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Stewart-Haas Racing’s debut with Ford has Kevin Harvick smiling

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Although Kevin Harvick didn’t win Sunday’s Clash, he couldn’t hide his smile as he walked down pit road after finishing fifth in Stewart-Haas Racing’s first race since switching to Ford.

“This is by far the best we’ve run speed-wise … in the race since I’ve been at Stewart-Haas Racing,’’ Harvick told NBC Sports. “I’m really looking forward to a really strong week.’’

NASCAR’s opening weekend proved to be a good one overall for Stewart-Haas Racing in its debut with Ford.

Danica Patrick finished fourth in the Clash with Harvick fifth. Clint Bowyer, who joined the team this year, was fourth in qualifying. Harvick was seventh.

It wasn’t a perfect weekend, though. Kurt Busch wrecked in the Clash after he was turned by Jimmie Johnson. Busch was 22nd in qualifying and Patrick was 24th. Still, it could have been much worse after all the work to switch from Chevrolet to Ford in the offseason.

“It’s a great effort, considering everything these guys have gone through all season long, switching manufacturers and everything that goes with that,’’ Bowyer said after his qualifying effort Sunday. “That’s a lot. That’s a huge undertaking and these guys did it without fail. 

“The Ford bunch and the Roush Yates horsepower I knew was going to be something we could lean on. We just came up a little bit short, but that’s two of our cars in the top seven. 

“I watched Kevin in that Clash. I liked what I saw there. He could push and move (Brad Keselowski) and (Clash winner Joey Logano). On a track like this, those are your teammates and we’re going to work together and win this damn thing. That’s what we’re here for.” 

Logano said he and Harvick, his new Ford teammate, worked well together toward the end of the Clash.

“We’re able to work really well together because we’re both going to be aggressive to get to the front, and we both understand we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to win,’’ Logano said. “I think that’s a good driver to work with on a speedway, and it’s not the first time we’ve worked together.’’ 

While Harvick walked away smiling Sunday, he wasn’t the only one from Stewart-Haas Racing who was enthused.

“It feels good to be competitive again,’’ Bowyer said. “I was down here last year (with HScott Motorsports) and we were way off the pace. It was crushing because you know deep down you don’t even have a chance, and when you’ve got a car like this – a hot rod like this and a team like this – I’ve got a chance.”

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NASCAR America: Parker Kligerman takes to simulator to show Xfinity changes at Indy (video)

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While Saturday will mark the sixth straight year the NASCAR Xfinity Series will race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there will be significant changes. 

Among the changes: the use of restrictor plates, as well as adding aero ducts to aid cars with the draft.

On Tbursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman took a spin around the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway — on the NBCSN iRacing Simulator, that is — to show how some of those changes will impact the cars and potentially the race.

Check it out in the video above.

Friday’s NASCAR schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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Friday will be somewhat of an easy, relaxing day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Cars will only take to the track twice in the afternoon — both being Xfinity Series practice sessions, which will be on the NBC Sports App.

IMS will host the NASCAR Cup Fan Fest from 4:30 – 8 p.m. ET, followed by the NASCAR Cup hauler parade that will see transporters enter the Speedway around 9 p.m. ET.

Here’s the rest of Friday’s schedule (all times Eastern):

FRIDAY, JULY 21

9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 – 1:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

NASCAR America: Pit crew members share their hidden talents

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What does a sky diver and Olympic-caliber swimmer have in common?

They make their living on NASCAR’s pit road, that’s what.

Check out two of this week’s pit crew all-star nominees, as seen on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America.

NASCAR America: Xfinity drivers react to restrictor plates at Indy (video)

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On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, several of the stars of the NASCAR Xfinity Series tried to explain in three words what to expect with the use of restrictor plates in this Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

See what they said and what they’re thinking about Saturday’s race in the video above.