Kevin Harvick wins Cup race at Sonoma, ends 20-race winless streak

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Kevin Harvick led the final 22 laps and managed to save enough fuel to win Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

The top five were Harvick, Clint Bower, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

It was Harvick’s first win of the season and ends a 20-race winless streak dating back to last October at Kansas Speedway. It is also Harvick’s first win since Stewart-Haas Racing switched from Chevrolet to Ford.

“It’s been a lot of work, a lot of the guys have put in a lot of hours” Harvick told Fox Sports 1. “It’s paying off. I feel like we’ve got a lot of room to grow.

“For us, it’s been okay. We’ve been competitive, we just haven’t gotten to victory lane. I felt like we’ve had a couple of opportunities to get there but just came up a little bit short. This is worth the wait, to come to Sonoma so many years.”

The 1.99-mile road course was one of four tracks on the Cup circuit Harvick had not won at. The win comes in his 17th start at the track. It came after Harvick placed 25th in Stage 1 and 20th in Stage 2

Harvick, who grew up about 300 miles south of Sonoma in Bakersfield, California, completed a weekend sweep after winning Saturday’s K&N Pro Series race the track.

“I guess we’ll have to do that again because it worked out pretty good,” Harvick said.

Stage 1 winner: Martin Truex Jr.

Stage 2 winner: Jimmie Johnson

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Brad Keselowski successfully used pit strategy to earn his first top five at Sonoma. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the only other track he does not have a top five … Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth in his final Sonoma start after being involved in two accidents early in the race. It’s his fourth top 10 of the year … Paul Menard finished 11th, his best result since placing ninth at Talladega.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: After winning Stage 1 and leading 25 laps, Martin Truex Jr. left the race with 24 laps to go with an engine problem. He finished 37th in his second DNF of the year. …. Kasey Kahne crashed on the frontstretch on the last lap of the race. He finished 24th. … Danica Patrick salvaged her day by finishing 17th after being in two accidents early in the race, the second a wreck in Turn 4 early in Stage 2 that took out Ricky Stenhouse Jr.AJ Allmendinger finished 35th, six laps down after suffering battery problems mid-race. … Pole-sitter Kyle Larson finished 26th, one lap down. It’s his worst finish of the year outside his DNF in the Coke 600.

NOTABLE: Harvick is now four wins away from having 100 total among all three of NASCAR’s national series … Harvick’s win over Bowyer was the third time Stewart-Haas Racing has finished 1-2 in a Cup race … Alon Day, the first Israeli-born driver to compete in the Cup series, finished 32nd in his series debut.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I had no earthly idea what was going on. I passed so many cars. I don’t even know what strategy won. It was very difficult to know what was going on from inside the car. I would assume that caused a lot of great viewing and entertainment that was fun to watch, but I had no clue what was going on out there.” – Jimmie Johnson after finishing 13th.

WHAT’S NEXT: Coke Zero 400 at Dayton International Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 1 on NBC.

Brad Keselowski, Elliott Sadler fastest in final Xfinity practice at Michigan

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Brad Keselowski topped the speed charts for Friday’s second and final Xfinity Series practice for Saturday’s Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway.

The NASCAR Cup regular and Michigan native made it around his home track with a best lap of 193.149 mph. Just a tick behind was Elliott Sadler (193.086 mph).

Third- through fifth-fastest were Brandon Jones (191.108), Ryan Sieg (190.713) and Denny Hamlin (189.763).

Sixth- through 10th-fastest were Matt Tifft (189.608 mph), Kyle Busch (189.534), Paul Menard (189.061), Daniel Hemric (188.788) and Ryan Reed (188.768).

A total of 39 drivers took laps in the session.

Click here for a full field rundown of Friday’s second and final Xfinity practice.

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UPDATED: NASCAR entry lists for Michigan (Cup, Xfinity), Gateway (Trucks)

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Michigan International Speedway will play host to both the NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Xfinity series this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park just outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race:

NASCAR Cup Series – FireKeepers Casino 400

A total of 39 cars are entered for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400. All driver spots are filled, with the exception of the No. 51 Chevrolet of Rick Ware Racing. All crew chief spots are filled.

