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Kevin Harvick encouraged that Texas drought could end soon

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FORT WORTH, Texas — There was little good for Kevin Harvick the last time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced at Texas Motor Speedway.

There is little bad for Harvick this time — at least after Friday’s practice and qualifying sessions.

Harvick qualified third and wore a smile nearly as wide as pole-sitter Austin Dillon’s after a productive day. It was quite a difference from how he felt at this 1.5-mile track in April.

“We had a bad weekend in the spring,’’ Harvick said Friday. “We didn’t qualify well. We didn’t feel like we raced well. Just didn’t have a handle on the car all weekend. We unloaded fairly close today and had speed in both race trim and qualifying trim and that’s usually a good sign for us.’’

A bad day for Harvick was a 10th-place finish in the spring. It continued a drought at this track — he’s never won a Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Harvick looks at Kansas as a sign of encouragement. He had been the runner-up three of the previous five races before he won there last month.

He also looks back to last fall’s race at Texas as a sign that he can challenge for the win.

“I felt we had a car capable of winning the last fall race and the shifter broke off and I had to hold it in gear,’’ he said of his third-place finish.

What also is encouraging to Harvick about Friday’s performance is what it could mean in the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Provided he gets there. He enters Sunday’s race 16 points out of the final cutoff spot.

The tires used at Texas will be used at Homestead. These tires also were used at Chicagoland Speedway.

“We feel like this is an important race because it’s on the same tires as Homestead, it’s a very similar surface as Homestead, so there is a lot to be learned,’’ Harvick said.

“Even though we haven’t won here, I feel like this is a good racetrack to come to and next week is our best racetrack,’’ Harvick said of Phoenix International Raceway, where he’s won six of the last eight races. “Everybody is jacked up.’’

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson involved in minor fender bender while leaving Fontana

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Kyle Larson‘s spectacular weekend at Auto Club Speedway — winning both Saturday’s Xfinity Series race and Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup event — left him feeling good.

But shortly upon exiting the facility, Larson and several others were involved in a fender-bender right outside the Speedway. Larson was a passenger, not the driver.

No one was injured, Larson tweeted.

But somehow, isn’t that strange fate?

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson’s Fontana win shows continued maturing as a driver

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Kyle Larson finally broke his streak of three straight runner-up finishes with his win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, the crew discussed his win as well as his maturation as a driver.