Harvick at Atlanta: 20th race he led most laps yet failed to win in last 110 starts

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For Kevin Harvick, it was love at first sight – and race – at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He won his first-ever Cup race there in 2001 after replacing the late Dale Earnhardt in the renumbered No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Sixteen years and 26 races later, Harvick is still waiting to get back to victory lane at the challenging 1.54-mile oval. He’s had a pair of runner-up finishes (2009 and 2015), but once again came up short Sunday.

Harvick dominated the Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 at AMS, leading 292 of the 325 scheduled laps.

But one mistake turned out to be a huge error and wound up costing Harvick the win.

With 15 laps left in the race, the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion was caught speeding on pit road.

End result, Harvick was busted back in the field, rebounded slightly but could never get past ninth place, where he ultimately finished at.

“I was going too fast on pit road, apparently,” Harvick told Fox Sports after the race. “I really hate it for everyone on the Jimmy Johns Ford. They put a great car under me and did everything we thought we needed to do.

“I knew I had to be close to pit road speed because we were having trouble getting out of the (pit) box, but I didn’t think I was pushing it that close.

“But it gets to bouncing there and you don’t know where you’re at and that’s why there’s so many pit road speed penalties here and you have to run it close. I was too fast.”

Harvick’s 292 laps led was a single-race record at AMS – for leading the most laps and failing to seal the deal with a win. It was also the fourth consecutive race at Atlanta that Harvick has led the most laps (led 131 last year) and still lost.

That’s 734 laps led out of 1,315 laps contested at AMS since 2014.

But there’s more: it was the 20th time in Harvick’s last 110 NASCAR Cup starts that he has led the most laps (not including races he won) and came up short of victory lane.

Break that down even more and in the 38 NASCAR Cup races since the start of 2016, Harvick has led the most laps in seven of those – and yet failed to win: Atlanta, Fontana, Dover, Kentucky, Darlington in 2016 and Daytona and Atlanta thus far in 2017.

Even though Harvick loves AMS, it’s apparent that the track doesn’t have the same regard for him.

“This place, for whatever reason, I just feel like I’m snake-bitten,” Harvick said. “It’s my own doing today. I really didn’t think I was even close on pit lane.

“I thought I was being conservative; apparently I wasn’t. I was just pushing it too hard.”

Ironically, Harvick did exactly the same thing he has railed against his entire career.

“I just made a mistake that I preach all the time that you don’t need to make and beat yourself,” Harvick said. “And then you go out and make it yourself instead of following all the things you preach.

“That part is hard for me to follow. … Man, I just, one way or another, I have figured out how to lose races here at Atlanta after being so dominant. We will pick ‘em up and start again next week.”

And likely be grateful that he won’t return to Atlanta for another 12 months.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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:/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.

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.