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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 at 5 p.m. ET: Auto Club Speedway recap, West Coast Awards

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and looks back at the weekend’s racing at Auto Club Speedway.

Rutledge Wood hosts with Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett from the “Big Oak Table” at NBC Charlotte.

What to expect from the show.

  • Martin Truex Jr. flashed his championship form from last year and earned his first win of the 2018 season Sunday in Fontana. We’ll recap the last race of NASCAR Goes West from around the “Big Oak Table” at our NBC Sports studios in Charlotte. Plus, Rut and the gang will hand out the West Coast awards, honoring the best moments from the Vegas-Phoenix-Fontana run.
  • NASCAR is a sport built on families, and it’s seen lots of kids grow up at the track through the years. We’ll spend time discussing the next generation to catch the racing bug – including Harrison Burton, son of our Jeff Burton.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http:/

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.

Landon Cassill gets Cup ride for Martinsville, Texas

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Landon Cassill will drive the No. 00 for StarCom Racing in the next two races, Martinsville and Texas, the team announced Monday.

Cassill replaces Jeffrey Earnhardt. StarCom Racing and Earnhardt parted ways after Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway will mark Cassill’s first Cup race of the year. The 28-year-old has 259 career Cup starts and a career-best finish of fourth at Talladega in October 2014. He drove for Front Row Motorsports the past two seasons but was not retained after last year.

Cassill’s sponsor the next two races will be the United States First Responders Association, a non-profit, professional and social network of fire, EMS, rescue, law enforcement and military personnel, as well as civilian support teams.

StarCom Racing was privileged to acquire a new partnership with USFRA and Landon Cassill behind the wheel,” said Derrike Cope, team manager, in a statement. “I’m optimistic that his knowledge and experience will only help our efforts as well as the growth of our team.”

Said Cassill in a statement: “I love working with new teams. I feel like that is one of my strengths. StarCom Racing looks like they are in it for the long haul, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.” 

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Hendrick Motorsports withdraws appeal of Phoenix penalties against No. 9 team

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Hendrick Motorsports has withdrawn its appeal of penalties against Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 team from last weekend’s race in Phoenix, NBC Sports confirmed.

NASCAR found a L1 infraction on Elliott’s car in the rear-suspension after the race at ISM Raceway.

NASCAR stated that the team’s truck trailing arm spacer/pinion angle shim mounting surfaces must be planar and in complete contact with corresponding mating surfaces at all points and at all times.

NASCAR fined crew chief Alan Gustafson $50,000, suspended car chief Josh Kirk two races and docked Elliott 25 points and the team 25 owner points. Elliott’s third-place finish in the race will not count toward any tiebreakers.

Following Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway, where Elliott finished 16th, he is 21st in the point standings.

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Preliminary entry lists for Martinsville

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NASCAR visits a short track for the first time this season when it heads to Martinsville Speedway, the oldest track on the circuit.

The Cup Series is joined by the Camping World Truck Series, which has been off the last two weeks.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – STP 500

There are 38 cars entered.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is listed as driving StarCom Racing’s No. 00 Chevrolet, but the team announced Sunday it has parted ways with Earnhardt.

Landon Cassill will take his place this weekend and at Texas Motor Speedway.

D.J. Kennington is entered in his third race this season, driving Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

Ross Chastain is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet for the fifth time this season.

Harrison Rhodes is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. Rhodes has one start in the No. 51 at Atlanta.

Last year, Brad Keselowski won this race after leading 116 of 500 laps. He beat Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. In the fall playoff race, Busch won over Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

Click here for the entry lists.

Trucks – Alpha Energy Solutions 250

There are 36 trucks entered.

Todd Gilliland will make his first start of the season in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Toyota.

His father, David Gilliland, is entered in DGR-Crosley’s No. 54 Toyota.

Timothy Peters will make his first start of the year driving Ricky Benton Racing’s No. 92 Ford. A former driver for the defunct Red Horse Racing, Peters’ last start was in the 2017 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, Chase Elliott won this race over Johnny Sauter and Christopher Bell. The fall playoff race was won by Noah Gragson over Matt Crafton and Sauter.

Click here for the entry list.