Also, it was announced Tuesday morning that Ryan Sieg will replace Gray Gaulding behind the wheel of the No. 23 BK Racing Dr. Pepper Toyota for Sunday’s race.

Among the notable elements of the race is it will be the second straight Cup start for Darrell Wallace Jr., who is filling in for the injured Aric Almirola.

Joey Logano dominated this race last year, leading 138 of the 200 laps. Meanwhile, Kyle Larson earned his first career Cup win at MIS last August.

Click here for the entry list for the FireKeepers Casino 400.

NASCAR Xfinity Series – Irish Hills 250

As for Saturday’s Irish Hills 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race, a full 40-car field is set.

All driver and crew chief spots are filled for this race.

Among NASCAR Cup drivers entered are Ty Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

Daniel Suarez won this race last year.

Click here for the entry list for the Irish Hills 250.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – Drivin’ For Linemen 200

There are 28 Trucks entered for the 17th Truck Series race at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

There are two vacant spots for drivers and four vacant spots for crew chiefs on the entry list:

Drivers are needed to fill the No. 44 and No. 199 Trucks, while crew chiefs are needed for the No. 0 of Jennifer Jo Cobb, No. 136 of Kevin Donahue, No. 44 (driver still unnamed) and No. 63 of Kyle Donahue.

Christopher Bell is the defending winner of this race. Bell comes into the race looking for a second straight victory after winning last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Click here for the entry list for the Drivin’ For Linemen 200.

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Ryan Blaney gives Cup Series fifth first-time winner in two seasons

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The NASCAR record books have changed a lot in the last two months.

When Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag to win Sunday’s Pocono 400, it continued an avalanche of first-time winners in the Cup Series.

Blaney is the third first-time winner in the last five races and the fifth in the last two years.

The current stretch began May 7 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won at Talladega, claiming his first victory in five full-time seasons on the circuit.

Two races later in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 28, Austin Dillon ended his long wait by successfully saving enough fuel to win the longest race in NASCAR. In the process, he also took the No. 3 to victory lane for the first time in the Cup Series since 2000.

Two weeks later, Blaney took Wood Brothers Racing to victory lane for just the third time since the turn of the century.

But the current trend of first-time winners began in Pocono last year on August 1. Chris Buescher, then driving for Front Row Motorsports, was in the lead under caution when rain and fog forced the race to be called on Lap 138. Unlike the other recent first timers, Buescher’s win came in just his 27th Cup start.

Three races later, Kyle Larson began to establish himself in the Cup Series by winning at Michigan International Speedway. The victory came in Larson’s third full-time season in the Cup Series.

Before their wins, the Cup circuit experienced a relatively long drought of first-time visitors to victory lane.

Before Buescher, the last first-timer was AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen International in August 2014, a stretch of 70 races between first-time winners.

A month before that, Aric Almirola was the winner of the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

And before Almirola, the Cup series went two full seasons without a first-time winner. That drought was after five drivers broke through in 2011.

Trevor Bayne started off that year in the biggest way possible, winning the Daytona 500 in just his second Cup start. He would be joined that year by Regan Smith (Southern 500), David Ragan (Coke Zero 400), Paul Menard (Brickyard 400) and Marcos Ambrose (Watkins Glen).

With Blaney’s win, it puts a little more pressure on his fellow “young guns” to win. NASCAR is still waiting for the breakthrough of 2016 Rookie of the Year Chase Elliott and rookies Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon and new arrival Darrell Wallace Jr.

“Ryan took that (first win) crown from us,” Jones said Sunday after finishing third. “It is great for the sport, honestly. I’m usually not very happy to see other people win, but I was happy to see Ryan win. It was really cool for him, and just really cool to see him get the win. I know how excited he probably is right now, and it really makes the other young guys, me, Chase, Daniel (Suarez), all feel like we do have a shot to go up and do it.”

