Kevin Harvick leads Stewart-Haas Racing to best result since last summer

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It was a nice moment but it also is time for Stewart-Haas Racing to move on. Another race beckons.

Kevin Harvick’s victory, along with a third-place finish by Clint Bowyer and an eighth-place result by Kurt Busch marked the first time in 18 races — the equivalent of half a season — that Stewart-Haas Racing placed three cars in the top 10. The last time the organization did that was at New Hampshire in July when Harvick led the way with a fifth-place result.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s fourth car, driven by Aric Almirola, ran in the top 10 part of the day at Atlanta Motor Speedway before finishing 13th.

Sunday’s performance was quite an accomplishment for the Ford team in light of questions at the beginning of the season of how well such teams would do since they had the oldest body compared to rivals Toyota (updated last year) and Chevrolet (new car this year).

Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s vice president of competition, was pleased but also looking ahead to next weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“This is a place that’s all about grip, and drivers got to like it,’’ Zipadelli said of Atlanta. “By no means are we out of the woodwork. We’re headed to Vegas, which is a complete opposite type of a racetrack next week, so we’ll look at where we’re at and judge ourselves again next week.  But awesome win. ‘’

Sunday was a good start. Harvick and Busch combined to lead 233 of the 325 laps (Harvick led a race-high 181 laps). Harvick won the opening stage and had Bowyer second, Almirola fifth and Busch eighth. In the second stage, Busch was second, Harvick fifth, Almirola eighth and Bowyer ninth.

“We unloaded with four fast cars, and we all worked together really well, and hopefully we’ll do the same thing in Vegas and be able to enjoy that same success,’’ Bowyer said.

It’s also not surprising the success Stewart-Haas Racing had with its experienced driver lineup. The top eight finishers all have raced full-time in Cup at least eight seasons entering this year.

“There’s no coincidence,’’ Harvick said.  “You know, this is a race track that takes a lot of experience, and there’s a lot of things that you have to know about your car and know about the race track to get the car around the race track. This is where experience pays off at these types of race tracks for sure.’’

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Saturday schedule for Cup at Sonoma, Trucks at Gateway

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Cup cars are only on the track for qualifying today at Sonoma Raceway, and Camping Work Truck teams will qualify and race at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Johnny Sauter has won three of the last five Truck races. Brett Moffitt won last weekend’s Truck race at Iowa.

Here’s today’s schedule at both tracks:

(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)

At SONOMA RACEWAY

10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — Cup garage open

2:45 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/two rounds (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

4:30 p.m. — K&N Pro Series West race; 64 laps, 127.36 miles (airs at 6 p.m. ET June 28 on NBCSN)

At GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK

11 a.m. — Truck garage opens

Noon – 1 p.m. — Final Truck practice (No TV)

5:45 p.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (airs from 7-8 p.m. on FS1)

7 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting

8 p.m. — Driver introductions

8:30 p.m. — Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200; 160 laps/200 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Kurt Busch fastest in final Cup practice at Sonoma

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Kurt Busch posted the fastest single lap in the final practice for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 94.061 mph.

He beat second-place Denny Hamlin (94.012 mph) by .040 seconds.

Martin Truex Jr. (93.718) had the third fastest lap, but the team will have some work to do before Saturday’s qualification. With nine minutes remaining on the clock, he ran into the back of Bubba Wallace in the esses and did significant damage to his nose. Wallace landed 34th on the chart with a speed of 91.641 mph.

Jamie McMurray (93.549) and Kevin Harvick (93.441) rounded out the top five.

Harvick (91.468) had the quickest 10-lap average – leading a sweep of the top three by Stewart Haas Racing. Busch was second quickest at 91.452 mph with Clint Bowyer third quick at 91.443 mph.

William Byron broke an axle seal in final practice, but the team was able to get him back on track with 24 minutes remaining in the session. His speed of 92.279 mph was 25th fastest.

Click here for the full report from final practice.

Friday Truck Series practice report from Gateway

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Second practice

Last week’s winner, Brett Moffitt topped the speed chart in Friday evening’s practice session for the Eaton 200 with a speed of 137.191 mph.

He beat second-place Myatt Snider (136.658 mph) by .128 seconds.

Johnny Sauter (136.608), Riley Herbst (136.355), and Ben Rhodes (136.219) round out the top five.

Herbst is making his Truck Series debut this week.

Also making his Truck debut is Zane Smith, who posted a lap of 136.120 mph to land sixth on the chart.

Christian Eckes (135.906) failed to back up his series-leading speed from the first practice session and was only ninth fastest, but he had the quickest 10-lap average of 135.039 mph.

Click here for complete results from practice 2.

First practice

Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.

When they finally got on track, Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph. He is making his Truck series debut this week.

Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324), who landed second on the speed chart.

Rhodes (134.120), Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.

Rhodes had the quickest 10-lap average of 133.466 mph.

With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.

Click here for complete results from practice one.

Denny Hamlin offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

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Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.

“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”

Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’

Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.

They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.

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