Kevin Harvick’s dominance has many asking the same question in Sprint Cup garage


There are times, Rodney Childers admits, he thinks about what he and Kevin Harvick have accomplished the last 18 months and wonders.

“I’ll be riding down the road and I’m like, ‘What do we got that everybody else doesn’t have?’ ‘’ Childers told NASCAR Talk.

That question hangs over the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage. In a sport where the top teams spend millions and many of the country’s top drivers compete, Harvick has dominated since being paired with Childers.

They gave a hint of what was to come during a NASCAR test in Dec. 2013 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, running away from competitors in mock races, and carried that speed into the 2014 season. Heading into Saturday night’s race at Kansas Speedway, Harvick, the reigning series champion, remains the driver to beat.

Since the start of last season (46 races), Harvick has:

  • Won seven times – tied with Brad Keselowski for most during that stretch.
  • Scored 18 top-two finishes (39.1 percent of his starts). Next is Keselowski and Jeff Gordon with 12 each during that time.
  • Led 3,090 laps (22.4 percent of all laps run), nearly double the next two.
  • Posted the fastest lap in 15.7 percent of all the laps run (11.294).
  • Recorded an average finish of 11.5 – including a series-best average finish of 6.6 this season.

These are Jimmie Johnson-type numbers and the six-time champ knows the secret to Harvick’s success.

“It’s all about relationships,’’ Johnson said. “I have the same equipment, look right at the database and see what they’re doing. It’s people. That’s what helped us win our five championships in a row and six in total, and it’s what has (Harvick) on such a fast streak.’’

While Childers receives credit for helping Harvick’s car go fast, Childers’ best quality might be putting a championship team together. When he left Michael Waltrip Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing in Aug. 2013, Childers had time to assemble the team he wanted. Despite some early growing pains, Harvick’s strength was evident and continued at the end of last season when he finished second, first and first in the final three races to win the title.

That finish rekindled memories of Tony Stewart’s championship rally in 2011 when he placed first, first, third and first in the final four races and is the only other driver in the Chase era to win the championship by winning the season finale.

The reward for Harvick’s title was a week in Las Vegas to celebrate. Despite the accolades, Childers fretted about being out of the shop all that time while his competitors remained behind, devising ways to go faster to beat the champions.

“It scared … me,’’ Childers said.

So much so it was hard for Childers to enjoy everything in Las Vegas.

Even then Harvick was focused. Childers said that Harvick made made it a key refrain in the offseason not to settle for that one title.

“That’s all he talked about over the winter, making sure we showed everybody that we could still do it,” Childers said.

The team was ready for the challenge.

“It comes down to a good group of guys that never really settle for anything,’’ Childers said. “They don’t ever feel good about themselves for finishing second. It’s always about trying to make things better.’’

Harvick also credits Childers’ drive.

“Rodney is constantly pushing,’’ Harvick said. “I know that leads everybody else to push things and try to come up with new things. He is a detail freak, and he is always looking for something to be better and push in another direction.’’

They proved it immediately. Harvick opened the season with five consecutive top-two finishes, showing that 2014 was not a fluke and leaving competitors searching for more speed to challenge him.

At a recent test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Harvick’s car had Sam Hornish Jr. in awe. Hornish said he felt good about his speed early in the test session until Harvick got on track and went more than three-tenths of a second quicker.

Others know the feeling well.

“When I say we need more speed … I’m comparing it to (Harvick and SHR teammate Kurt Busch),’’ said Joey Logano, the only driver with more top-10 finishes (30) than Harvick (29) since the start of last season. “We need more speed. Right now, I feel like we’d win the Street Stock Division, but we’ve got to move up to the Late Model Division at some point and try to race these guys, so we just have to keep trying to find that speed.”

Said Childers: “I don’t feel like that we’ve got anything that is special as far as the car side of it other than everybody doing their job but that makes you think that much more that we’ve got to work hard to stay up there.’’


NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.