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: Erik Jones’ racing roots in Byron, Michigan

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After a feature looking at his upbringing in Byron, Michigan, Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones spoke with NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Marty Snider about the early years of his racing career.

The journey to his NASCAR career began with a yard cart that his late father, Dave Jones, brought home one day when he was 3.

“I rode that all day long around the yard,” Jones said. “Winter time would and we had like a gravel circle driveway in front of our house. When it would snow over I would get the kart out and ride it around in the snow because I could slide and I thought that was pretty cool. I would get it stuck about every five minutes out in the snow.”

Jones would then get out of the kart and find his dad in their barn to come out get him out.

Now 21, Jones also discussed how much his dad was involved in his career until his death in June 2016 after a battle with cancer.

He also explains how he’s never stayed in any series for more than one year in his career.

Watch the video above for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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“I sure as (expletive) hope that’s all out of our system.”

That’s what Kyle Busch had to say over his radio after he finished 15th, a lap down in the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch’s day went south after the first stage thanks to two pit miscues the sent him two laps down.

Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. dominate the field to win his fifth race of the year and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

In the latest “Scan All,” True and crew chief Cole Pearn recap their day, which saw them bounce back from their own pit road mistakes.

Here are other highlights from this week’s “Scan All.”

  • “Can’t drive in a straight line. Something’s not right with the front end.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just before he made contact with the outside wall. A commitment line violation resulted in Stenhouse finish multiple laps off the lead.
  • “Tell the 1 (Jamie McMurray) I don’t know what happened there but we both got the short end of the stick.” – Ryan Newman after contact between him and McMurray sent McMurray spinning on a restart.
  • (Expletive), that 24 (Chase Elliott) can be so much (expletive) faster than us.” – Kasey Kahne after being told he was two laps down.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones recounts rookie Cup season, being taught by Kyle Busch

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Erik Jones, the rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing in the No. 77 Toyota, joined NASCAR America Wednesday for a special show from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 21-year-old driver won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title and is teammates with Martin Truex Jr.

With Marty Snider, Dale Jarrett and Steve Letarte, Jones discussed the challenges and lessons he’s faced in his first full-time season in the Cup Series.

“The biggest (milestones) for me were trying to win a race and making the playoffs,” Jones said. “Obviously, making the playoffs didn’t happen. … I look back at the last few seasons and rookies that have been in the sport and it’s so hard to win races now. You just don’t see rookies do it a lot.”

Jones also discussed finishing second to Kyle Busch in the Bristol night race and his relationship with the driver who brought him into NASCAR beginning with the Truck Series.

“A lot of times when I was racing in Trucks and Xfinity and Kyle would come to race I’d always run second to him,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘you know what the problem is? This is the guy who taught me how to race these cars. So I’m good at all the same tracks he’s good at. Except he’s been doing about 10 more years than I have.”

Watch the video for more.

 

PJ1 adhesive to be applied again to track for this weekend’s races at Loudon

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With the successful use of the PJ1 compound in July’s NASCAR Cup race there, New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials announced Wednesday they will apply the compound again to the track for this weekend’s racing.

The 1.058-mile flat track will play host to the Cup and Camping World Truck Series playoff races, as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the American Canadian Tour race series.

“There’s no question that the track bite compound we laid down in July allowed for some awesome racing around the entire racetrack,” NHMS executive VP and GM David McGrath said in a statement. “We received some very positive feedback from the drivers, teams and, most importantly, the fans. The support to do it again in September was overwhelming.”

McGrath said the PJ1 adhesive compound will be added to the first and third grooves in all four turns on Thursday evening. It will be reapplied again on Saturday night to be fresh for Sunday afternoon’s Cup race.

Several drivers gave their endorsement for the move:

Kyle Larson: “I think it’s awesome. I was surprised at how well it worked. I liked the element of it changing quickly and wearing out and then wearing out in different spots and stuff. It just adds an element to us that we have to adapt to. In the past … you kind of just run the same line all race long, but (in July) everybody I got around was running somewhat of a different line, and I thought that was a really cool thing.”

Joey Logano: “The question got put out to a lot of different drivers … from the (NASCAR Cup Drivers Council). We kind of got on our group chat and were talking back and forth about what we thought was best. (In the past) after 10 or 15 laps, everyone is kind of where they are at and passes don’t happen often. The wider we can make the racetrack, the more passes that can be made.”

Kyle Busch: “We always run that one lane here, which I call the middle lane. They were just trying to widen the racetrack a little bit and give a little bit more opportunity for us to be able to run side by side and not feel like we’re crashing here all the time or running into each other on restarts.”

Kevin Harvick: “I like the prospects of us trying different things. As the (summer Cup) race wore on, things changed. You had to move around. The PJ1 is one of those things that can definitely make the race better if you can add more lanes of racing.”

Austin Dillon: “I thought (the PJ1) held on good throughout the race in July; I’m a fan of it. July’s race was a blast and everyone is excited about it this time around. We’re going to be aggressive and just go after it this weekend.”