watch these races at your short tracks because those are your hardcore fans.

“One of the best things that happened for racing … was when we had the Copper Classic here. We had midgets, sprint cars. Didn’t matter how many people sat in the grandstands. As competitors, this was their Daytona. On the West Coast, this is what we thought our Daytona 500 was. This is where everybody wanted to race.”

FORDS FLYING: To add to the significance of Harvick’s third consecutive win Sunday, his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford teammates roared home in close formation behind him.

Clint Bowyer finished sixth, Aric Almirola seventh and Kurt Busch 10th, giving SHR almost half of the top 10 and leading team co-owner Tony Stewart to say the team is rolling along at its best level ever.

“It just shows the strength of having four really good teammates that are giving four valid sets of information that they can all feed off of and work off of,” Stewart said. “It just seems like this group of these guys really work well together.”

Harvick specifically mentioned the input of new SHR teammate Almirola, who replaced Danica Patrick in the No. 10 car.

NO. 4 SEEKING NO. 4: Harvick would join some select company if he runs his winning streak to four in Sunday’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.

Only 12 drivers have won four in a row in Cup history. Among them are such standouts as Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson — all present or future Hall-of-Famers.

If Harvick gets four, the next goal on the list would be tying Allison, who won five in a row in the summer of 1971.

Petty owns the all-time winning streak record of 10.

JOHNSON STILL GRINDING: Sunday was another sour race day for Jimmie Johnson.

The seven-time champion finished 14th, leaving him without a top-10 finish four races into the season.

“We certainly made the car better throughout the course of the weekend,” Johnson said. “We got up to eighth and then had some pit strategy kind of work against us and fell back into the teens again, and it’s just so stinking hard to pass.  I think if we could have stayed up there in that top 10 where we were, we would have finished there, but once we got mired back and had to start all over again, it was just a long grind.”

TOYOTAS TRAILING: Toyota won the Cup driving championship last year with Martin Truex Jr.’s eight-win season, but the manufacturer is 0-for-4 one month into 2018.

Truex, a master of stage racing last season, is third in series points but has no stage wins through four races.


Follow Hembree on Twitter @mikehembree

NASCAR: Harvick channels anger, races to 3rd straight win

This gallery contains 1 photo.

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Kevin Harvick knows how to get around ISM Raceway — and channel his anger.

He needed both skills Sunday to drive away with his third straight NASCAR Cup Series victory and record-extending ninth at the mile oval southwest of the Phoenix.

“I’m 42, done this for a long time,” Harvick said. “Any time you can reach out and grab motivation, for me, that’s just a piece of the puzzle.”

The California driver sarcastically tagged “Happy” is at his best when he’s mad, so much so that former crew chief Gil Martin used to try to rile him during races.

Current crew chief Rodney Childers didn’t have to say anything. Not after Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing team were penalized Wednesday for technical violations last week at Las Vegas on the No. 4 Ford.

“Everybody just came here mad, chip on their shoulder, wanting to do exactly what we did today,” Harvick said. “That’s the type of determination and grit that you want in a race team. There’s nothing better to be a part of than something like that.

“Actions speak a whole lot louder than all the words I can say this week, tweets that you can send out. Parking that thing in victory lane is the most powerful thing, most powerful message you can send, and says the most about our organization and our team.”

After saying Friday he would jump up and down on the back of the car if he won, Harvick completed his burnouts and pulled over next to his crew to celebrate. He playfully patted the back window and pointed at it in a nod to social media photos of his buckled rear window in Las Vegas.

“I made it very clear to pat my window and thank it for doing its job,” he said.

Harvick got in front of Kyle Busch on the last series of pit stops in the 312-lap race. Busch’s team dropped the jack and had trouble with the right rear tire on the stop with 53 laps left, allowing Harvick — who pitted three laps earlier — to slip ahead.

“We lost the race on pit road today,” Busch said. “But we’ve won races on pit road, too.”

Harvick got around Chase Elliott — the first car with four fresh tires after the pit stops — and took the lead with 22 laps left when Ryan Newman finally made his last stop.

Busch didn’t seriously challenge Harvick after that, finishing 0.774 seconds back. The two had a series of entertaining battles, with Harvick also dueling Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

“When you have Kyle Busch sticking his finger out of the window with his thumb up talking about having fun and sending messages on the radio, you know everybody is having fun,” Harvick said.

Fun, and stressful for Childers on the pit box.

“Man, it was a heck of a battle,” Childers said. “To sit down there in the corner and watch these guys race like that was like my short track days.”

Elliott was third, followed by Hamlin and pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr.

“I needed a little bit of forward drive there at the end,” Elliott said. “I was turning pretty good and just had a hard time putting the power down.”

Stewart-Haas racing had all four drivers in the top 10 for the first time. Clint Bowyer was sixth, Aric Almirola seventh and Kurt Busch 10th.

“That’s probably what I’m most proud of,” owner Tony Stewart said.

The Busch brothers won the opening 75-lap stages. Kyle held off Harvick in the first. Kurt stayed out during a caution and swiped the second in a one-lap shootout.


Stewart said Sunday he won’t appeal the penalties for the Las Vegas infractions.

“How many appeals have you seen overturned?” he explained.

Inspectors at NASCAR’s research and development center in North Carolina found Harvick’s car violated a rule requiring rear window support braces to hold the glass rigid, and another requiring the right rocker panel extension to be aluminum.

Harvick was penalized the seven playoff points he earned for winning the Las Vegas race and its first two stages. He was docked 20 regular points and the team lost 20 owners’ points. Childers was fined $50,000, and car chief Robert Smith was suspended two races.

Harvick regained the points lead Sunday, moving 12 ahead of Kyle Busch. And with the victory, the No. 4 was headed back to the R&D facility.


Harvick began the winning streak at Atlanta after crashing and finishing 31st in the season-opening Daytona 500. He’s the first to win three straight Cup races since Joey Logano in 2015.

Harvick broke a tie with Kyle Busch with 14 NASCAR national-series victories at the track. In 31 Cup starts in Phoenix, Harvick has 15 top-five finishes. He has one Xfinity win and four Truck victories at the track. The victory also was the milestone 40th of Harvick’s Cup career.


Sunday, March 18, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.



Sunday from the one-mile ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. (starting position in parentheses):

1. (10) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 312 laps, 53 points.

2. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 312, 52.

3. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 312, 39.

4. (6) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 312, 40.

5. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 312, 41.

6. (19) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 312, 32.

7. (22) Aric Almirola, Ford, 312, 30.

8. (15) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 312, 29.

9. (9) Erik Jones, Toyota, 312, 29.

10. (23) Kurt Busch, Ford, 312, 40.

11. (13) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 312, 26.

12. (11) William Byron, Chevrolet, 312, 25.

13. (4) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 312, 24.

14. (17) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 312, 23.

15. (25) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 312, 35.

16. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 311, 21.

17. (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 311, 20.

18. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 311, 27.

19. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 311, 20.

20. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 311, 17.

21. (20) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 311, 16.

22. (16) David Ragan, Ford, 311, 15.

23. (29) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 311, 22.

24. (26) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 311, 15.

25. (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 311, 12.

26. (8) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 310, 11.

27. (36) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 310, 0.

28. (27) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 309, 9.

29. (24) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 309, 8.

30. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 309, 12.

31. (34) D.J. Kennington, Toyota, 309, 6.

32. (31) Michael McDowell, Ford, 308, 11.

33. (35) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 306, 0.

34. (32) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 304, 3.

35. (37) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 292, 2.

36. (14) Paul Menard, Ford, accident, 189, 1.

37. (33) Corey Lajoie, Chevrolet, engine, 23, 1.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 108.078 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 53 minutes, 13 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.774 seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 36 laps.

Lead Changes: 15 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M.Truex 0; K.Larson 1-30; M.Truex 31-33; K.Larson 34-57; Ky.Busch 58-123; B.Keselowski 124-128; Ky.Busch 129-147; Ku.Busch 148-153; Ky.Busch 154-178; K.Harvick 179-194; W.Byron 195-209; D.Hamlin 210-242; Ky.Busch 243-260; B.Keselowski 261-267; R.Newman 268-290; K.Harvick 291-312

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): Ky.Busch, 4 times for 124 laps; K.Larson, 2 times for 52 laps; K.Harvick, 2 times for 36 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 32 laps; R.Newman, 1 time for 22 laps; W.Byron, 1 time for 14 laps; B.Keselowski, 2 times for 10 laps; Ku.Busch, 1 time for 5 laps; M.Truex, 2 times for 2 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 3; A.Dillon, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. K.Harvick, 168; 2. Ky.Busch, 156; 3. M.Truex, 156; 4. R.Blaney, 152; 5. J.Logano, 152; 6. D.Hamlin, 137; 7. B.Keselowski, 134; 8. K.Larson, 131; 9. C.Bowyer, 125; 10. A.Almirola, 123; 11. Ku.Busch, 117; 12. A.Dillon, 114; 13. R.Newman, 101; 14. P.Menard, 97; 15. E.Jones, 93; 16. A.Bowman, 91.

Martin Truex Jr. wins NASCAR Cup pole in Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. won the pole Friday for the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at ISM Raceway.

The defending series champion turned a lap at 136.945 mph in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in the last of three rounds of qualifying on the mile oval. He edged Kyle Larson in 84-degree afternoon heat for his 16th career pole and second at Phoenix.

“We’ve qualified well here in the past, but we’ve been kind of been searching for those last couple spots,” Truex said. “We were fifth here in the fall and that was about all we can do. Just a good game plan and good execution by everybody. Definitely a fun day.”

Larson was the fastest in practice and topped the second round for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“We’ve been fast here the last few years, so it would be nice to close out the weekend with a win,” Larson said

Chase Elliott was third, followed by Tucson driver Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Erik Jones and Kevin Harvick.

Harvick has a track-record eight victories and is coming off wins the last two weeks in Atlanta and Las Vegas.

“I look at making the final round as an accomplishment for me,” Harvick said. “My cars are always faster than the driver when we come to Phoenix qualifying sessions. Today was another Phoenix qualifying session where I messed it up. I got through 1 and 2, where I had been struggling, good and just got off the brake too soon and got it up the racetrack.”

Jimmie Johnson ended up 17th after topping the first round. The seven-time season champion is winless in 26 races, the longest drought of his career.

“I’m very optimistic with the speed in the car in that first round,” the four-time Phoenix winner said.



Kevin Harvick chasing a first: A third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in a row

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —    Kevin Harvick has won 39 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. He won the 2014 Cup championship, the Daytona 500 in 2007 and owns two Xfinity Series titles.

Something Harvick hasn’t done in his decorated career? Win three consecutive Cup races.

That void could be filled this weekend and, if so, few will be surprised.

