Kevin Harvick’s penalty tightens race for final spots in title race

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NASCAR’s penalty stripping Kevin Harvick of his berth in the championship field dramatically alters the standings heading into the cutoff race at Phoenix (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC).

After celebrating his Texas win and what appeared a berth in the championship race for the fourth time in five years, Harvick faces the possibility that he could not race for a title Nov. 18 in Miami.

Along with not allowing the win to transfer Harvick to the championship race, NASCAR docked Harvick 40 points, his team 40 car owner points, suspended crew chief Rodney Childers the next two races (the rest of the playoffs) and suspended car chief Robert Smith two races.

The penalty leaves Harvick holding the final transfer spot to Miami but only three points ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch.

Here is how the points look now:

WIN – Joey Logano (locked into title race with Martinsville victory)

4,128 points – Kyle Busch

4,125 points – Martin Truex Jr.

4,103 points – Kevin Harvick (last transfer spot for championship race)

4,100 points – Kurt Busch

4,086 points – Chase Elliott

4,068 points – Aric Almirola

4,052 points – Clint Bowyer

Three spots in the Championship 4 will be set this weekend.

If there was a track Harvick could all but count on a strong run, it is ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway). He has nine career wins at that track, including six of the last 10. He has 14 top-10 finishes in the last 16 races there.

While the penalties are devastating, if this team runs the way it has at this track, Harvick still should advance.

But the playoffs have seen Harvick run strong and not score the win before Texas.

  • He was running second in Las Vegas when he had a tire issue and hit the wall.
  • He led 286 of 404 laps at Dover but didn’t win when a valve stem got knocked off and caused a flat tire, forcing him to pit again.
  • He was leading at Kansas when he came to pit and was penalized for speeding.
  • He was out of fuel and gave up third as the field came to take the green to begin overtime at Talladega.

Any issues like those this weekend could cause Harvick to lose enough points that he could fail to advance to the championship race.

Without such issues, it will be hard for Kurt Busch to make up his three-point deficit to Harvick. Kurt Busch has not scored more points than Harvick in the three races at Phoenix with stage points.

Chase Elliott, who trails Harvick by 17 points, might have a better chance to surpass Harvick but it still won’t be easy. Elliott has outscored Harvick in two of the three Phoenix races with stage points but never by 17 points.

Elliott outscored Harvick by 10 points in the March 2017 race and outscored Harvick by two points in last year’s playoff race there. Harvick outscored Elliott by 14 points in this past March’s race, which was only Elliott’s fourth with the new Camaro.

Almirola (35 points behind the cutoff) and Bowyer (51 points behind the cutoff) still must look at this weekend as a must-win situation since the chances of them making it on points remain slim.

 

 

 

 

 

NASCAR America: Assessing Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus’ historic tenure

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After 17 years, seven Cup championships and 81 wins, the checkered flag will wave on Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus this weekend.

Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the final time Johnson and Knaus will work together as driver and crew chief.

In 2019, Johnson will be paired with Kevin Meendering while Knaus will work with William Byron on the No. 24 team.

On NASCAR America, three-time Cup champion and Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham and Kyle Petty discussed the legacy of the Johnson-Knaus pairing and how it compares to what was accomplished by Richard Petty and crew chief Dale Inman and Jeff Gordon and Evernham.

“The most underrated record in this sport is five (championships) in a row,” Petty said, referring to the No. 48 team’s title run from 2006-10. “Nobody gives them enough credit, I just don’t think so. … The crew chief job that Ray did is a completely different job than what Chad does. The crew chief job that Chad does, Dale Inman wouldn’t even recognize it in 1967, ’68.”

Said Evernham: “Jimmie and Chad are right there with those guys. Without a doubt it’s Petty-Inman, Johnson-Knaus. What Jeff I did together was great, but we weren’t together that long. … To me it’s incredible to win that many championships, not just mechanically, but what it takes emotionally to do that. To hold those teams together and be that good for that many years is to me incredible. That’s longer than most marriages.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

NASCAR penalty report from Phoenix

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NASCAR has fined two crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at ISM Raceway.

In the Cup Series, Luke Lambert was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

In the Xfinity Series, David Elenz was fined $5,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Tyler Reddick‘s No. 9 Chevrolet.

There were no other penalties announced.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Miami preview, Richard Petty and Dale Inman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to set up the final race weekend of the year in Miami.

Marty Snider hosts with Kyle Petty and Ray Evernham from Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll discuss the final race together for Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, and their lasting impact on NASCAR. Another legendary driver/crew chief combo, Richard Petty and Dale Inman, give their take on the success of their fellow seven-time champions.

  • It’s the final NASCAR race for Elliott Sadler. The panel, including Sadler’s former boss Ray Evernham, share their fondest memories of the 24-year NASCAR veteran.

  • Plus, we’ll reveal the final three members of this season’s Pit Crew All-Stars.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

‘A lot of tears shed’ as Furniture Row Racing departs for last Cup race

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The final chapter in Furniture Row Racing’s history began overnight as the team’s hauler embarked on its journey from Denver, Colorado, to Miami for Sunday’s Cup season finale (3 p.m ET on NBC).

The race, where Martin Truex Jr. will compete in the Championship 4, will mark the 451st and final Cup race for the team that owner Barney Visser started in 2005. The team announced Sept. 4 that it would cease operations at the end of the year due to a lack of sponsorship.

Truex will try to deliver the team’s second consecutive Cup title.

The team’s farewell at the Denver shop was marked by a large gathering of team members.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for how emotional it was (Tuesday) night when we loaded up,” crew chief Cole Pearn said Wednesday in a teleconference. “I think we’ve just been head down, kind of pushing super hard, trying to do everything we can to get ready for this weekend, and once it was in the truck and saw the lift gate up, there was a lot of tears shed and a lot of sad faces, and I think all of us really realized that that was the last time we were going to do it together as a group.  … A lot of relationships have been built from that shop, and it’s a weird feeling for sure.”

Pearn said the occasion was marked with team members sharing “a few beverages” while they “told old stories and kind of reminisced.”

Visser said Furniture Row Racing “remained a team” in the months since the announcement of its impending closure.

“I am proud of the way they handled this difficult and emotional situation,” Visser said in a media release. “I think everybody who has had an opportunity to work in our shop is probably better for it. I believe they’re better craftsmen and have known or have learned what it takes to be a winner. On the flip side, I do feel a responsibility for moving the guys out here and want to see them get placed. That is very important to me.”

Visser said it will be “hard to give up” a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

“It’s so rare to get a group of people you like being with, and who accomplish things that other people can’t seem to do,” Visser said. “Pretty special to find that chemistry and the success that comes with it. It’s hard to give it up, but sometimes it’s taken away from you without having any recourse. I just couldn’t keep borrowing money over here to feed it over there. Just had to give it up.”

When it comes to how involved Visser will be in NASCAR going forward, the 69-year-old Vietnam veteran said he hopes to attend some races next season.

“I am a huge racing fan,” Visser said. “I love the cars, love the smell, love the sound and love the people. I will be coming as a guest and fan next year and hope to sit in the stands for a few races. Never did that. My wife and I are looking forward to taking weekend trips to races next year.”