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Kevin Harvick: ‘We’re better than Truex’ on 1.5-mile tracks

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FORT WORTH, Texas – In case you missed the memo, Kevin Harvick has won three of the past four races at 1.5-mile tracks in NASCAR’s premier series. He outdueled last year’s 1.5-mile maestro, defending series champion Martin Truex Jr., on the last trip to Texas Motor Speedway. He’s undefeated on that layout this season.

So does Harvick feel his No. 4 Ford is right with Truex’s No. 78 Toyota (which notched a record seven wins on 1.5-mile tracks last year) entering Sunday’s race O’Reilly 500?

“That seems like a self-answering question,” Harvick said with a chuckle during a Friday morning news conference. “Did you have to ask that question to figure it out?”

OK, so you feel you’re right there with Truex?

“We’re better than Truex,” Harvick smiled again.

Harvick, who has wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway this year since outdueling Truex with a pass for the lead with 10 laps remaining here last November, said it’s simply been a matter of Stewart-Haas Racing finding its footing with Ford (it switched to the manufacturer last year).

Since being paired with crew chief Rodney Childers, Harvick had some of the best Cup results on 1.5-mile ovals (four wins from 2014-16) aside from a brief dip last year as the team got acclimated to the Fusion.

“We have, in my opinion, the most stable team in the garage,” Harvick said. “When you have the most stable team in the garage from a financial standpoint (and) a manufacturer standpoint, that attracts good people.

“In the end, it’s all about good people. We have a very committed manufacturer and ownership group, and we’re just the drivers lucky enough to be in the position where SHR is right now. We have a very solid foundation which I believe in this day and age is something to hang your hat on.

“The commitment (co-owner) Gene (Haas) makes from a financial standpoint, the stability of the company is never in question because of a few races that aren’t sold here and there. As you look at that long-term commitment that Ford made, Gene’s commitment just building the team and keeping it where it’s at and then you start putting in people in different places, and they wind up having been there for a number of years, that makes a big difference. Because people on the outside see that. When people see they can work somewhere for a long time and don’t have to worry about their job, that makes a difference when you’re trying to hire people.”

Kyle Larson wins Bristol Xfinity race in overtime

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Kyle Larson held off Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier in an overtime finish Friday night to win the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Larson led 202 of 310 laps and swept both stages on the way to his fourth Xfinity win of the season and 12th of his career.

The top five was completed by Cole Custer and Joey Logano.

The win was Larson’s first at Bristol in 18 Cup and Xfinity starts (including six top-five finishes in his previous eight Xfinity races at the track). Larson has won in four of his six starts this year (and didn’t finish the other two).

Larson dominated after pole-sitter Kyle Busch wrecked from first after leading the first 69 laps.

“It feels really good, I just wish Kyle Busch wouldn’t have had his troubles so I could have raced him,” Larson told NBCSN. “It still feels really good to win a race here at Bristol finally. I’ve been close so many times. This is my best track by far, this and Homestead.”

The overtime finish was set up by a Daniel Hemric wreck with two laps to go in the original 300-lap distance.

“We had that yellow there coming to two to go, I was like, ‘Man, again. Again I’m going to lose one here late,” Larson said. “We were able to get an average restart and get the win.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Larson

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Allgaier earned his career-best 10th consecutive top 10 … Cole Custer placed fourth for his best Bristol finish in four starts … Michael Annett placed seventh for his first top 10 of the season …  JA Junior Avila placed 20th in his series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Busch was having a good night until he tagged the wall around Lap 66 while leading. On Lap 70, he lost a tire and got into the wall, causing enough damage to end his night. He finished 36th … Spencer Boyd and Vinnie Miller wrecked to bring out the second caution on Lap 105. Miller caused another caution on Lap 160 … Chase Briscoe was eliminated when he spun and hit the inside wall on Lap 142. He placed 34th.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I’d love to race him on dirt. I ain’t done much of that. ” – Kyle Larson on Christopher Bell

WHAT’S NEXT: Johnsonville 180 at Road America at 3:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 25 on NBCSN.

Starting lineup for Cup Bristol night race

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Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott will lead the field to the green flag in Saturday night’s Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway (6:46 p.m. ET).

Larson starts from the pole position for the third time this year.

Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and William Byron rounded out the top five.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Kyle Larson on pole for Cup race at Bristol

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Kyle Larson won the pole position for Saturday’s Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway (6:46 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with a top speed of 127.792 mph around the half-mile track.

Larson bested Chase Elliott (127.665) and Kyle Busch (127.639) to earn his third pole of the season and the seventh of his career.

Paul Menard and William Byron rounded out the top five. Menard matched his best Bristol start from 2011 while Byron earned his career-best qualifying result in 24 starts.

“The top five there was tight,” Larson told NBCSN. “I saw William run his .04 there before I went out. ‘That’s going to be hard to beat.’ I would never have thought three other guys would squeeze between him and I for first and second. That shows how tough our sport is and our series is.”

Larson’s previous poles this year were at Dover and Sonoma. He has started on the front row in three of the last four Bristol races.

The top 10 was rounded out by Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Jimmie Johnson qualified 13th. He was followed by Erik Jones, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon.

“We were really fast in the first round, it just didn’t really transfer over to the second round,” Jones, who won his first career pole in this race last year, told NBCSN. “Lost a lot of grip, lost a lot of speed. I think going early, the track was still a little bit hot, and we didn’t have quite a car that was ready for that.”

AJ Allmendinger qualified 25th and was followed by Kasey Kahne and Bubba Wallace.

B.J. McLeod failed to qualify.

Click here for qualifying results.

Kyle Busch wins Bristol Xfinity pole

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Kyle Busch will start first in tonight’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:28 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after posting a top speed of 124.686 mph in qualifying.

It is Busch’s first pole in seven starts this season. It is his sixth Xfinity pole at Bristol.

The top five is completed by Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Matt Tifft.

Logano’s fourth-place start is the worst of his five Xfinity starts this year.

Elliott Sadler will start sixth, his best start at Bristol since 2014.

Chase Briscoe, Tyler Reddick, Chase Elliott, Ryan Reed, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain were among those who did not advance to the final round.

Michael Annett will start 22nd after he spun and made light contact with the wall late in Round 1. He advanced to Round 2 but did not make a qualifying attempt.

Click here for qualifying results.