After dominating the last two Cup races (at Atlanta and Las Vegas) on the way to victories, Harvick will be the favorite when the tour moves on to ISM Raceway near Phoenix for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500.

Harvick typically is a prohibitive favorite at Phoenix. He has won a record eight times on the one-mile track.

A win Sunday would make Harvick the first Cup driver to win three in a row since Joey Logano in 2015. A victory also would remove some of the smudge that last week’s win at Las Vegas carries after the No. 4 team was penalized for two infractions.

The failure of a rear-window brace left the Ford with a bowed window for part of the race, an infraction. And the car’s right-side rocker panel extension was not aluminum, as rules require.

Harvick lost seven playoff points and 20 regular-season points, and crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000. Car chief Robert Smith was suspended for two races.

The team has not announced if it will appeal the penalties.

Harvick will carry early-season power into Phoenix. He led 395 of 592 total laps at Atlanta and Las Vegas, a crazy sum considering some teams are still trying to get their legs under them as the season rolls through its early weeks.

 “When things are like this, you want to capitalize on them, and you want to capitalize on your cars and your people and your enthusiasm and the momentum and all the things that come with that, so you’re almost scared to even really step back and say, we did this or we did that, and your name is on the list here,” Harvick said.

Trouble after the Vegas win no doubt will provide some fire for Harvick and his team this weekend.

A win Sunday would make Harvick only the second active driver to log nine wins at one track. Jimmie Johnson has nine wins at Martinsville Speedway and 11 wins at Dover International Speedway.

Of the current top-10 drivers in points, Harvick is the only one with multiple Cup wins at Phoenix. He also has won four times in the Truck series and once in the Xfinity series there.

Sunday’s race will be the last Cup event in the speedway’s current configuration. As part of a $178 million renovation project, the track’s start-finish line will be moved from the front straightaway to near turn two, placing it in front of a 45,000-seat grandstand that is under construction. The new design will be used when NASCAR teams return to the track for a playoff race in November.

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick docked playoff points for illegal winning car

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has been stripped of the playoff points he earned for winning at Las Vegas because of violations discovered on his Ford.

NASCAR ruled Wednesday that Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team violated the rule requiring rear window support braces holding the rear window glass rigid, as well as a rule requiring the right side rocker panel extension to be aluminum.

The penalty is the loss of the seven playoff points Harvick earned for winning Sunday’s race and both stages. It was Harvick’s second consecutive win of the season.

Harvick also was docked 20 points. Harvick now has six playoff points instead of the 13 he had earned through three races.

Crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000, and car chief Robert Smith was suspended two races.

Images of Harvick’s popped up on social media with fans wondering if the car was legal because the window appeared altered. Childers has maintained a brace failed.


NASCAR issued the list of 20 nominees for its 2019 Hall of Fame class Tuesday, and one of the new names is a solid, bet-it-all, slam-dunk choice.

That would be Jeff Gordon, who will roar into the hall as if he’s making a last-lap backstretch pass to win the Daytona 500.

Gordon could — and should — be a unanimous first-ballot pick. He won 93 Cup races (third all-time behind hall members Richard Petty and David Pearson) and scored four championships. Beyond the numbers, he brought a fresh new face to the sport, became a mainstream celebrity and opened the NASCAR door for other short-track open-wheel drivers.

The other new nominees are driver Harry Gant, team owners John Holman and Ralph Moody and crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine, who was in charge during four of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s Cup Series championships.

Although those four nominees could eventually make the hall, none is likely to go in when voters meet May 23 to pick the next five hall members.

Three former drivers — all deceased — were on the brink of election last year and will be favored by many to make the 2019 class. Davey Allison and Buddy Baker scored 19 Cup victories and were among the most popular drivers during their eras, and Alan Kulwicki became an instant star when he won the 1992 Cup championship, the last independent owner-driver to do so.

The fifth spot possibly could go to long-time team owner Jack Roush, who has won five championships across NASCAR’s three national series.

The 20 nominees are chosen by a panel dominated by NASCAR officials and track owners. The voting panel for the hall includes the nominating group, news media representatives and a single vote representing fans’ choice.

The 2019 class will be inducted in Charlotte in January.

NASCAR: Harvick takes a bumpy road to 100 victories

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick once lay in wait for Greg Biffle on the pit road wall at Bristol Motor Speedway. Harvick was angry — he always seemed to be angry in the early days of his NASCAR career — and he was going to make sure Biffle knew it the moment the race was over.

How did Harvick send his message?

He literally hurdled over Biffle’s car into a scrum and lunged at Biffle’s throat.

The Biffle incident back in 2002 would most certainly be on Harvick’s highlight reel. In his first two years in Cup, Harvick became the first driver to be “parked” by NASCAR for aggressive driving and he once tried to fight Ricky Rudd, usually considered a losing proposition. Harvick’s nickname has always been “Happy” and he was anything but in those early days.

He said after the 2002 parking — for intentionally wrecking Coy Gibbs in a Truck Series race at Martinsville and generally being a thorn in NASCAR’s side — that it was the wakeup call the 25-year-old needed.

“I haven’t been racing since I was 5 years old and made it this far in my career to throw it all away now,” Harvick said then. “Having to miss the race in Martinsville definitely got my attention.”

OK, so it hasn’t been exactly smooth sailing since that wakeup call.

But here Harvick is now, 100 NASCAR national wins later, and one of the most consistent drivers of his era.

Harvick doesn’t have the statistics to show just how exceptional a race car driver he is in part because he came along at the same time as another Californian. Jimmie Johnson, with a laid-back Southern California persona, debuted a year after Harvick and has collected seven championships along the way.

Harvick has so far managed just one championship. But he’s a Daytona 500 winner, a two-time Coca-Cola 600 winner, a Southern 500 winner and a Brickyard 400 winner.

That’s a Hall of Fame career right there, and one many might not have seen coming when he was thrust into a miserable situation at what should have been the best time of his life. Harvick was on schedule to drive a Cup car for Richard Childress in 2002, but when Dale Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, that plan was scrapped.

Harvick got Earnhardt’s ride the next week, went forward with his scheduled Las Vegas wedding the week after that, and won his first Cup race the week after that. It was a whirlwind three weeks for the 24-year-old from Bakersfield, California, and when he had to time to take a breath, there was a lot going on.

Maybe that’s why he snapped so easily back then. And although some of that went away, he never really changed who he was. Harvick continued to stir the pot in the garage, spoke his mind even when he didn’t have anything nice to say, and never lacked for confidence. It was just over three years ago when Harvick, locked into the championship battle, shoved Brad Keselowski from behind to trigger a melee between Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.

Harvick just stood back and watched the chaos between two drivers he was racing for the title.

The next race was at Phoenix, where Harvick had to win, at a track here he always wins, and Harvick didn’t want to answer any questions. He didn’t want to talk about what role he might have had in the Keselowski scuffle, or how his championship was one race away from slipping through his fingers.

But as he thought more about it, Harvick, by then a father to a young son, saw the bigger picture. To be a role model to Keelan, he had to be a professional and do the right thing. So he met his media obligations in Phoenix, won the race, and won the championship a week later.

Harvick and his wife welcomed a daughter this offseason and he’s now a 42-year-old father of two. His future is in broadcasting and Fox already uses him quite a bit in its booth. But he’s still got racing left; he’s certainly shown that out of the gate this season with two dominant wins.

An eight-time Phoenix winner, including a streak of six wins in eight races, Harvick hasn’t been to victory lane at the track in three whole races.

He might snap that streak Sunday, and if he doesn’t, he might have something sarcastic to say about a competitor, his own crew, maybe even NASCAR. That’s just who Harvick is, 17 years after his whirlwind and emotional and untenable promotion to the big leagues. He made it work, doing it his way, and that’s likely how he’ll close his career.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick dominates Vegas for back-to-back NASCAR wins

This gallery contains 1 photo.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — From his dynamic opening laps to his comfortable cruise to the checkered flag, Kevin Harvick was the safest bet in Sin City this weekend.

Harvick’s air of inevitability increased with each lap around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, and the rest of the NASCAR Cup field must be a bit worried about how they’re going to catch up this year.

Harvick raced to his second straight NASCAR Cup win with a dominant performance in Vegas on Sunday, earning his 100th career win across the three national series.

“There was no catching that 4 (car),” second-place finisher Kyle Busch said. “He was on rails, and lights out.”

Harvick followed up his stellar performance last weekend in Atlanta with another victory in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. He led a track-record 214 of the 267 laps, won all three stages and capably held off Busch’s late hometown charge to win in Vegas for the second time in four years.

“These last two weeks, we’ve just hit on everything we needed to,” said Harvick, who cruised home 2.9 seconds ahead of Busch. “My (team has) done their homework on a number of things. Just really proud of everybody.”

Busch got close to his second career victory in his hometown with his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but couldn’t overcome the dominant leader. Kyle Larson finished third after winning the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, while defending champion Martin Truex Jr. was in fourth and pole-sitter Ryan Blaney in fifth.

Harvick has already matched his Cup win total from last season in three races — and he’s headed to Phoenix, where he has won five times since 2012.

Harvick also took a moment to savor a milestone. Only Richard Petty, Kyle Busch and David Pearson have won more races across the three national circuits than Harvick, the 42-year-old Californian with plenty of good years left on his tires.

“It’s been a lot of years accumulated with a lot of great race teams and people and situations,” Harvick said. “When you tag that triple-digit number to it, it really lets you realize that you’ve been fortunate to accomplish a lot of things.”

Not many wins are more emphatic than Harvick’s 100th.

Harvick led 144 of the first 160 laps and comfortably won the first two stages. He was fourth out of the end-of-stage caution after Stage 2, with Joey Logano getting in front with an exceptional pit stop.

But Harvick reclaimed the lead off another restart with 73 laps to go after Kurt Busch wrecked along with Chase Elliott. Harvick emerged from his last pit stop with a three-second lead on Brad Keselowski, and Busch couldn’t catch up.

Here are more things to know about the race on the Strip:

DOING RECON: For the first time, NASCAR is returning to Vegas in the fall for a second race, which will also be the playoff opener. Teams used this trip to gather data and information for the return trip in September, although the temperature could easily be 50 degrees higher than the balmy 53 degrees at Sunday’s race. “The adjustments we made today are going to help in the fall,” Kyle Busch said. “(Although) I think the track is going to be a lot slower with the heat.”

KUBU CAN’T DO: Kurt Busch’s career-long victory drought in his hometown continues. Busch lost control and ran Elliott into the wall shortly after a restart early in the final stage. The crash necessitated a long caution for fluid cleanup. The 39-year-old Busch has never won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which was built while he grew up in town. Kurt Busch failed to win the Cup race in Vegas for the 17th time. He has started on the pole twice, but has only one top-five finish here despite calling it a top priority in his career.

