Tony Stewart: Pit stop issues have kept Kevin Harvick from winning ‘half the races’

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If Tony Stewart had his way, Kevin Harvick wouldn’t need a pit crew.

“I think we could have won half the races this year if we didn’t have to pit,” Stewart said Wednesday at his Smoke Show charity event at Texas Motor Speedway.

The No. 4 team’s most recent mishap on pit road occurred Sunday at Dover. A valve stem was knocked off a tire during a Lap 321 pit stop and forced Harvick to pit a second time. That kept Harvick from sweeping both stages and winning after he led a race-high 286 laps. Harvick finished sixth.

“I mean, we got a good group of guys, and I think the change in the pit guns this year has really been hard on our guys,” Stewart said.

The Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner referenced the move by NASCAR to go to a spec pit gun this year over guns built by teams. The guns have garnered criticism from crew chiefs and drivers throughout the season, including Harvick.

“It’s much harder than people think,” Stewart said. “I mean people don’t understand that by slowing the guns down, you would think it would make it easier on these guys because they don’t have to go as fast.

“But the problem is they’re so used to being in time and being at a certain pace that now you’ve got to slow these guys down, and that’s why you see loose wheels because they’re used to moving their hands a lot faster and that pattern being faster. Now the guns can’t keep up with what we’re doing, so we have to slow our guys down to make sure that we don’t have those mistakes. That’s the hardest part.”

MORE: Tony Stewart would run IndyCar race at Pocono before Indy 500 return

MORE: Stewart has received offers from teams to run in Indy 500

But Stewart has no interest in going back to the old way of things.

“Trust me, the amount of money that the teams were spending developing their own guns was through the roof and it was stupid,” he said. “That was a very smart move by NASCAR to knock that part down. You know, they want the racing to be on the race track and that’s what we want too, so their goal with that was the right goal. Now we just got to slow our guys down enough to make sure they get each one of them tight.”

Dover’s mishap – which kept Harvick from winning for the first time in seven races – was the latest occurrence of a pit miscue undercutting Harvick’s race-winning speed.

In April at Texas, Harvick led 87 laps but endured a jack issue on pit road (Lap 129) and a penalty for too many crew members over the wall (Lap 237) before finishing second.

Harvick led at the final pit stop at Chicagoland but was beat off pit road by Kyle Busch, who went on to win. A few weeks later, SHR made pit crew changes to all four of its teams after Clint Bowyer expressed frustration with his group at Kentucky.

In the Brickyard 400 last month, Harvick was penalized for an uncontrolled tire penalty on Lap 10. On Lap 30, he had to pit a second time after a pit gun failed. On Lap 90, he had to pit from the lead for four tires to deal with a vibration. He placed fourth.

 

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

Austin Hill
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)