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Hard as it may seem to believe, Kevin Harvick still seeking first Texas Cup win

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Kevin Harvick is one of the most prolific drivers in NASCAR. Regardless whether it’s been NASCAR Cup, the Xfinity Series or the Camping World Truck Series, Harvick has enjoyed success across the board.

All told, the Bakersfield, California native has a combined 95 wins across NASCAR’s top three national series: 35 in Cup, 46 in Xfinity and 14 in Trucks.

Six of those wins have come at Texas Motor Speedway: five in Xfinity and one in Trucks.

But as hard as it may seem to believe, Harvick has never taken home the ceremonial cowboy hat and pair of six-shooters for winning a Cup race at the 1.5-mile track. Texas is one of four tracks that Harvick has never won a Cup race at. The others are Kentucky, Pocono and Sonoma.

With a new, untested surface that will have Cup cars on it for the first time this weekend, Harvick may have his best chance of winning a Cup race deep in the heart of Texas.

All drivers will be on the same page because of the recently completed repaving. And that could be to Harvick’s advantage, as he’s one of the best when it comes to driving a new track by feel.

For example, he won the first race at Chicagoland Speedway when that 1.5-mile oval opened in 2001, and followed it up with another win the following year as well.

Harvick has made 28 Cup starts to date at Texas, with an average finish of 12.0 and an average start of 17.9.

The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet has six top-fives, including back-to-back runner-up finishes in fall 2014 and spring 2015, his highest showings there. He also has two third-place finishes and two other top-five finishes.

That’s plenty of incentive already to win at Texas. But there’s more.

Harvick has struggled this season by his usual performance standards. He has yet to win or earn a top-five. His best finishes have been sixth (Phoenix) and ninth (Atlanta).

Harvick will not only race in Sunday’s main event, he’ll get some additional track time in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

“When we picked Texas, it was just a racetrack I like to race at and a market they (Hunt Brothers Pizza) wanted to be in,” Harvick said in a media release. “Little did we know it was going to be part of a repave and now it’s part of this weekend.

“It’s really going to be beneficial for me to see how the race track evolves and progresses throughout the weekend. To get a race underneath my belt on Saturday before we have to get in the car on Sunday is something where you can take a lot of information from the same tires and same air pressures. Just from the driver’s standpoint, to see where to drive on the racetrack is going to be very beneficial.”

Texas’ new racing surface is an unknown, but Harvick is ready.

“It does feel like we’re going in somewhat blind,” he said. “(TMS track president) Eddie Gossage spent a lot of time talking to the drivers and really trying to figure out what they could do to make their race track better since they were going to have to repave it.

“Turns one and two are much wider with a little bit less banking. The hope is that we’ll be able to carry a little more speed in there and have to use some brakes to slow the cars down. Turns three and four are virtually the same. They put a lot of thought into making things different.

“I think it’s going to be a great challenge. It’s like going to the roller-coaster park and getting on a roller coaster that scares you to death the first time. There’s nothing like going out there and getting scared to death, sliding around trying to figure out where you’re going. There’s a lot more to think about than normal.”

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NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Denny Hamlin showing ‘remarkable consistency’

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Things have been going relatively well for Denny Hamlin on the track in 2018.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver enters this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway sixth in points. Through five races, he’s finished outside the top six once (17th, Las Vegas).

NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan discussed his season so far in addition to Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

Letarte said Hamlin has displayed “remarkable consistency.”

“Denny Hamlin is in my mind a super star driver that I know I am guilty of leaving him out of super star conversations,” Letarte said.

Ryan pointed to mistakes on pit road that have prevented Hamlin from enjoying more success this season and in his career overall. His result at Las Vegas was the result of a speeding penalty.

“Five races this season, four pit mistakes,” Ryan said. “He overshot his box at Daytona, he did that at Fontana, he sped in the pits at Phoenix. While I think they’ve had speed, I think that team is still stumbling in the same ways it has in the past. Unless they correct that, I don’t know if they’re championship level yet.”

Hamlin heads to Martinsville where he has won a career-best five races.

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Trevor Bayne on Charlotte Roval: ‘You have to be on your game’

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Rain washed out the second day of Goodyear tire testing Wednesday on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval. Goodyear has tentatively scheduled May 1 as a make-up test date.

Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Kyle Larson took part in the test Tuesday.

“I just took some slow pace laps and got a feel for the race track,” Bayne said in a statement from Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I was nervous, but I wasn’t anxious because I was never going to go out there and make qualifying laps. We worked our pace in and our plan, we stuck to it. I felt really good by the end of the day.

“You have to be on your game, that’s for sure. You can’t really let your guard down anywhere. There’s no room to make mistakes. If you make a mistake, you’re going to pay for it pretty quickly. If you try to do something and it doesn’t work, you’ll pay the price. It’s going to be a survival race. … If you’re smart, you take care of your car and you don’t make mistakes, you’ll have a really good shot at the end for a good finish. I enjoyed it. It was a challenge for me – something new – and I enjoyed that part of it.”

Organizational tests at Charlotte will be in July. There will be two different sessions. Each team is allowed to test at one of the two sessions, which will be July 10 (rain date of July 11) and July 17 (rain date of July 18).

The Charlotte Roval hosts the final race of the first round of the Cup playoffs on Sept. 30 on NBC.

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NASCAR issues two fines for unsecured lug nuts at Auto Club Speedway

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NASCAR announced two crew chief fines for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Adam Stevens, crew chief on Kyle Busch‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

In the Xfinity Series, Eric Phillips, the crew chief for Ryan Preece‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

No other penalties were announced.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Drivers to watch, favorite sports upsets

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and begins to look forward to this weekend’s racing at Martinsville Speedway.

Marty Snider hosts with Dale Jarrett, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan from the “Big Oak Table” in Charlotte.

What to expect from today’s show.

  • The same names have been dominating the headlines in the first five races in the 2018 season. We will take a look at some of the other drivers to be on the lookout for as the season rolls on.
  • One of NASCAR’s most historic tracks is up this weekend – Martinsville! We’ll check out some of the recent drama “The Paperclip” has provided ahead of the race.
  • In the spirit of March Madness, our panel will tell us about their most memorable sports moments, as well as some of NASCAR’s biggest upsets.
  • Plus, The Indianapolis 500 will have a new home in 2019. We’ll have all the details on NASCAR America.

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.