WINNING BIG: Harvick was even more dominant in Vegas than Truex was last year. Truex led all three stages and 150 laps last year on his way to a victory that propelled him into his championship season.

THREE STRIKES: The car chiefs for Jimmie Johnson and Ross Chastain were ejected after their cars failed inspection three times during the pre-race checks. Johnson had to start at the back after his chief, Jesse Saunders, got the gate. Johnson also will have practice time taken away next week in Phoenix. The seven-time champion still rallied to finish 12th.

COMEBACK STORY: Josh Frankos, the tire-changer on Darrell Wallace Jr.’s Richard Petty Motorsports team, injured his hand while preparing for the Vegas race and was sent to a hospital on Sunday morning. Michael Hubert filled in for him on pit road. The injury couldn’t keep Frankos down, however: He returned to the track for the race.



Sunday from the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (2) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267 laps, 60 points.

2. (13) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267, 43.

3. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267, 50.

4. (4) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 267, 46.

5. (1) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267, 48.

6. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267, 41.

7. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 267, 43.

8. (9) Erik Jones, Toyota, 267, 29.

9. (12) Paul Menard, Ford, 267, 30.

10. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 266, 27.

11. (25) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 266, 26.

12. (14) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 266, 25.

13. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 266, 24.

14. (7) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 265, 23.

15. (28) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 265, 22.

16. (20) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 265, 21.

17. (19) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 265, 20.

18. (11) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 265, 19.

19. (21) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 264, 18.

20. (24) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 264, 17.

21. (26) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 264, 16.

22. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 264, 15.

23. (23) David Ragan, Ford, 264, 14.

24. (31) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 264, 13.

25. (30) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 264, 0.

26. (18) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 263, 11.

27. (17) William Byron, Chevrolet, 263, 10.

28. (34) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 262, 9.

29. (33) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 262, 0.

30. (27) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 262, 7.

31. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 255, 6.

32. (37) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 253, 0.

33. (35) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, engine, 195, 4.

34. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, accident, 183, 8.

35. (3) Kurt Busch, Ford, accident, 183, 9.

36. (22) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, accident, 176, 1.

37. (15) Michael McDowell, Ford, engine, 100, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 141.760 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 49 minutes, 31 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 2.906 seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 29 laps.

Lead Changes: 11 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: R.Blaney 1; K.Harvick 2-38; M.McDowell 39-49; K.Harvick 50-121; Ky.Busch 122-125; K.Harvick 126-163; J.Logano 164-176; M.Truex 177-182; J.Logano 183-194; K.Harvick 195-224; Ky.Busch 225-230; K.Harvick 231-267

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Harvick, 5 times for 209 laps; J.Logano, 2 times for 23 laps; M.McDowell, 1 time for 10 laps; Ky.Busch, 2 times for 8 laps; M.Truex, 1 time for 5 laps; R.Blaney, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 2; A.Dillon, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. K.Harvick, 135; 2. J.Logano, 132; 3. R.Blaney, 131; 4. M.Truex, 115; 5. Ky.Busch, 104; 6. K.Larson, 104; 7. B.Keselowski, 99; 8. D.Hamlin, 97; 9. P.Menard, 96; 10. A.Dillon, 94; 11. A.Almirola, 93; 12. C.Bowyer, 93; 13. Ku.Busch, 77; 14. R.Newman, 75; 15. D.Wallace, 68; 16. A.Bowman, 67.

NASCAR: Ryan Blaney claims Vegas pole; Harvick still fast in 2nd

This gallery contains 1 photo.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Ryan Blaney claimed the pole Friday night for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Blaney earned his third career pole with a lap at 191.489 mph in his Team Penske Ford, easily outdistancing Kevin Harvick on a windy evening.

Blaney blazed through the final round of knockout qualifying for his first pole of the young season and his first since late last year in Phoenix. The 24-year-old is off to a solid start to the season with a seventh-place finish at Daytona, and he’ll be in prime position in Vegas to record his second career victory.

“I thought our car was pretty good, but I didn’t know if we had pole speed,” Blaney said. “We made really good changes between practice and qualifying, and really good changes throughout qualifying. … That’s really all you can ask for. I think our team does such a good job of getting better round to round. That’s so huge now with the three rounds. That’s something we’ve been working really hard on for the last couple of years, and it’s paying off.”

Harvick kept up his outstanding start to the season and secured a front-row Ford lockout with a second-place finish in qualifying for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400. The Stewart-Haas Racing stalwart earned his best starting position in 18 career races in Vegas by turning a lap at 190.248 mph.

Fords claimed the top three spots and five of the first eight. Las Vegas native Kurt Busch qualified right behind Harvick at 190.067 mph in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, while Martin Truex Jr. drove his Furniture Row Racing Toyota into fourth.

“Three Fords in the top three there, that’s pretty cool,” Blaney said.

Here are more things to know about qualifying at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

FORD IS FAST: For the second straight weeks, Fords locked down the top three spots in qualifying. Fords also excelled in the subsequent race in Atlanta, with Harvick cruising to victory. Fords will start in eight of the top 12 positions at Las Vegas after just three Ford drivers failed to reach the final round of qualifying.

SO CLOSE: Veterans Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch barely missed out on the final round of qualifying. Busch will start 13th in his hometown, while four-time Vegas champion Johnson will begin in 14th. Busch ran off after his laps to get ready to run in the Truck Series race shortly afterward Monster Energy Cup qualifying ended.

BACK IN VEGAS: Blaney finished third in qualifying last year on this 1 1/2-mile oval in the desert. “I like this place,” Blaney said. “It’s just a combination of everybody working hard, and it shows the speed we’ve had all weekend. It would be really nice to get a win this early in the season.”


FULL LINEUP: Pennzoil 400

1. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 191.489 mph.
2. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 190.248.
3. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 190.067.
4. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 189.980.
5. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 189.447.
6. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 189.175.
7. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 189.148.
8. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 189.102.
9. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 188.719.
10. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 188.640.
11. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 188.469.
12. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 188.442.
13. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188.838.
14. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 188.712.
15. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 188.607.
16. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.442.
17. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 188.363.
18. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 187.865.
19. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 187.846.
20. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 187.441.
21. (95) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 187.305.
22. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 187.246.
23. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 187.162.
24. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 186.413.
25. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 187.650.
26. (43) Darrell Wallace Jr., Chevrolet, 187.546.
27. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 186.916.
28. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 186.335.
29. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 186.123.
30. (51) Cole Custer, Ford, 185.982.
31. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 185.312.
32. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 185.027.
33. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 183.418.
34. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 182.272.
35. (23) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 179.241.
36. (00) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 176.292.
37. (55) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 173.628.

NASCAR: Defending champ Martin Truex Jr. looks to start another title run in Las Vegas

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    LAS VEGAS — Drivers intent on denying Martin Truex Jr.’s defense of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship should be on alert this week.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway, home of Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox), the third race of the season, was the launching pad for Truex’s remarkable run to last year’s title, his first.

Truex led 150 of 267 laps at LVMS last spring on the way to his first victory of the season. Seven more wins followed, six of them at 1.5-mile tracks, Truex’s road of choice to the championship.

LVMS also is one of two tracks — Kentucky Speedway is the other — where Truex, a master at claiming stage wins last year, swept all three stages. He was the only driver to win all three stages at any track last season.

“The Las Vegas track has its unique features,” Truex said. “What stands out to me is the way the bumps are and the frequency of the bumps. A windy Las Motor speedway can also cause havoc with the balance of the car. But we had some good runs there in recent years.”

Drivers have a bit more incentive to do well at LVMS this weekend. For the first time since the track hosted its Cup series opener in 1998, Vegas has two Cup races on its schedule this season. The series will return to the track for a Sept. 16 race, the opener of the playoffs, so lessons learned Sunday can be forwarded to the second race.

Among the drivers searching for a strong Sunday at Vegas will be seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, whose slump has stretched into the new season. He finished 38th at Daytona and 27th last week at Atlanta, extending his winless streak to 25 races.

After two races, Johnson is a very uncharacteristic 35th in the Cup standings.

“We have a lot of smart people on our team, so I’m not hitting the panic button,” Johnson said

Early this week, Johnson posted a booster shot of sorts on Twitter: “Fear has two meanings — ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ I’m ready to rise.”

Fox television analyst Darrell Waltrip said Johnson should be concerned.

“Even though the season is just starting, if I was Jimmie Johnson, I’d be worried,” Waltrip said. “They didn’t just fall into a slump; they’ve been there for a while and don’t seem to be working their way out of it. Once you’re in that situation, your confidence is shaken, despite how many races or championships you have. When you hit a plateau, wins aren’t as easy to come by.”

Johnson owns a record four victories at LVMS.

Qualifying for Sunday’s race is scheduled at 7:15 p.m. ET on Friday.

NASCAR: NASCAR veterans aren’t pulling over for the rookies

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick put the brakes on the “New NASCAR!” movement with a dominating victory on a weathered old racetrack.

Away from Daytona, the veterans showed the young new drivers how to race on the dogged surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick put on a clinic, and the top eight finishers were the familiar faces that seem to compete for wins every week.

All the new kids who sparkled in the Daytona 500 had their hands full at Atlanta, a track that requires an entirely different skill-set. In the season-opening showcase, the idea is to go as fast as you can while avoiding the mishaps of others.

But the style of racing at Daytona, as well as Talladega, comes just four times a year. The rest of the NASCAR schedule is where the true talent rises. So at Atlanta, where experience matters, the finishing order showed five former series champions — four Daytona 500 winners — cross the finish line in order.

“This is a racetrack that takes a lot of experience, and there’s a lot of things that you have to know about your car and know about the racetrack to get the car around,” Harvick said. “This is where experience pays off.”

That doesn’t fit the fresh narrative that came out of Daytona, where the new crop of NASCAR drivers ruled. Alex Bowman won the pole, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney won qualifying races, Blaney led the most laps in the Daytona 500, Austin Dillon won the race and Bubba Wallace finished second in his debut. At 27, Dillon is the oldest driver in that bunch.

Harvick, meanwhile, is 42.

The shift in focus to the new generation is not lost on anyone who follows NASCAR, particularly the veteran drivers. Some have nitpicked about the marketing push behind this “New NASCAR!” and they had to have felt the change in dynamic at Daytona.

Denny Hamlin, a former Daytona 500 winner who finished third in the 500 and fourth at Atlanta, shared his thoughts on Twitter on Monday night by posting a video of pro bowler Pete Weber screaming “Who do you think you are? I am!” after winning his fifth U.S. Open title in 2012. Hamlin added his own message: “All the old drivers after Sunday.”

A reply chided Hamlin that Elliott is the future, and “In a couple years you will be watching him win from your recliner,” the fan wrote. Hamlin didn’t back down. “Agree. But I won’t be on that recliner for some time,” he posted.

