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Lack of Tony Stewart tributes disappoints Kevin Harvick: ‘I don’t think anybody did a good job’

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Tony Stewart didn’t want the fawning tributes, but Kevin Harvick said the wishes of his teammate, car owner and friend shouldn’t have been respected.

With two races remaining, Stewart’s Sprint Cup career is drawing to a muted close – the most elaborate celebration of his legacy was a life-size bobblehead presented last week to the three-time champion by Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage – and Harvick isn’t pleased about the lack of recognition for a surefire first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer.

“(Stewart’s legacy) is not going to be what it should be because I don’t think anybody did a good job of giving him the credit he deserved throughout the year from the racetracks and from a sport standpoint,” Harvick said Friday night after qualifying sixth at Phoenix International Raceway. “That’s been very disappointing from my standpoint. I know that Tony probably would say that he didn’t want that, but I don’t think anybody’s done a very good job for giving him the credit that he for the time he’s put in and the success he’s had in this sport.”

Since the outset of his September 2015 announcement to reveal his impending retirement, Stewart adamantly has insisted he didn’t want to be feted with salutes the way Jeff Gordon was by several tracks last season.

“You can save your gifts,” Stewart said last year. “I’ve got enough rocking chairs at home as it is. I bought those when I wanted to go sit on my own rocking chair. You don’t have to give me one.

“I think what the tracks and the fans have done for Jeff Gordon is very fitting. I think what everybody has done is shown their respect for what he’s done for the sport of auto racing and for Cup and what he has done for motorsports as a whole. I’m not really that kind of guy.  I’m content to go race and be around the racing community and the racing family and be around our fans.  They can just send me a note from the track president and say, ‘Hey, thank you,’ and that’ll be sufficient for me. I think it’s been very fitting for Jeff.  I don’t think I’m worthy of that kind of admiration because I think Jeff has really done so much for the sport that nobody will ever be able to do again.”

Harvick, though, has argued that Stewart’s resume as an IndyCar champion who excelled in open-wheel and stock-car racing was deserving of the same recognition because of its wider impact on motorsports.

“It’s been pretty disheartening to me to see the lack of credit that he’s gotten week to week,” Harvick said.

If tracks wanted to honor “Smoke,” there likely will be many future opportunities. Stewart won’t be disappearing from view next year when he plans to run in various racing series and still attend many NASCAR races as an owner.

NASCAR America: Chase Elliott ‘biggest surprise’ of Cup playoffs

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Only two drivers are safely in the third round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs. Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski secured spots through their wins at Charlotte and Talladega.

That leaves six spots to be decided Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Kyle Petty broke down the drivers competing for spots. Both of them agreed that Chase Elliott, who has finished in second in three of the five playoff races, has a great chance to make it all the way to the championship race in Miami.

“If Talladega had played out, he was either going to be in victory lane or in the top two or three,” Petty said. “When you look at that, he has had the most solid playoffs of any driver out there. We keep talking about the big three: Larson, Busch and Truex. This guy is a sleeper. But he’s my No. 4.”

Said Kligerman: “He’s been the biggest surprise. That 24 team has been incredible through the playoffs. One thing I’ve noticed about that team, just speaking to (crew chief) Alan Gustafson, speaking to Chase, it’s almost as if they want that first win more than they care about the playoffs.”

Watch the above video for more on the playoff drivers.

Friday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Kansas Speedway

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Things get started today for the pivotal weekend at Kansas Speedway.

The NASCAR Cup Series will have its elimination race in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, where four of the 12 remaining playoff drivers will not advance to the Round of 8.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series begins its Round of 8 with Saturday’s Kansas 300.

But it all begins today, as Cup has its first practice (the other two are Saturday) and qualifying, while the Xfinity Series will have its two practice sessions.

Here’s how today’s schedule shapes up:

(All times are Eastern)

10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Cup garage open

12 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity garage open

1 – 2:25 p.m. — First Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

2:30 – 3:25 p.m. First Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

5 – 5:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

6:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, 3 rounds) (NBCSN, MRN)

NASCAR: Will Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch advance in playoffs?

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The last two drivers to win NASCAR Cup titles are in precarious positions ahead of the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Kyle Busch, the 2015 champion, is outside the top eight in ninth. He sits seven points behind defending champion Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR America analysts Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman debated who they think had the best chance to advance to the Third round after Sunday.

Petty put his money behind Busch, who has finished in the top five in each of his last five starts at the 1.5-mile track.

“He’s one of the big three: Truex, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson,” Petty said. “I don’t see where these (last) two races (Charlotte, Talladega) have changed anything. The one thing Kyle Busch brings into Kansas City … he brings speed. These guys have had speed all year-long.”

Johnson on the other hand has produced only four top fives all season and just one since he won at Dover in June.

But Kligerman explained why he thinks the seven-time champion will prevail on Sunday.

“Jimmie Johnson knows how to pass and that is what has become evident throughout this season,” Kligerman said. “No, they have not had the fastest cars at Hendrick Motorsports. No, they have not qualified well. They’ve actually been sort of abysmal at qualifying of late.

“… He has three wins this year. Two of those he started at the back.”

Watch the video for more.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Daniel Hemric, Daniel Suarez’ racing roots

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to preview the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut.

On the show:

  • We’ll debate which past Cup Series champion will advance to the Round of 8. Defending champion Jimmie Johnson currently leads 2015 champ Kyle Busch by only seven points for the final transfer spot. Who has the edge going into Kansas this Sunday? This elimination race will be a heated competition just to finish above the cut line. Log on to NBCSports.com/NASCARVote and weigh in!
  • Xfinity Series playoff driver Daniel Hemric calls into the show to talk about his chances of advancing to the championship four in Miami. He’ll also describe his experience being one of the four drivers to participate in the recent tire test at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval.”
  • We take a look at the Daniel Suarez’s Racing Roots and discuss his transition from Xfinity Series champion to Monster Energy Cup Series rookie.
  • Parker Kligerman hops into the iRacing simulator to preview Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas, as well as the Formula 1 race in Austin, Texas.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.