Stewart-Haas Racing puts together best race yet (video)

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It’s a good time to be Stewart-Haas Racing.

In the midst of celebrating its 10th anniversary, the team enjoyed its best Cup race yet as a four-car operation Sunday at ISM Raceway.

While Kevin Harvick grabbed a third consecutive Cup win for the first time, SHR put all four of its cars in the top 10 for the first time ever.

Clint Bowyer finished sixth, Aric Almirola finished seventh and Kurt Busch, who won Stage 2, placed 10th.

Busch has two top 10s through four races. Bowyer has two top 10s and one top five. Almirola has two top 10s. He was a half a lap away from winning the Daytona 500 until he was wrecked on the backstretch.

The team has four races with its new driver lineup after Danica Patrick departed at the end of last season. It’s also in its second season of working with Ford.

Team co-owner Tony Stewart took note of the team’s improvement at Atlanta, a race he watched from home due to the threat of rain.

“I took a picture of the screen when we had all four cars in the top seven,” Stewart said. “I took a screen shot of it as a fan. Just kept looking at it, going, ‘This is really cool.'”

Is this the strongest his team has ever been?

“I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Stewart said. “It just shows the strength of having four really good teammates that are giving four valid sets of information that they can all feed off of and work off of.  It just seems like this group of these guys really work well together.

“I think a lot of it, too, is having that little extra time like we mentioned last week, for these guys to be able to massage everything, take everything we had and make it better. It’s nice to look on the board and see all four cars in the top 10. That’s a proud moment.”

Harvick, who earned his 17th win with SHR, received a positive text message from Almirola Saturday night predicting a top-10 run for his No. 10 Ford.

“Dude, you’ve got a top-five car,” Harvick responded.  “You need to go out and run in the top five.”

Almirola’s result is his best in 15 starts at ISM Raceway.

“That’s really the most important thing because that progression as a race team, when everybody ups the ante on the car, you learn something from each car and each person,” Harvick said. “The confidence in the company goes up. The evolution of things starts to happen more rapidly. Now that the 10 car is in that evolution, it is good for our company.”

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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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Clint Bowyer leads opening Cup practice at Sonoma

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Clint Bowyer was the fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Bowyer, the winner of the most recent Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan, posted a lap of 93.590 mph. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (93.546 mph), Joey Logano (93.172), Jamie McMurray (93.049) and Daniel Suarez (92.746).

Sixth was Jimmie Johnson (92.661). He was followed by Michael McDowell (92.650), Martin Truex Jr. (92.614), AJ Allmendinger (92.596) and Ryan Newman (92.595).

Click here for full practice report

Final Cup practice will be from 5:40 – 6:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place Saturday.

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Kyle Larson: ‘I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing’

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Kyle Larson‘s comment on Twitter earlier this week that he would like to run full-time in the World of Outlaws sprint car series “before I’m 40” might have riled some fans, but Larson says it was not meant as anything bad toward NASCAR.

“I don’t know, I think maybe some people aren’t quite as open-minded, maybe,” the 26-year-old Larson said Friday at Sonoma Raceway. “It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now I wanted to do it. I mean 15 years from now that would put me 20 years in Cup. So, that is a long time. 

“I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport (Gordon raced in Cup 23 full-time seasons), but I don’t know, maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing.

“I enjoy sprint cars, and I feel like I talk about sprint cars a lot just to open people’s eyes to that style of racing because it’s a great form or racing and so is NASCAR. So, I don’t know, I just want fans to be fans of motorsports not just NASCAR and not just sprint cars. I would like to see everybody just enjoy all of racing and I think that is what I do. Maybe I don’t do a good job at it sometimes, but you know, I enjoy racing all types of vehicles. Most fans get it, but some fans aren’t quite open-minded enough.”

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to the World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said on that podcast in the offseason. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

Larson just finished running five nights of Ohio Sprint Speedweek. He won two of those nights. Rain postponed a sixth event before the feature that Larson was to have run. Larson said he has the dirt track race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his schedule. Indianapolis is building a quarter-mile dirt track inside Turn 3 to run during the NASCAR weekend there in September.

Larson is in his fifth full Cup season. He has five career series wins. Although winless this season, Larson has finished runner-up three times (Auto Club Speedway, Bristol and Pocono).

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Four Cup cars to be docked practice time at Sonoma

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Four cars will miss time in today’s opening practice at Sonoma Raceway for violations, NASCAR announced Friday.

David Ragan will miss 30 minutes for failing inspection before the race at Michigan three times.

Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne each will be docked 15 minutes for failing inspection twice before the Michigan race.

Today’s opening Cup practice goes from 2:40 – 3:55 p.m. ET.

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