This isn’t about jealousy, rather reality. The older drivers know their laps are limited, but they aren’t going to simply go away. Experience matters and it’s going to take seat time for the newcomers to figure out how to contend on a weekly basis.

Elliott, for example, is winless in the Cup Series but has seven runner-up finishes. He’s still working on closing races. Kyle Larson was the same, and when he finally figured it out, he knocked out four wins last season and was a legitimate title contender.

Harvick noted there’s going to be a balance all season between the radically different ends of the spectrum. The younger drivers may have better finishes this weekend at Las Vegas because the track is “a little calmer with things that you don’t have to have in your memory bank.”

Clint Bowyer, who finished third behind teammate Harvick at Atlanta, believes there will be a better mix at Las Vegas because “it’s qualifying laps every single lap, and those kids will show back up.”

And when they do, there will be room for both new and old. Harvick, who has started the transition from race car driver to analyst with a radio show on Sirius and a recurring spot in Fox’s broadcasting lineup, understands its going to take everyone for NASCAR to go through these current growing pains.

“We’re in a great spot in our sport because we have these young guys that are fired up and can drive the car fast and have great stories and have ties to great family heritage,” he said.

“The diversity from young to old is something that we haven’t had in a long time, and we’re going to corral everybody to make sure that they realize that we all need each other in order to make this sport what we all want it to be.”


More AP Auto Racing:


Five takeaways: Older drivers rule in Atlanta as NASCAR heads West

(PhatzRadio Sports /USA Today Sports)    —   HAMPTON, Ga. — Five takeaways from Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway as teams prepare for this weekend’s visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the first of three races in the West:

OLD GUYS RULE: The off-season and the first weeks of the new season were blanketed with talk about NASCAR’s young drivers and the force they might become this year.

Kevin Harvick, at 42 the second-oldest driver in the field, turned that talk on its head Sunday by dominating the race like a grandfather beating his grandchild at checkers. He led 181 of 325 laps and was well  ahead at the finish.

The best finish by a young gun was ninth by Kyle Larson. As for Daytona’s two stars, Austin Dillon finished 14th and Bubba Wallace was 32nd, his day dampened by an accident.

Harvick passed on the opportunity to chide the young drivers Sunday.

“The diversity from young to old is something that we haven’t had in a long time, and we’re going to corral everybody to make sure that they realize that we all need each other in order to make this sport what we all want it to be,” Harvick said.

FORDS STRONG: Ford drivers took the three top positions in Sunday’s race, and the numbers were even worse than that for the competition.

Fords led 272 of the race’s 375 laps, an indication that its teams are in good shape on “downforce” tracks after the first race of the season in that category.

That dominance drew an interesting remark post-race from Toyota driver Denny Hamlin, who said, with a smile, “It’s clear that the Fords have an unfair advantage.”

Hamlin was sitting beside Ford driver Brad Keselowski, the second-place finisher who claimed last year that Toyotas had an unfair advantage as Camry drivers were stacking up wins.

FITS IN THE PITS: There were at least three instances on pit road Sunday of pit-gun failures, a fact that is likely to produce some angst leading into the next few races.

NASCAR made a dramatic change in the offseason, replacing the customized (and expensive) pit guns teams have used for many years with common guns supplied by NASCAR. The pit guns remove lugnuts from tires in mere seconds when they work properly.

Sunday’s issues weren’t big enough to cause major alarm, but if a gun fails in a critical, late-race situation and costs a team a win, there is likely to be some strong protests.

HOLD THE ASPHALT: The Atlanta track’s 21-year-old racing surface held up well through three races and some rain over the weekend, and drivers remain steadfast in their conviction that it should not be repaved.

“Until it breaks, let it go,” Denny Hamlin said.

The track has funding in hand to do the repave, a project officials had planned for last April, but drivers’ complaints led them to leave the surface as is.

WESTWARD HO: The Cup series heads west this week for three consecutive races —at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, ISM Raceway (outside Phoenix) and Auto Club Speedway (in Fontana, Calif.).

Consensus in the garage is that the Las Vegas and Auto Club races will go a long way toward identifying the strongest cars. Teams that were strong at Atlanta Sunday won’t necessarily be the big dogs out West because the track surfaces are so different.

“Even though Atlanta is a mile‑and‑a‑half and is somewhat similar in nature to the size of Las Vegas, Las Vegas is a completely different track, and you really have four or five distinctly different tracks to start the season,” said Keselowski. “You take it week by week, and Phoenix obviously is much different than anywhere else we run. It’s kind of its own. It’s really hard to predict.”


TRACK SURFACE ISSUES IN ATLANTA: (Comments made last week before the race)

NASCAR fans have favorite tracks. Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway and Martinsville Speedway often are listed near the top in fan surveys.

Drivers have favorites, too. And one of them — Atlanta Motor Speedway — is this week’s stop on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Driver track preferences have nothing to do with nearby restaurants or town tourist spots or the size of grandstands.

Oddly enough, drivers fall in love with asphalt. And not young asphalt. Senior-citizen asphalt.

Atlanta Motor Speedway, scheduled to host the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at 1 p.m. ET  Sunday, has very old asphalt. The 1.54-mile track was last repaved in 1997.

Track officials planned to repave the surface after the March 2017 NASCAR race weekend, but pleas from drivers to postpone the work convinced AMS and its parent company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., to delay.

The track’s worn surface is very abrasive, and it eats tires. Average speed per lap falls off dramatically the longer a car is on the track.

But drivers say the worn surface makes racing much more fun and passing much more likely. Unlike a new surface, which increases speed but tends to produce one-groove racing, an older track promotes more side-by-side racing.

Tracks eventually have to be repaved, of course, because surfaces break up and potholes appear. Patching will work for a while but not indefinitely.

Brad Keselowski, who led the final seven laps of the 2017 race en route to his first victory at the track, said a repave will change AMS significantly because the surface has bumps and imperfections that make racing fun but that can’t be duplicated.

“You have some dynamic features to the track with the bumps, the worn-out pavement,” he said. “This track has just so many unique features that would be erased if you just repaved it from the way that the top lane seams in to the backstretch.”

Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon said the sort of racing AMS hosts has a throwback nature. Tire management is big, he said.

“You go back to your roots when you get these old-pavement tracks where taking care of the tires is really key and long runs are very key,” Dillon said. “So, where every other weekend during the year we are trying to take off and go fast, at this one if you take off it really hurts you in the end on the long run [because of tire falloff].”

The race, the first non-restrictor plate event of the 36-race season, will have a 36-car starting field, the smallest start grid for a Cup race since 1996. All teams participating have NASCAR charters, which guarantee a starting spot in all 36 Cup point races. The Atlanta field had room for four more teams, but no non-charter teams entered.

Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman will start the 325-lap race from the front row.

Rain is in the forecast for the Atlanta area Sunday. If the event is postponed, it will be rescheduled Monday.

NASCAR: Harvick adds Cup win to dominant weekend at Atlanta

This gallery contains 1 photo.

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Kevin Harvick had to wait 17 years for a second Atlanta salute to Dale Earnhardt.

The memory brought tears to his eyes.

In a reprise of the celebration of his first win in Atlanta in 2001, Harvick raised his three-finger salute to Earnhardt following his dominant victory Sunday in the rain-delayed NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race.

Harvick completed his weekend mastery of Atlanta Motor Speedway by holding off Brad Keselowski following a late restart.

Then he held the three fingers out the window, just as he did in 2001 when he gave the Richard Childress team an Atlanta win following the death of Dale Earnhardt in Daytona a few weeks earlier. The young Harvick took over Earnhardt’s car, with a new No. 29.

Ending five years of frustration in Cup races in Atlanta was satisfying, but Harvick said “the coolest part was being able to try to replicate that first win celebration.”

Harvick led 915 laps in Cup races in Atlanta over the last five years — including 181 on Sunday — but endured the long wait for his second win at the track. It brought back memories.

“That was the first win in my career and to be able to do that and pay tribute to Dale was pretty cool,” Harvick said. “I’ve been waiting a long time to do that.”

He said he was emotional on Sunday because he was moved to see his team so happy.

“For me there was just a lot of happiness,” Harvick said, adding “There’s nothing better than seeing all those guys smile.”

The win came one week after Austin Dillon, who now has the No. 3 that Earnhardt made famous, won the Daytona 500 .

“You see that 3 back in victory lane and us back in victory lane tonight, it’s almost, it’s how it’s meant to be,” Harvick said, smiling.

The win completed an impressive weekend for Harvick following a similarly dominant win in the second-tier Xfinity event on Saturday.

Harvick started fourth in the Cup race and quickly proved he had the car to beat.

Harvick was comfortably in the lead when Trevor Bayne’s engine blew with 28 laps to go. The restart gave contenders a chance to grab the lead, but Harvick beat Keselowski to remain in control.

“What a relief,” Harvick told his crew after crossing the finish line. He led 292 laps in Atlanta last year before finishing ninth following a pit road speeding penalty.

The start was delayed 2 hours, 30 minutes by rain. There was no additional significant rain until immediately after the race.

“Turns out Mother Nature is a race fan,” said Clint Bowyer, who finished third, giving Ford drivers the top three spots.

Denny Hamlin was fourth.

Harvick showed his strength when he charged through the field after an unscheduled pit stop dropped him to 19th midway through the race.

“If he hadn’t had the pit row issue today he probably would have led 300-something laps,” Keselowski said.

Rookie Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., coming off a second-place finish at last week’s Daytona 500, finished 32nd. Wallace was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969, and he became the first black Cup racer in an Atlanta race since Bill Lester finished 38th in 2006.

Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 series champion, started 35th after failing to qualify on Saturday but was up to fourth by the 12th lap before finishing fifth.

Jimmie Johnson, who won in Atlanta in 2015 and 2016, finished 27th. There were no wrecks but there was a caution after Johnson’s spin in turn 2 on lap 160.

With no “open” cars, the 36-car field was NASCAR’s smallest since 1996.



Sunday from the 2.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (3) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325 laps, 0 rating, 56 points.

2. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 325, 0, 53.

3. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 325, 0, 45.

4. (12) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 325, 0, 40.

5. (35) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 325, 0, 39.

6. (16) Joey Logano, Ford, 325, 0, 39.

7. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325, 0, 43.

8. (7) Kurt Busch, Ford, 325, 0, 41.

9. (8) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 325, 0, 36.

10. (27) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 325, 0, 27.

11. (10) Erik Jones, Toyota, 325, 0, 26.

12. (26) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 325, 0, 25.

13. (11) Aric Almirola, Ford, 325, 0, 33.

14. (25) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 324, 0, 23.

15. (4) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 324, 0, 23.

16. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 324, 0, 21.