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What drivers said after Pocono 400

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Here’s a sampling of what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono Raceway:

Ryan Blaney – Winner: “Kyle (Busch) stayed out and he was on a little bit older tires and it looked like he was getting pretty tight, especially off of (Turn) 1 and that’s where new tires really seemed to come alive because you could hold the line and get runs on him, downshift and get next to him. I had a big run on him off of (Turn) 3 and he did a good job blocking, and we were able to get under him, but then I had to hold (Kevin Harvick) off. He was super-fast. I can’t thank Kevin enough for racing me clean.  That was really cool of him, but it was definitely hectic. Hopefully the fans liked it. It was really cool.”

KEVIN HARVICK – Finished 2nd: “I got behind a couple times and had a fast enough car to make it back up. And then I missed a shift from third to second. I just have to thank the Roush Yates engine shop for building a pretty sturdy engine because it should have blown up and it never blew up. I think there at the end I just couldn’t get into the corner like we needed to all day and I couldn’t stop like I needed to. (Blaney) could charge the corner, so I needed for him to make a mistake and try to get up underneath him on the exit of the corner. He never made a mistake and did a great job and ended up winning the race.”

Erik Jones – Finished 3rd: “It’s just gratifying. You stick with it and stick to your guns and know what you have and keep doing the same thing week in and week out and sometimes it’s tough to do that. You hope it’s going to come back around and I got the finish I felt like we deserved.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 4th: “It was warm and we battled really hard today and had a nice, consistent run. I just didn’t have any special speed, but we ran good lap times, so I’m really proud of our Haas Automation/Monster Energy guys. It’s great to see a Ford in victory lane, so congratulations to the Wood Brothers. They deserve this. To see Ryan Blaney win, he’s gonna be a superstar in this sport. NASCAR loves him. We love him. He’s a good kid and I’m gonna keep pushing hard, though. We’re chiseling away at this and we’re gonna get in good position.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 5th: “I just didn’t get enough go on the restart, which was a bummer. I don’t know, I feel like I probably could have won it if I had just gotten that launch. Kyle (Busch) got a great launch. He went a tiny bit before the line, but not enough to where NASCAR was gonna call it, and I didn’t get the launch I needed.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 6th: “It was a tough day, but we battled hard after having to start at the back due to an engine change after Saturday’s practice. This team never quits, fought right to the end and did have a shot of winning this thing. But when the race restarted for the final time we weren’t in the preferred outside lane. We wanted to be fourth instead of fifth and have the inside lane. But (Ryan) Blaney got that spot by just beating us off pit road.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 7th: “It was a decent day. I would have liked to finish better, obviously; I just didn’t get the best restarts. It seemed like if I was on the top I was behind guys that were on no tires and they’d be three-wide into (Turn) 1 and I’d be on the very top. And, when I’d restart on the bottom, I’d just get slowed down too much and then I couldn’t have a very good run off the corners. So, my restarts weren’t great. But, our car was a lot better than I thought it would be after practices.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 8th: “I wasn’t real pleased with it. That’s not a comforting feeling if your brakes are going away. But, mine weren’t bad enough. I could manage it. I could kind of keep them in check. I knew kind of when I was pushing them the pedal would fade, but if I took it easy on them they’d come back. So, it was on the edge but manageable.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR – Finished 11th: “I’m really proud of my team. We struggled all weekend with the handling of our car so to leave Pocono with an 11th – place finish is a true testament of the strength of our team. Our focus this year is to be consistent. We definitely learned some things for next time.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 13th: “The balance felt good for most of the race, but would tighten up in Turn 3 every now and then, so I had to really focus on my entry and exit in that corner. One of the biggest challenges was the heat. By lap 28, it felt like my A/C unit overheated or something and from there I had no air conditioning. I was alright during most of the race, but that red flag was just miserable. I was able to make it through and started dumping water on my face when I could, which helped a little bit. But we battled through the challenges; that’s what this team does. We were able to hang on and grab a 13th-place finish.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 14th: ”Unfortunately we had overheating issues with trash and then we sustained an exhaust leak that made my driver’s seat extremely hot during the race. It’s a shame. It’s like we never had the chance to show our muscle. We were just tending to issues that kept creeping up, instead of focusing on getting our car better to contend with the front-runners.” 

