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

2 Comments

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.

Martin Truex Jr. wins at Kansas; Kenseth, Larson, McMurray, Stenhouse Jr. eliminated

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Given he already was locked into the upcoming Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Martin Truex Jr. had nothing to lose in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 — so he went out and won his third race of the playoffs and seventh race of the season.

Truex led 89 laps to capture the win at Kansas Speedway, his second win there this season and an uncanny sixth win on a 1.5-mile track this season. His seventh win was on the road course at Watkins Glen.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, who was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Sunday’s race was a cut-off race for the Round of 12. The four drivers that were eliminated from advancing to the Round 8 semifinal round were Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson.

Those advancing to the Round of 8 are Truex, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.

STAGE WINNERS: Kyle Busch won Stage 1, Denny Hamlin won Stage 2.

Among incidents in the scheduled 167 laps of the final stage:

* Jimmie Johnson spun coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 187. He tore up a good chunk of the frontstretch grass but did not hit any other cars. He brought his car to pit road to fix some damage to the hood, strapped on four new tires and fuel and returned to the track. Shortly after the restart on Lap 192, Johnson spun again, clipping the Turn 3 wall and flatspotted all four of his tires.

* A big wreck on the restart on Lap 197 involved a number of cars, including playoff contenders Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray. The incident brought out a red flag race stoppage. The wreck occurred when Erik Jones got loose, turned right and head-on into the wall, and collected a number of other drivers including Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.

* Kenseth suffered a huge penalty on the ensuing pit stop. Because he had seven crew men over the wall, violating the damaged vehicle policy, NASCAR ruled Kenseth was out of the race. As a result, he will not advance to the Round of 8 and has been eliminated from the playoffs in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing.

* As for McMurray, his car could not be repaired and his championship hopes are done. “We just unfortunately had two bad races in a row and couldn’t do nothing about it,” McMurray told NBCSN. “You race all day to the end and we didn’t make it today.”

We’ll have more information, including full results and updated standings, shortly. Please check back soon.

Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray eliminated from race after massive Lap 198 crash

Leave a comment

Matt Kenseth and fellow playoff driver Jamie McMurray were involved in a 10-car crash on Lap 198 of the elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

The crash began when Erik Jones got loose, spun and began collecting cars.

The crash caused a red flag.

Kenseth was ruled out of the race after too many crew members went over the wall to repair his No. 20 Toyota. That effectively eliminates the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from contending for the championship. McMurray is also eliminated from contention.

“I don’t know what any of the rules are,” Kenseth told NBCSN. “It seems like we’ve got a lot of stuff that kind of gets changed so often I honestly can’t keep up with it. My head kind of spins, from putting lug nuts on out of pit boxes to one too many guys over the wall, you’re not allowed to race anymore. I just don’t get it to be honest with you. I really don’t have a lot good to say right now. I’m more than disappointed.”

The crash involved Jones, Kenseth, McMurray, Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne.

Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliffe, blamed the mistake on miscommunication and simply not counting the number of crew members who were over the wall.

“We missed a head count there. It’s a shame that that’s a rule that takes competitors out of an opportunity for the championship,” Ratcliffe said. “Somebody just missed the call there or I didn’t communicate properly. Typically it boils down to communication and I think that’s what happened there.”

Said McMurray: “I was really looking forward to just getting to the end of the race. Like I said earlier, we just needed the pit stops to go our way or the strategy to get shook up, and it was kind of happening right there. You just hope that you’re going to be on the right end of the strategy. And then if the race would have gone long, we had one of the best cars on the long runs. But, you just don’t know. You race all day to the end, and we just didn’t make it today.”

Jimmie Johnson spins twice early in final stage of Kansas elimination race

Leave a comment

In danger of not advancing to the third round of the playoffs, Jimmie Johnson spun on the front stretch on Lap 189 of the elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

The No. 48 slid down the track and into the infield grass, which had been drenched in rain overnight.

“I got loose,” Johnson told his team over the radio.

After undergoing repairs on pit road, Johnson returned to the track. But his misfortune continued on the ensuing restart when he again spun, this time in Turn 3 while running in the high lane.

Johnson pitted again and returned to the track before a large, multi-car wreck unfolded on the restart, which Johnson was able to avoid.

Johnson entered the race in the last transfer spot, seven points above ninth.

Denny Hamlin stays out on old tires in one-lap shootout, captures Stage 2 at Kansas

Leave a comment

In a one-lap shootout to wrap up Stage 2, Denny Hamlin on old tires held off the rest of the field to win the middle stage of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Kevin Harvick (on new tires) was second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch (also on new tires).

The younger Busch brother has dominated the race thus far, winning Stage 1, leading 57 laps in Stage 2 and a total of 94 laps of the first 180 laps in the scheduled 267-lap event.

Hamlin and Keselowski were both penalized for speeding on pit road after the stage ended.

Among incidents during Stage 2:

* Martin Truex Jr. came off Turn 4 and made an abrupt entry onto pit road on Lap 92 after complaining of a vibration in his Toyota, potentially from a loose wheel. Truex took four tires and fuel and returned to the track.

* Denny Hamlin misunderstood a command from crew chief Mike Wheeler on pit road during his stop on Lap 128. After the jack dropped, Hamlin hesitated because he thought he heard Wheeler say “hold up” on the team radio. Wheeler actually said “Hard out.” The miscue cost Hamlin a couple of seconds and returned to the track in 17th position.

* Brett Moffitt hit the outside wall for the second time in the race on Lap 156, bringing out the caution in the waning moments of Stage 2 to set up the one-lap shootout. He also hit the wall on Lap 46 in Stage 1.