17. (15) Paul Menard, Ford, 324, 0, 20.

18. (23) William Byron, Chevrolet, 323, 0, 19.

19. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 323, 0, 18.

20. (18) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 322, 0, 17.

21. (14) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 322, 0, 16.

22. (2) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 322, 0, 15.

23. (29) David Ragan, Ford, 321, 0, 14.

24. (17) Michael McDowell, Ford, 321, 0, 13.

25. (24) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 321, 0, 12.

26. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 321, 0, 11.

27. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 321, 0, 10.

28. (32) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 320, 0, 9.

29. (21) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 320, 0, 8.

30. (34) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 319, 0, 0.

31. (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 319, 0, 6.

32. (19) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 319, 0, 5.

33. (36) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 310, 0, 4.

34. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 305, 0, 3.

35. (20) Trevor Bayne, Ford, engine, 292, 0, 2.

36. (31) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, accident, 99, 0, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 143.071 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 29 minutes, 54 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 2.690 seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 0 laps.

Lead Changes: 24 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Ky.Busch 0; R.Newman 1-17; Ky.Busch 18-20; K.Harvick 21-31; Ky.Busch 32; K.Harvick 33-88; M.Truex 89; B.Keselowski 90-100; Ku.Busch 101-125; K.Harvick 126-127; Ky.Busch 128-131; K.Harvick 132-159; Ku.Busch 160; B.Keselowski 161-172; Ku.Busch 173-198; B.Keselowski 199-213; Ky.Busch 214; D.Hamlin 215-225; K.Harvick 226-252; D.Hamlin 253-265; K.Harvick 266-288; D.Hamlin 289-290; K.Harvick 291-299; J.Logano 300; K.Harvick 301-325

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Harvick, 8 times for 173 laps; Ku.Busch, 3 times for 49 laps; B.Keselowski, 3 times for 35 laps; D.Hamlin, 3 times for 23 laps; R.Newman, 1 time for 16 laps; Ky.Busch, 5 times for 5 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 0 laps; M.Truex, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: A.Dillon, 1; K.Harvick, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. J.Logano, 89; 2. R.Blaney, 83; 3. D.Hamlin, 77; 4. K.Harvick, 75; 5. C.Bowyer, 74; 6. A.Dillon, 70; 7. M.Truex, 69; 8. Ku.Busch, 68; 9. A.Almirola, 66; 10. P.Menard, 66; 11. Ky.Busch, 61; 12. B.Keselowski, 58; 13. K.Larson, 54; 14. M.McDowell, 52; 15. D.Wallace, 52; 16. R.Newman, 49.

NASCAR: Harvick dominant in 4th Atlanta Xfinity win in last 6 years

This gallery contains 1 photo.

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — For Joey Logano, the final 4-second margin behind Kevin Harvick felt more like a full lap.

Harvick led 141 of 163 laps Saturday for his fifth NASCAR Xfinity series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway and fourth in the last six years.

Logano finished second, ahead of Christopher Bell, who started on the pole. They were the only other drivers to lead laps.

Almost from the very start, the race belonged to Harvick.

“I don’t think we were even close,” Logano said. “Kevin played with us all race long.”

Added Bell: “You’re supposed to be struggling but he (Logano) was struggling a little bit less and Harvick was struggling a lot less. That’s the gap we’ve got to make up.”

Harvick started fifth but quickly moved to the lead while winning each of the first two stages.

“That was a lot of fun to be a part of,” he said.

He also won the 2009 and 2013-2015 Atlanta Xfinity races before Kyle Busch won the last two years.

Harvick served as Bell’s escort, guiding him around the 1.54-mile track through most of the second half of the race. Bell remained within a few seconds of Harvick’s Ford but couldn’t seriously challenge. Logano passed Bell for second with five laps remaining.

It was only the latest show of dominance by Harvick in Atlanta. In last season’s Monster Energy Cup race, Harvick led 292 laps before finishing ninth after being hurt by a pit road speeding penalty. Harvick finished fourth in Atlanta’s 2017 Xfinity race.

“We were frustrated here last year,” Harvick said. “We didn’t leave here with a trophy either day and that’s always our goal. … I felt bad that we didn’t do that last year but this is a great way to start off this year.”

Harvick will start fourth in Sunday’s Cup race. He’ll be in a different car, but he said the Xfinity experience will help him prepare for what he described as a “rhythm race track.”

From the view of Harvick’s rivals, he was in a rhythm of his own in his 98 Ford.

“I can’t really figure out why Kevin is so good here,” Logano said. “It doesn’t seem to really matter what car he’s in. He’s just good.

“Christopher and I had a good race. I wish it were for the win.”

Rookie John Hunter Nemechek, the son of former driver Joe Nemechek, was fourth. The younger Nemechek is a full-time driver on the NASCAR Truck series.

“I had an open mindset coming into this weekend,” Nemechek said. “… I didn’t know where we were going to stack up in qualifying. I didn’t know where we were going to stack up in the race. It was a good learning curve.”

Elliott Sadler finished fifth.



Saturday from the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (5) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 163 laps, 0 rating, 0 points.

2. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 163, 0, 0.

3. (1) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 163, 0, 52.

4. (3) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 163, 0, 33.

5. (10) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 163, 0, 43.

6. (17) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 163, 0, 37.

7. (9) Austin Cindric, Ford, 163, 0, 37.

8. (8) Kyle Benjamin, Toyota, 162, 0, 34.

9. (15) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 28.

10. (12) Ryan Reed, Ford, 162, 0, 36.

11. (6) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 28.

12. (14) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 25.

13. (16) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 0.

14. (13) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 23.

15. (18) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 162, 0, 22.

16. (24) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 21.

17. (7) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 161, 0, 20.

18. (33) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 161, 0, 19.

19. (11) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 161, 0, 30.

20. (21) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 161, 0, 17.

21. (28) Dylan Lupton, Ford, 160, 0, 16.

22. (25) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 160, 0, 15.

23. (20) Kaz Grala, Ford, 159, 0, 14.

24. (37) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 159, 0, 13.

25. (32) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 159, 0, 12.

26. (30) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 159, 0, 11.

27. (22) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 10.

28. (36) David Starr, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 9.

29. (35) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 8.

30. (23) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 7.

31. (39) Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 6.

32. (38) Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 157, 0, 5.

33. (26) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 156, 0, 4.

34. (29) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 156, 0, 3.

35. (34) Chad Finchum, Chevrolet, 155, 0, 2.

36. (40) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 154, 0, 1.

37. (19) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, engine, 92, 0, 1.

38. (31) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, brakes, 49, 0, 1.

39. (4) Cole Custer, Ford, accident, 10, 0, 1.

40. (27) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, vibration, 5, 0, 1.


Average Speed of Race Winner: 129.67 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 56 minutes, 9 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 4.183 seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: 9 among 3 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Bell 0; J. Logano 1-4; C. Bell 5-16; K. Harvick 17-36; J. Logano 37-39; K. Harvick 40-82; J. Logano 83; K. Harvick 84-127; J. Logano 128-129; K. Harvick 130-163.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick 4 times for 141 laps; C. Bell 1 time for 12 laps; J. Logano 4 times for 10 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 1; T.Reddick, 1.

Driver Standings: 1, Elliott Sadler, 84. 2, Tyler Reddick, 80. 3, Ryan Reed, 70. 4, Ryan Truex, 63. 5, Spencer Gallagher, 62. 6, Christopher Bell, 53. 7, Justin Allgaier, 52. 8, Ross Chastain, 49. 9, Kaz Grala, 47. 10, Brandon Jones, 47.

NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins Atlanta pole, Wallace still in spotlight

This gallery contains 1 photo.

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. was the hot topic even as Kyle Busch won the pole Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Busch will start in front Sunday in the second race of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup season after edging Ryan Newman in a close battle.

Busch overcame handling problems in the first two rounds of qualifying to win the pole with a lap of 184.652 mph in the third round. Busch won his 28th career pole, and his first at Atlanta.

Busch beat Newman’s 184.419 mph.

Wallace will start 19th, in the middle of the 36-car field. Much of the talk Friday remained on his second-place finish in last week’s Daytona 500 .

Wallace was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969 . The second-place finish was the highest for a black driver and any rookie.

“It was just crazy, awesome,” Wallace said Friday.

On Sunday, he’ll be the first black Cup racer in an Atlanta race since Bill Lester finished 38th in 2006.

Ryan Blaney, who will start 26th, revealed Friday that last week Dale Earnhardt Jr . was so worried about Wallace that he arranged for Blaney to provide counsel for the rookie.

“He was like ‘Hey, I need you to go call Bubba and calm him down because I think he was getting overwhelmed with all the media and the pressure that was kind of being thrown upon him and we haven’t even gotten started yet,'” Ryan Blaney said.

Blaney, who is friends with both Earnhardt and Wallace, said he encouraged Wallace to enjoy the “well-deserved opportunity.”

Blaney said the second-place finish proved Wallace “dealt with it really well.”

Kevin Harvick qualified third, followed by Daniel Suarez. Defending champion Brad Keselowski qualified fifth. Austin Dillon, coming off the win at Daytona, will start 25th.

Defending NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex will start 35th after his car did not pass inspection. As a penalty, car chief Blake Harris was suspended for the weekend and a 30-minute practice hold will be enforced on Saturday.

Wallace finished sixth in Atlanta’s Xfinity race last year.

“This will be my first time in Atlanta in a Cup car,” he said. “I know how this place is in an Xfinity car and it’s not any fun, well it’s a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but hanging onto that thing is a challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”

Wallace’s boss, team owner Richard Petty, said the rookie is adjusting just fine.

“No, he don’t feel like he’s a rookie,” Petty said. “… I think he fell in really good with the guys who have been there for a long time because so far he hasn’t done anything really stupid. As long as we keep him straight, he’ll be OK.”

The strong showing at Daytona solidified the status of Wallace, 24, as a rising star in NASCAR.

Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark said calls to his ticket office this week were dominated by fans expressing interest in Wallace.

“He’s going to be great,” Clark said.

Blaney and Wallace have been friends since the two 10-year-old boys raced Bandolero cars together.

Blaney said he believes Wallace “can have a huge impact” on the 43 Chevrolet and “grow it to places it hasn’t been in recent years.”

The only distraction for Wallace is a feud with Denny Hamlin. Wallace said Friday he has been excluded from Hamlin’s informal golf league, which includes a few other NASCAR drivers. Wallace added “I removed myself” from Hamlin’s basketball league.

The problems between the two began last week when Wallace objected to what Hamlin said was intended to be a joke when he claimed 70 percent of NASCAR drivers take the prescription drug Adderall to help with concentration.