Danica Patrick – Finished 16th: “All in all, it was a clean day for the Aspen Dental Ford team. We didn’t make any mistakes at all and ended up with a solid finish. I wish we’d had more grip there at the end, but overall it was a good day for our team.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 17th: “I thought we had a pretty good car on long runs today, but we got into the wall and that ruined our race. We got a lap down but battled back. Our guys didn’t give up and we got an OK finish.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 18th: “There was so much strategy in today’s race at Pocono. Once we got close to what we needed, we started playing with a strategy to make up track position in the final two stages. It’s so important at this track, but so hard to get once the field spreads out. It worked how we needed it to, and our car really started to come around there at the end. I took off on that last restart and picked off a couple other cars in the short amount of time that I had. Now I’ll focus on our plan for Michigan next weekend.’’

Paul Menard — Finished 20th: “Matt (Borland, crew chief) and the team did a really good job finding the right balance. The pit crew did a great job. We were able to race around the top 15 for a majority of the day and had some really good speed in the final segment. Our fuel strategy worked and by the time the final pit stop came around, we were in position to score a top-10 finish. I’m not really sure what happened on that last restart, but I didn’t get the best restart and messed up shifting gears into Turn 1.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 21st: “We just kept getting tighter throughout the day. We made adjustments all day long but our Ford Fusion was still tight on the exit of the corners. We’ll regroup and get after it next week in Jack’s (Roush) backyard in Michigan.”

David Ragan – Finished 25th: “We had good strategy by Derrick Finley and our 38 team. We had one weak run – the second-to-last run when we were racing for the lucky dog. I don’t know if we had a funny set of tires or if we went a little too far on an adjustment, but that was our weakest run. All in all, we made improvements on the car. We just have to start a little bit better at the beginning of these races, but I’m proud of this Overton’s team. They had good strategy and a good day on pit road and we were able to salvage a decent finish.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. — Finished 26th: “I’m just so bummed out and frustrated with myself. I know my family is going to be hard on me after this, not to be so hard on myself, but I’m competitive and I want to win races and I want to lead laps. Just wanted to have a good showing, and to speed four, five times, same segment, that was pretty tough to swallow, and then this race just going green the whole time … it was just not our day.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 27th: “We got it better later, but we just didn’t have a very good first half of the race and we never had a chance to fight back.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 34th: “I was going down the front stretch about halfway and the right front popped. I had been fighting serious brake problems for a while. So, I’m guessing it had something to do with that.  But it happened in the middle of the front stretch so I just kind of rode the wall, blew my brakes off, rode the wall to the backstretch, which actually was a very easy ride for where it happened. Just disappointed that happened, that is three weeks in a row we have had issues.” 

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 36th: “No, (the brake pedal) went right to the floor and I saw a replay inside the medical center. The smoke, I think, is the brake fluid coming out of wherever failed and onto the rotors. I can only speculate that I got the brakes too hot and when I went to the brakes they just traveled straight to the floor. I didn’t even have a pedal to push on. At that point, I threw it in third gear and I was just trying to slow it down. I was heading to the grass and I was wondering why I didn’t turn right and get to the wall sooner, but I’m fine. Certainly, a big scare. I haven’t had a scare like that since 2000 at Watkins Glen.” 

Jamie McMurray – Finished 37: “I didn’t really even see the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car wrecking until I just went down and I got on the brake pedal and my pedal started to go to the floor and I had a little bit that I could kind of pump it and I thought I was going to be okay.  And then, I don’t know if I got into some oil or what happened, but I just started spinning and didn’t have any brakes.  So, it was really weird that we kind of both had the same thing happen at the same point on the racetrack, but fortunately, we are both okay and yeah, move on.” 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 38th: “It’s just my fault. I wish I could say that the shifter is different and something is out of line or not something I was doing last year as far as where we had the shifter mounted for Pocono. This really concerns me coming back here and the road courses you know. But, we haven’t had any problems all year long, but at places where we do a lot of shifting I don’t know what is going on, what I’ve got to do or why this is really happening out of nowhere. We don’t really have an answer to it other than me just having to pay more attention, but I mean I’ve been doing this all my life and this isn’t a common issue, but it has been this weekend.”

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