Kevin Harvick wins pole for Sprint Cup finale; Kyle Busch tops among Chasers in ninth

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Kevin Harvick scored his second pole of the year for the Sprint Cup Series’ season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harick put up a top speed of 177.637 mph around the 1.5-mile track to grab the pole for the Ford EcoBoost 400. It’s his 17th Sprint Cup pole.

“That’s awesome, I didn’t know if we had chance for the pole with how fast (Chase Elliott) was running,” Harvick told NBCSN. “I knew in every round that if we could just run the same speed that’s usually half the battle. You never know how much it’s going slow down for everybody else.”

Filling out the top five is Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott.

The highest qualifying Chase driver is Kyle Busch in ninth, followed by Carl Edwards in 10th. Joey Logano starts 13th alongside Jimmie Johnson in 14th.

Busch will start in the top 10 for the third straight Homestead race.

“(The car was) really free, we freed up the most of our teammates,” Busch told NBCSN. “We needed to do that. Ultimately, we didn’t qualify were we would have liked to. That was not where I was expecting or hoping for. All things considered you’ve got to look at the big picture. We’re all ninth to 14th. There’s pretty much a blanket there.”

Edwards has started 10th or worse in three of the last four Homestead races.

“I screwed up a little bit,” Edwards told NBCSN. “The car’s so fast and it’s so line sensitive out there. I was probably too aggressive and got on the splitter a little bit. It’s a starting spot. In a way I guess it’s good we’re all back there, but they won’t be back there long, all of us won’t. We’ve got some pretty good race cars.”

Logano will start outside the top 12 for the seventh time this season.

“Was a little free, was a little tight at other times,” Logano told NBCSN. “It’s just hard to get back out there real quick and the tires just don’t want you to go faster.”

With all four Chasers beginning Sunday’s race so close together Logano said he told Johnson “we all sucked.”

In the first round, while outside the top 24, Johnson was in the middle of his second run when the session was red flagged with 57 second left for a spin by Landon Cassill exiting Turn 4. Johnson was on the backstretch and was scored as being slower than he would have needed to make it into the top 24.

Once the track reopened, Johnson was able to begin a lap and advance to the second round with the 22nd-best speed before placing 114th in the final round.

“That was wild, to have the caution come out certainly didn’t help us,” Johnson told NBCSN. “To have tires that old and post a respectable lap is good for the Lowes’ Chevrolet. Unfortunately, was just off on that first run and got behind. I’m so much better at racing.”

In his final Sprint Cup start, Tony Stewart will roll off 11th.

Click here for full qualifying results.

NASCAR America: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talks Phoenix finish, racing roots

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joins NASCAR America to go over his fourth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver also shares his racing origins in Mississippi and the hobbies he and girlfriend Danica Patrick share with each other.

Stenhouse is in his fifth full-time year competing in the NASCAR Cup Series with Roush Fenway Racing.

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Alaska

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NASCAR America continues its journey through the United States with the second chapter in “50 States in 50 Shows.”

Following South Alabama Speedway, the show features Capitol Speedway and Alaska Raceway Park in Alaska.

Owned by Nancy and Wes Wallace, Capitol Speedway is a 3/8th-mile oval and features sprint car racing and demolition derbies.

 

Kevin Harvick crew chief fined, suspended one race for encumbered finish

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Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, has been suspended for one NASCAR Cup Series race and fined $25,000 for an unapproved track bar slider assembly last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

The penalty, a L1 infraction, results in an encumbered finish. Harvick placed sixth in the Camping World 500.

The No. 4 team has also been docked 10 driver and owner points. Harvick was seventh in the standings after four races. He trailed leader Kyle Larson by 61 points. The loss of points drops Harvick one spot to eighth behind Jamie McMurray.

Harvick has not won a race yet, which would qualify him for the playoffs.

MORE: Brad Keselowski closes crew chief for three races, team docked 35 driver points

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NASCAR docks Brad Keselowski, Team Penske 35 points; suspends crew chief Paul Wolfe

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NASCAR docked Brad Keselowski 35 points, suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe three races and fined Wolfe $65,000 because Keselowski’s car failed inspection after finishing fifth in last weekend’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR also docked the team 35 owner points for the L1 infraction. NASCAR stated that Keselowski’s result is an encumbered finish.

NASCAR cited Keselowski’s car for failing weights and measurements on the laser platform. NASCAR stated in Wednesday’s penalty report that the team failed the rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station. 

MORE: NASCAR suspends crew chief Rodney Childers one race

Team Penske issued a statement Wednesday:

“We have acknowledged the penalties levied against the No. 2 team following last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.  The race cars returned to the race shop today and we are in the process of evaluating the area in question. In the meantime, we have decided Brian Wilson will serve as Brad Keselowski’s crew chief at Auto Club Speedway while we evaluate our approach relative to today’s penalties.”

The penalty drops Keselowski from second in the standings to fourth heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

The more significant issue is how this could impact Keselowski, who already has a win, in the playoffs.

The top 10 in points before the playoffs begin earn additional points. The points leader earns 15 playoff points. The driver second in the standings earns 10 playoff points, the driver third in the standings earns eight playoff points, the driver fourth in the standings earns seven playoff points. It goes down to the driver 10th in the standings earning one playoff point.

Those playoff points carry through the first three rounds, which is different from last year. Falling behind in the regular season – or losing points because of a penalty – could have ramifications in the playoffs. 

“I think it’s real important to explain why points matter this year,” Keselowski said on Fox Sports 1’s “Race Hub” on Wednesday night. “Last year, you got a win and you locked in and you got to the next round. This year with points, you still lock in with wins. The difference is there’s a huge points bonus for having the most points at the end of the season that carries all the way through the playoffs, and you only get that bonus if you’re one of the best cars and leading up front at the end of the regular season, which requires having a lot of points. Thirty-five points is a pretty big deal, and so is 10 points for Kevin (Harvick) and his team.”

 

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