For more AP racing coverage:

NASCAR heads to Atlanta with a Daytona 500 hangover

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Austin Dillon is still celebrating his Daytona 500 victory and Bubba Wallace is relishing his sudden breakout as NASCAR’s newest star.

Denny Hamlin? Well, he’s in the middle of another feud, and it’s only the second week of the season.

NASCAR moves from the Daytona 500 this weekend to Atlanta Motor Speedway with a bit of a hangover from the biggest party of its season.

Hamlin earned a call to the NASCAR hauler for a comment he made last week on the “Barstool Sports” podcast in which he claimed 70 percent of NASCAR drivers take the prescription drug Adderall to help with concentration.

Adderall is on NASCAR’s banned substance list without a doctor prescription.

Hamlin claimed it was a joke made on an irreverent podcast, but Wallace didn’t let it go after nudging Hamlin for second place in the Daytona 500. The two raced door-to-door to the finish, and Hamlin has repeatedly said the contact cut his tire.

But after his historic second-place finish — Wallace was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969 — he took a shot at Hamlin for the final lap racing that in Hamlin’s mind went too far.

“He might need to take some Adderall for that one,” Wallace said on the Fox broadcast after he climbed from his car.

Told of the crack in his post-race news conference, Hamlin again maintained Wallace’s contact had cut his tire. He didn’t respond to the Adderall mention and exited the room.

Once outside the media center, he bumped into Wallace, and the two had a brief but heated exchange.

Public sentiment is on Wallace’s side — few fans have forgiven Hamlin since he wrecked Chase Elliott at Martinsville last fall — and Hamlin angrily took to Twitter to tell his side of the story.

Hamlin late Tuesday night called his Twitter critics “idiots,” and explained he had no beef about the ending of the race. His problem was the final question of his news conference, when he was asked for a response to Wallace’s remark.

“I had no issue until not only did he place blame on me but then went on to make personal comments about myself. I left the media center and saw Bubba 30 secs later,” Hamlin posted in a series of tweets.

“Anyone who wouldn’t take offense to the stupid things that was said has absolutely no backbone. I have one,” he concluded.

Wallace was dubious of Hamlin’s take on the last-lap racing on Sunday night, but believed the two would move on to Atlanta and be fine. He did, however, wonder if he was going to be kicked out of the Hamlin-led recreational basketball and golf leagues.

Turns out, though, that it wasn’t just NASCAR that was annoyed with Hamlin’s Adderall assessment.

Kevin Harvick used his Tuesday night SiriusXM show to note plenty of drivers are upset with Hamlin.

“Those 70 percent of drivers he referred to are mad,” Harvick said. “Whether he thinks it was an off-the-cuff comment and something he meant to say or not to say, it still offended most everybody in the garage. If you’re going to play around, joking and think it’s not something that everybody is going to take offense to. I think he’s probably seeing that nobody really appreciated it and it put everybody in a bad spot.”

Angry drivers are just one of many things to keep an eye on at Atlanta.

There are so far only 36 cars entered for Sunday’s race, which would make it the smallest field in decades. Only 39 cars competed at Atlanta last year, and that was the smallest field in 20 years.

NASCAR had allowed a maximum 43 cars starting in 1998, and hit that number until only 42 cars showed up at a 2014 race in Kentucky. Under the charter system, with only 36 cars guaranteed spots in the field, NASCAR cut the field to a maximum of 40 each week.

But the bulk of the purse goes to the chartered teams, and it’s a financial burden for “open” cars to show up every week and fight for the remaining four slots in the field.

The new charter system meant that only 40 cars tried to make the Daytona 500, which made the qualifying races pointless because no driver was battling for a spot in the field. Asked about the small car counts at Daytona, NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell said the series prefers a strong entry list over backmarkers and field fillers.

“I think it is one of the best fields we’ve had, it’s deep,” O’Donnell said. “In the future, would we like to see more? We probably would. But when you look across all of sports now, the idea of sending someone home with a major sponsor, it just doesn’t happen in sports today. It’s not just a reality for NASCAR, it’s all motorsports, and sports in general.”

Team owner Roger Penske also wasn’t bothered by the field size.

“What we need is the continuity with all the same drivers and cars running across the whole season,” he said. “I think this is really a sign of the times, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

And, keep an eye on the Toyota teams, especially Martin Truex Jr.

The most dominating manufacturer of 2017 came up empty at Daytona, and Truex, the defending series champion, led just four laps in three races. Toyota drivers did not win a single Cup event at Daytona.

But Atlanta at 1.54-miles is in Truex’s wheelhouse, and he won seven races on intermediate tracks last year. Truex’s average finish last year in 11 races at 1.5-mile tracks was second.

“While Daytona is the biggest and most prestigious race to win, the season actually starts at a downforce track,” Truex said. “Atlanta should give us a good indication how we fare against the competition.”

So, yeah, NASCAR rolls its show into Atlanta with everyone mad at Hamlin, Wallace out to prove he’s the real deal and Truex and the Toyota camp trying to reclaim their footing.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a long season.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR: Team Penske stakes claim as Daytona 500 favorites

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Roger Penske has a car capable of winning the Daytona 500.

Maybe even three of them.

Penske again went 1-2 at Daytona International Speedway for its second sweep of Speedweeks. This time, Ryan Blaney went to victory lane after winning the first of two Thursday night qualifying races that are used to set the Daytona 500 field.

Chase Elliott won the second race in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to put a temporary halt on the Team Penske dominance.

Joey Logano finished second to Penske teammate Blaney for the Ford sweep in the first race. Kevin Harvick was second to Elliott in the second race and Harvick was also in a Ford — proving the automaker has the same speed it did a year ago when it swept all four restrictor-plate races.

“I definitely think we have the fastest cars down here,” Harvick said. “Obviously, the Penske guys have done well in both races they’ve run this week. We’ll have the speed.”

Logano has finished second now twice in Speedweeks. He was beaten last week by teammate Brad Keselowski in an all-star race that opened activity at Daytona International Speedway.

Keselowski is the Las Vegas favorite to win Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500, but he wrecked with two laps remaining in the qualifier and he’ll need a backup for the main event.

No matter, it seemed, because the Penske cars so far have the Daytona field covered.

“We’re going to make it happen,” Logano said about the Penske effort Sunday.

The three Penske drivers dominated the all-star race and were at the front of the field for the entire Thursday night race. Blaney won it in overtime after Keselowski’s accident brought out the caution.

Blaney did it with a pass that didn’t work last week. When he tried to pass Keselowski in the all-star race, he pulled out of traffic and didn’t get the help he needed to complete the move. This time he was able to get past leader Logano, then the Keselowski accident brought out the caution.

“I didn’t make a good move and I kind of lost that (all-star) race,” Blaney said. “I learned a little bit and I thought about that forever. I thought we learned a little bit from our mistakes. Hopefully we can make it another one here on Sunday. That would be the one that counts.”

On the restart in overtime, Blaney got a huge push from best friend Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. and pulled away for the win.

“I saw (he) was third and I’d figure he’d give me a good push,” Blaney said about Wallace.

Wallace finished third and was congratulated with a huge hug from team owner Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR champion.

“That is probably the highlight of the night, better than finishing third, just seeing how pumped he was,” Wallace said.

Jimmie Johnson was in his second accident of Speedweeks. The seven-time NASCAR champion dropped out of line just minutes after his race began with an apparent tire problem, and his car took an unexpected hard right into traffic. The contact wrecked Johnson, Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola, and sent Johnson and Almirola to backup cars. He also wrecked on Sunday in the all-star exhibition race.

“Tough way to start Speedweeks,” Johnson said.

It wasn’t all bad for Hendrick Motorsports, though, as Elliott won his qualifying race for the second consecutive year. He might have won the Daytona 500, too, had he not run out of gas last year.

“We have the big one on Sunday — that is the main thing,” Elliott said.

Hendrick has one victory at Speedweeks and the pole for the Daytona 500. Both are firsts for Chevrolet’s new Cup effort, the Camaro.

The second qualifying race began with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers watching from the top of girlfriend Danica Patrick’s pit box. The Daytona 500 is her final NASCAR race and Rodgers arrived in Daytona on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, to support her effort.

He ignored questions from media as he climbed off the pit box following her 14th-place finish in her race. Patrick’s plan for the qualifier was simply to stay out of trouble and keep her Premium Motorsports entry clean for her final Daytona 500.

“I was just playing it safe,” she said.

Alex Bowman has the pole for the Daytona 500 based on last weeks’ time trials, and much like Patrick, his goal was simply to make it through the qualifying race unscathed. So Bowman dropped to the back of the pack and just made laps, a move that was criticized by veteran Harvick, a series champion and former Daytona 500 winner.

“Alex Bowman didn’t learn anything today, in my opinion,” Harvick said. “Riding around starting on the pole is great, but not knowing what your car is going to do is a complete waste of time.”

Bowman said it was obvious his Hendrick entry was set to contend for the pole and needs adjustments before it will be strong in race trim.

“We came down here to sit on the pole,” Bowman said. “We have an entire different setup that we can just make it drive better for the 500.”

NASCAR: Alex Bowman makes most of big break with Daytona 500 pole

This gallery contains 1 photo.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — His nickname is Bowman the Showman, yet that did little in helping Alex Bowman to get Rick Hendrick to remember his name.

Bowman was a journeyman driver who had already washed out of the Cup Series once when he found himself inside mighty Hendrick Motorsports with the opportunity of a lifetime. Perform well in a Hendrick car, and Bowman just might land a full-time job with one of NASCAR’s top organizations.

He had his work cut out for him: The boss initially believed his new driver was named Alex Baldwin, not Bowman.

“Then he showed the talent he had, the sponsors really liked him,” Hendrick said.

Bowman’s debut as the new driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet got off to a strong start when he won the pole for the Daytona 500. It’s a record-tying fourth consecutive year a Hendrick car has won the Daytona 500 pole.

Bowman will race Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway in one of the two qualifying events that sets the remainder of the field. The 24-year-old from Arizona has been here before, most recently in 2015, when a multicar accident in his qualifying race cost Bowman a spot in the Daytona 500.

His only previous start in the Daytona 500 was in 2014 when he finished 23rd as a rookie. He missed the race the next year, and was out of a job after the 2016 season. His break came when Dale Earnhardt Jr. found nine Xfinity Series races for Bowman to drive for JR Motorsports.

When a concussion sidelined Earnhardt for the second half of that season, Earnhardt talked Hendrick into giving Bowman a shot as the replacement driver. Bowman got 10 races and meshed well enough with the team that he got the job when Earnhardt retired after last season.

While he waited, Bowman sat on the sidelines.

“If you talked to me in 2015 and told me that in 2018 I was going to be driving the 88 car for Hendrick Motorsports, I would have called you nuts,” Bowman said. “You know, everything happens for a reason. My career had a lot of ups and downs, and I’ve been able to lean on my past experiences a lot to make me better and to better prepare myself for this job.

“I think I’m better because of the things that I had to go through. I got to make a lot of mistakes without anybody watching.”

All eyes will be on Bowman the rest of this week as he leads the rebuilt Hendrick roster into NASCAR’s biggest race of the year. Although the team is anchored by seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott is entering just his third season and William Byron will make his Cup debut in Sunday’s race.

Hendrick looks at this as a chance to give three young drivers a chance to develop on the job. Elliott was promoted when Jeff Gordon retired. Earnhardt got Bowman this shot at Hendrick. Byron made it to the Cup level in his third season in part because if Hendrick didn’t promote him, he’d likely lose the 20-year-old to another team.

“I can’t speak for the rest of the garage, but when I have an opening and here’s a guy that I’ve tried to groom, and he develops faster than I thought he could, and then if you don’t do something with him, someone else is,” Hendrick said. “So my idea this year was let’s let them learn in the stuff they’re going to be driving for a long time.”

Hendrick also commended Bowman for showing patience rather than just rushing into a ride after his 2016 stint in the No. 88. Bowman did get three events last year, two Xfinity Series races and a Truck Series race, but the rest of his time was spent in a simulator while he hoped Hendrick would come through with a job.

“He sat out a year when he had lots of opportunities, and he did that to wait for the opportunity with us,” Hendrick said. “That speaks a lot of his desire, and he’s spent an awesome amount of time in a simulator giving feedback. He’d run setups before the race for all the guys, after the race for all the guys. He was like a human computer for them. He paid his dues, and he deserves to be here.”



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Getting behind the wheel of the most iconic car in NASCAR history might be enough to unnerve even the most confident of race car drivers.

But Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, the first full-time African-American driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series since Wendell Scott in 1971, and the first black driver in the Daytona 500 since 1969, has no fear of driving the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports. That would be the same car that the legend drove to seven victories in the Daytona 500.

Perhaps it’s because The King himself imparted his wisdom to the brash 24-year-old driver from Mobile, Ala.

“Richard Petty told me before climbing in, ‘No need to be a hero. No need to overstep anything that you’re doing,’ ” Wallace said. “I’m here for a reason and here because I proved my point, so just go out there and do what you do.’ ”

Despite the extraordinary publicity he has received, including being the star of a docu-series that NASCAR is chronicling called Behind the Wall: Bubba Wallace, which will air this week and next on Facebook Watch, he’ll feel no added pressure when the green flag comes down to start the “The Great American Race” on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

The documentary, he says, has been stressful, “for sure, with cameras following you all the time, capturing everything, the only time they haven’t followed me is when I go to the bathroom and go to sleep. Everything in between, they’re there. But it will be a fun series to watch, that’s for sure.”


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The second half of the Danica Double lineup was confirmed Wednesday by none other than Danica Patrick — although in indirect fashion.

Talking to reporters during Daytona 500 Media Day Wednesday at the speedway, Patrick revealed without necessarily meaning to that she will drive for Ed Carpenter Racing in the May Indianapolis 500.

The IndyCar race is scheduled to be Patrick’s final motorsports competition. She will race in Sunday’s Daytona 500 and then plans to complete what she is calling the Danica Double at Indy in May.

Patrick reached an agreement with the Carpenter team recently and later said she planned a big “reveal” to showcase her plans for Indianapolis. But she let the ECR news slip Wednesday.

Patrick was asked when she will begin concentrating on Indy.

“I didn’t have time to meet up with Ed and the people…,” she said, pausing.

“Oh, did I just say that out loud?” she said. “Oh, well. I’ve never done that in my career.”

Patrick, 35, raced full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series from 2013 to 2017. She went winless while posting seven top-10 finishes. Her best result at the Daytona 500 came during that rookie year when she won the pole and went on to finish eighth.

Before detouring to NASCAR, Patrick finished fourth in the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2005, was third in 2009 and scored six top-10 finishes in seven races in IndyCar’s most famous race. In seven years on the Verizon IndyCar circuit Patrick recorded one win (in Japan in 2008), three poles and seven podium finishes.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR: Chevrolet, Ford spent offseason working to catch up to dominant Toyota

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    The exciting closing laps of last season’s NASCAR Cup championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway were about much more than Martin Truex Jr. masterfully holding off a charging Kyle Busch to win the title.

Truex and Busch both drove the season’s dominant vehicle — the Toyota Camry. Although Busch was disappointed in finishing second to Truex for NASCAR’s top prize, the fact that Toyotas swept across the finish line first and second simply underlined what was a year of domination for the Camry.

As teams prepare to open the door to a new season this week in Daytona Beach, Fla., they are shadowed by 2017 numbers that made Truex’s championship look like a lock:

  • Toyota won 16 races. Chevrolet and Ford won 10 each.
  • Toyota’s laps-led total of 5,757 was more than Chevrolet’s (2,377) and Ford’s (2,447) combined.
  • Truex and Busch led 40% of the laps run across the 36-race season.
  • Toyota won eight of the 10 playoff races.

In a sport in which small differences in vehicle aerodynamic shapes can translate to significant boosts in speed, Toyota Racing Development and its teams began the year with a sleek body and made it better as the months wore on. By August, Ford driver Brad Keselowski was complaining about Toyota’s supposed advantage, generating laughter from Toyota representatives and suggestions from the Camry camp that its competitors needed to work harder and talk less.


The new year brings change, although there is little reason to suggest that Toyota will give up its position of strength. Chevrolet enters the year with a new car — the Camaro — and high hopes that the vehicle’s sleek design and race-ready front end will equal significant improvement over 2017.

At a casual glance, Ford faces the steeper climb. Its Fusion was generally trailing in speed much of last year, and this season is likely to be its final hurrah as garage talk has the Mustang arriving as Ford’s Cup vehicle for 2019.

NASCAR rules on body design will have a new enforcement element — the Hawk-Eye camera/projection system. The Optical Scanning Station replaces the laser platform and is expected to ferret out the smallest imperfections in car bodies.

“If the new Hawk-Eye system is put in place and implemented for 2018 fully — not partially, fully — it would certainly level the playing field for Ford by enforcing the rules,” Keselowski said.

“It is inherent to the designs of the cars that some things weren’t able to be policed before that were designed into other cars that, with this system, it will eliminate it.”

That statement underlines Keselowski’s view that Toyota had advantages beyond the basic design of the Camry race car last year, a claim that, again, results in Toyota drivers — in particular Kyle Busch — suggesting that other teams show up for work earlier and leave later.

Erik Jones, who moved from one Toyota team (Furniture Row Racing) to another (Joe Gibbs Racing) in the offseason, said he expects the other manufacturers to be improved but that work on making the Camry better also has continued.

“Obviously, you’ve seen Chevrolet roll out a new product for this year,” Jones said. “We’ll have to see what that’s going to do. I think that’s going to put them in a position to catch up some. I’m sure they did their homework. You see, honestly, a lot of similarities between some of the stuff they’ve done with their car and ours.

“But I think us having a year under our belt with the new Camry is really going to make it that much better. It’s given us another offseason to develop on it.”

Ford driver Kevin Harvick said the Fusion improved during the season last year and added he looks for more gains in what should be the model’s final season.

“We may come out of the box great, but you don’t know until you get to the racetrack,” he said. “We worked through those issues last year. It took us a bit, but we might have to work at them again.”

Chevrolet driver Chris Buescher said expects gains despite the newness of the Camaro.

“It’s a body that looks way closer to what we were competing against last season and, at the same time, maintains its own identity and carries much of the characteristics of the actual production Camaro,” he said. “I think they accomplished everything they set out to do. Now it’s a matter of fine-tuning everything.”

Chevrolet official Pat Suey said he expects the Camaro to be competitive.

“It’s a better aero platform than we had before,” he said. “The teams have busted their humps building and testing and going to the wind tunnel. I’d like to think we’re not going to struggle that badly early (because of the new-car break-in period), but we’ll see.”

‘Grandpa’ Johnson determined to win 8th NASCAR championship

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson has never hitched a ride for an afternoon on a champion’s float that snakes down closed city streets.

The professional sports teams bask in the celebration of hundreds of thousands of fans screaming in adulation and spraying beer from sidewalks in a frenzy as confetti flies from the sky.

Johnson’s top reward for winning it all, a rally once at one of his sponsor’s stores a few miles away from his California hometown.

The NASCAR champion traditionally gets a party in victory lane at the season finale and throws a bash at the postseason banquet.

It’s all good fun, but even a seven-time champion wouldn’t mind a parade.

“I have to admit, that would be a nice add to the NASCAR champions schedule,” Johnson said. “It would be really cool.”

Johnson, a regular visitor to the White House when he reigned as NASCAR’s champ, had already initiated his own champion’s tradition a few years back.

Inspired by a chat with NASCAR official Mike Helton and the presidential tradition of leaving a handwritten letter to the successor, Johnson started a champion’s journal.

His first entry was a December 2011 letter to series champion Tony Stewart. Johnson followed championship seasons with notes for Kevin Harvick and 2017 champ Martin Truex Jr., and the keepsake is handed off at the banquet.

“There seems to be a thread when it comes back to me about me having more entries than anyone else,” Johnson said with a laugh outside his motorhome. “That kind of finds its way in each time I get it back.”

The journal is thick enough for quite a few more lines of teasing, well wishes and advice left to be composed. But the question looms for the 42-year-old Johnson, can he still fill the blank pages left as he comes off the worst season of his career?

Or, is the handwriting on the wall that a new crop of stars is ready to deny Johnson another title for as many years as he has left?

Believe that at your own risk.

“I signed up for three more years and I feel like I have the team and the ability to win all three of them,” Johnson said. “We won five in a row and I want to believe in three in a row.”

Johnson was never really a serious contender in 2017 to push past Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty and win his record eighth NASCAR crown. He won three races (but none after June), had a career-worst four top-fives and finished 10th in the standings.

There are about 30 other drivers in the Daytona 500 field who would love to craft that kind of season. At Hendrick Motorsports, long the class organization of NASCAR, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus were considered underachievers with the No. 48 Chevrolet.

The Chevy ran slower in the second half of the season, and the team could never click and go on their traditional late-season surge; consider he won three of the final seven races in ’16 to clinch his seventh championship.

“That was the first time at Hendrick that I’ve had that happen,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t have asked anything more from anybody on the team. Everybody was all in. That’s where the frustration comes from.”

The struggles did nothing to deter the Hendrick lifer from signing a three-year contract extension that should keep him with the team through 2020. Johnson, whose 83 wins are tied for sixth on the NASCAR career Cup series list, was already the top dog at Hendrick.

Now, he’s the oldest dog on the Hendrick block, trying to teach his three 20-something teammates new tricks.

Daytona 500 pole-sitter Alex Bowman is 24. Cup rookie William Byron is 20. Chase Elliott is 22.

The trio’s combined Cup wins: 0.

But the nicknames for the two-time Daytona 500 winner are adding up.

“We call him Grandpa every now and then,” Bowman said.

“I would say Uncle Jimmie,” Elliott said.

For a stately veteran, Johnson can still show the young’uns a good time. Johnson, a ski junkie in Aspen, Colorado, hit the slopes with Elliott before they hit the town for a couple of nights.

“I even heard him say, ‘Wow this is what 40 looks like. Not bad,'” Johnson said. “I guess we can still have enough fun for a 22-year-old and make it cool.”

Johnson tweeted a photo of himself from behind the wheel of his family car with Bowman and Byron tagging along in car seats.

Johnson, though, is steadfast that he will do his part to shape the next generation of Hendrick stars into regular challengers for checkered flags. He invites teammates into the hauler for chats, talks game plans with the other crew chiefs, and the fitness freak has even suggested healthy diet tips.

“Jimmie loves that role, and I think these guys will tell you he’s there,” team owner Rick Hendrick said.

Bowman must be listening: He won the Daytona 500 pole.

Retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon is still a trusted adviser at HMS and Hendrick said he was having as much fun as he had in years with an injection of youth into the organization.

If 2017’s transition season led to stagnation across the lineup, Hendrick’s focus this season on returning the team to championship form has Johnson fired up.

“I’ve never seen him more committed than he is right now,” Hendrick said.

Johnson’s outside interests — including an ownership stake in a taco shop and a speakeasy; bike rides and marathons; and a blossoming interest in the NFL’s Carolina Panthers (“I’d love to have a shot at it. But I don’t think I can stretch the capital they need.”) — have never affected his race preparation each weekend.

Johnson’s championship crew chief Chad Knaus’ deal is up at the end of the season, though Hendrick said he would work on an extension. Knaus is connected with Johnson in much the same way as Pat Riley and Magic Johnson or Joe Torre and Derek Jeter. One calls the shots and the other leads them to glory — and Johnson wants to keep the tag team intact.

“I know the dog years he lives in and I’ve anticipated at some point there might be a separation,” he said. “I can’t see it in the near future, so I hope to stay together. I’ve told him that we started this thing together, let’s end this thing together.”

Johnson, who wrecked in Speedweeks exhibition Clash at Daytona, is determined to end it alone atop the championship count.

“He wants No. 8,” Hendrick said.

The one that would wipe away the doubt and stamp him as NASCAR’s greatest champion.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR: Keselowski leads 1-2 Team Penske sweep at Daytona

This gallery contains 1 photo.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Brad Keselowski opened Speedweeks, before he turned a single lap, as the 7-1 favorite to win the Daytona 500.

Now that he has the first victory of the season, Keselowski is shaping up to be a safe bet.

Keselowski led a 1-2 Team Penske sweep Sunday in the exhibition The Clash at Daytona International Speedway. The race marks the opening of Speedweeks and is the first chance for teams to show their offseason work.

“I have never won anything here during Speedweeks and I feel like I have choked them away to be quite honest,” Keselowski said in victory lane. “You need one to break through. Hopefully, this is our breakthrough.”

Indeed, Keselowski is one of the best restrictor-plate racers in NASCAR. Although he’s a five-time winner at Talladega in Alabama, his lone victory at Daytona International Speedway was in the 2016 summer race.

When it comes to Speedweeks — The Clash, the Thursday twin qualifying races, and finally the season-opening Daytona 500 next Sunday — Keselowski always came up empty. His best finish in the Daytona 500 was third in 2013, and he finished fourth a year earlier. In his prior appearances in the all-star Clash, Keselowski finished inside the top-nine in four of his five races.

“It was a good day, a great start to Speedweeks, and now there’s two more to go,” Keselowski said.

The 17-car field is set by a draw and Keselowski started last. He had 75 laps to race his way to the front, which was easy enough for the three-car Penske contingent. Keselowski had the race in control as the Penske drivers closed in on the checkered flag.

He had a piece of garbage stuck to the front of his Ford, and that appeared to be his only challenge.

“I was worried about the (competitors) but the car was way overheating there at the end and I was more worried about it blowing up than anything else,” he said.

Ryan Blaney pulled out of line from behind Keselowski on the final lap in an attempt to beat his teammate, but he was left alone in the bottom lane and faded into traffic. Joey Logano didn’t have enough help to mount a challenge on Keselowski and had to settle for second.

“It is fun when you are up there running and you don’t know what is going to happen,” Logano said. “The suspense keeps building as you are running single-file: three to go, two to go, here comes the white flag — when do you make the move? Do you make a move? Sometimes you make and it is never the right thing.

“You are waiting to see what everyone else is going to do and you are thinking about the type of people they are and what the possible moves are they will make. Then as soon as we hit the white flag Blaney was able to go to the bottom, I had to stay on top because I would have gotten passed.”

Kyle Larson made contact with Jimmie Johnson on the final lap to trigger an accident that allowed Keselowski an easier route to victory lane.

Blaney faded to fourth, behind defending Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, as Ford drivers took the top four spots. It was a nice rebound from qualifying earlier Sunday when the fastest Ford driver was Kevin Harvick at eighth.

In a race that means nothing beyond an early glimpse of who might contend in the Daytona 500, Blaney was disappointed with his finish.

“I thought we were in a good spot. Even though Brad is one of the best at doing this, I thought we had a good chance at it,” Blaney said. “I probably didn’t pull out at a very good time. I thought it was enough, but I got hung out.

“I should know better than that. I need to learn from that.”



Sunday from the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (17) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 75 laps.

2. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 75.

3. (14) Kurt Busch, Ford, 75.

4. (15) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 75.

5. (1) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 75.

6. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 75.

7. (13) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 75.

8. (4) Erik Jones, Toyota, 75.

9. (9) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 75.

10. (10) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 75.

11. (11) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 75.

12. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 74.

13. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 74.

14. (6) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 74.

15. (7) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 74.

16. (8) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 73.

17. (16) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, accident, 43.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 169.626 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 6 minutes, 19 seconds.

Margin of Victory: Under Caution.

Caution Flags: 3 for 8 laps.

Lead Changes: 11 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: A.Dillon 1; D.Hamlin 2-9; C.Elliott 10-14; A.Dillon 15-16; C.Elliott 17-23; J.Logano 24; K.Larson 25; K.Harvick 26-27; B.Keselowski 28-33; C.Elliott 34-38; B.Keselowski 39-75; K.Larson 76

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): B.Keselowski, 2 times for 41 laps; C.Elliott, 3 times for 14 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 7 laps; A.Dillon, 2 times for 1 lap; K.Harvick, 1 time for 1 lap; K.Larson, 2 times for 0 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 0 laps.

NASCAR at Daytona 2018: Key information on Daytona 500 pole qualifying and The Clash

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)     —   The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off Sunday with Daytona 500 pole qualifying followed by The Advance Auto Parts Clash exibition race. Here’s all the information you need to get ready today’s NASCAR events at Daytona International Speedway:


START TIME: Daytona International Speedway president Chip Wile will welcome fans to the track at 12:08 p.m. ET, followed by the singing of “God Bless America” by Gina Marie Incandela at 12:09 p.m. The green flag will drop for qualifying at 12:15 p.m.

TV/RADIO SCHEDULE: Fox will broadcast qualifying beginning at Noon ET. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio will call the event on the radio.

LIVE STREAMING: Fox is offering a live stream through its Fox Sports Go app.

FORMAT: Daytona 500 pole qualifying is a two-round, single-vehicle format on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. The driver with the top time at the end of the second round will earn the pole position for the 60th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox). The driver with the second-best time will start alongside on the front row. The remaining Daytona 500 lineup will be set by the Can-Am Duels on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

DAYTONA 500: All-time pole winners and speeds 

WEATHER: The Weather Channel is calling for cloudy skies in Daytona Beach, Fla., with a high of 81 degrees and a 15% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Chase Elliott won the Daytona 500 pole for the second straight year, edging his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earhardt Jr., who retired from Cup racing at the end of the 2017 season. Elliott will attempt to become the fourth Cup driver to win three consecutive Daytona 500 poles after Fireball Roberts (1961-63), his father Bill Elliott (1985-87) and Ken Schrader (1988-90).


START TIME: Melissa Trumble will perform the national anthem at 3:06 p.m. ET. Scott Borchetta, founder & CEO of Big Machine Label Group, will instruct drivers to start their engines at 3:12 p.m., followed by the green flag at 3:24 p.m.

RACE DISTANCE: The Advance Auto Parts Clash is a 75-lap exhibition race around the 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway for a total of 187.5 miles. The event will be broken up into two stages with a competition caution at lap 25 separating the segments.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race starting at 3 p.m ET and has a pre-race show beginning approximately 2 p.m., following qualifying. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio will call the event on the radio.

LIVE STREAMING: Fox is offering a live stream through its Fox Sports Go app.

WEATHER: The race will get started under cloudy skies that could give way to scattered thunderstorms, beginning around 5 p.m.

LAST TIME: After Denny Hamlin led 48 of 75 laps, Joey Logano took the lead on final lap and won by 1.120 seconds over Kyle Busch.


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Hendrick Motorsports rookie William Byron has posted the fastest lap in practice for the Daytona 500.

Byron turned a lap of 210.681 mph in Saturday afternoon’s practice at Daytona International Speedway. It was the fastest lap of two sessions.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second fastest at 201.649 mph. Stenhouse won two plate races last season, at Talladega in the spring and at Daytona in July. Joey Logano was third and followed by Denny Hamlin.

David Ragan and Michael McDowell were the surprises of the first day of practice by posting the fifth and 10th fastest speeds. Qualifying for the first two spots in the Feb. 18 season-opening race is Sunday.

In Saturday’s first practice, Kyle Busch led all four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas to a sweep of the speed chart. Busch’s best lap was 199.743, with no driver topping 200 mph in the early practice.


Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing
Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske
Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing
Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Ford, Team Penske
Ricky Stenhouse Jr, No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Erik Jones, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske
Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Kurt Busch, No. 41 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing
Kyle Larson,No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Martin Truex Jr, No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing
Kasey Kahne, No. 95 Chevrolet, Leavine Family Racing

1 2 3 9

"PhatzRadio - A New view from the News Room"



Weekly Music / Sports Talk Schedule
NBA Unplugged 1:00PM
Audibly Offensive 2:02PM
The War Room 3:01PM
Smooth Jazz 5:11PM
PopSports Sports Radio Tues.AM
The Broad Street Line Wed.AM
After Further Review Wed.AM
HoopGirlz Radio Thur.AM
Gaffer & Hooligan Soccer Fri.AM