Kevin Harvick on Dover fallout: ‘The driver’s voice is not being heard much’

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In light of the lingering dismay among many drivers and team owners about Monday’s Cup race at Dover, Kevin Harvick gave his take on Wednesday’s edition of Happy Hours on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Harvick spoke at length with co-host Matt Yocum about his own frustrations over the race and the aero package that brought speeds up to what some drivers considered dangerous or too fast. Harvick particularly noted Kyle Busch’s well-publicized, post-race complaints.

MORE: Kyle Busch on not being fined for Dover comments: “I’m not sure I said anything wrong.”

You look at the things he does and places he races, those are big comments from somebody like Kyle,” Harvick said of Busch. “Look at the facts, my car was 17 mph faster through the corner than it was last year and 4 mph slower on the straightaway.

That’s something the drivers have really talked about the last 3-4 years, getting the corner speeds down. That’s where some of the frustration showed up at Dover….  We’ve slowed the cars on the straight, but the center of the corner speeds are still up at most every racetrack we go to. So I understand and agree with his frustrations.”

Harvick also had his own frustrations.

In my opinion, (race winner Martin Truex Jr.) had the dominant car that could win the race,” Harvick said. “When you hear him say it was tough to pass, that says to me that I need to stop and think about what he said and why he said that. When you have the dominant car and the car to beat on a particular day, it should not take you 250 laps to get to the front (both Truex and runner-up Alex Bowman started from the back of the field).

(Truex) took the lead on the last lap of the second stage. That’s what he’s talking about it. He made it to the front eventually. … I think the thing that’s speaking from the race winner, Kyle Busch and myself, the frustration is it takes so long to make a pass. At Dover, it took a long time to pass no matter who you came up on. It slowed you down. Having to take 15-20 laps to pass each car takes time. That’s really where the drivers are coming from in this particular instance. You can pass, but you have to wait for a mistake.”

Harvick also lamented how drivers don’t have the kind of leaders or communication avenues as open with NASCAR that others had in the past, most notably the late Dale Earnhardt.

“From a driver’s standpoint, in the past we started the driver’s council and that has kind of faded away this year and there’s a little frustration on the driver’s side because it has fallen on deaf ears over the past couple of years,” Harvick said. “I think a lot of Kyle’s (Busch) frustration and what he’s saying bleeds over to other drivers. You don’t feel like your voice is being heard. … The driver’s voice is not being heard very much on things when it comes to competition, especially when it comes to this particular style of rules package, and then you get to Dover and it boils over after the first 11 weeks.

“… Before Dale Sr. passed, he was the kind of guy NASCAR trusted, could go to and say things and the drivers all trusted and said we’re on board with him. I don’t really feel there’s that type of communication since Dale Sr. left. There’s no guy and no one really in the very top of the NASCAR executive side of things that has the experience inside the car that can relate to the drivers and say this is what these guys are feeling, what they’re saying and I understand their frustrations.

“It’s a very tough, tough position that everything is in right now, after all this stuff is laid on the table by the race winner, (team owner) Bob Leavine and Kyle Busch. There’s a lot of things to digest here.”

How can that communication be improved?

I don’t think all of it lays on NASCAR,” Harvick said. “Some of it lays on the team owners, to get the drivers more into the mix. It’s not like that on a lot of teams. Our team is not aligned with a lot of the decisions and some of the things that have happened in the sport. … I think we’ve got to pull the owners into this conversation because a lot of them have pushed NASCAR into doing the things they’ve done from a financial situation. … We have to get the drivers and owners to be more on the same page with what’s going on from the owner’s and NASCAR standpoint  and get that communication right. That’s a piece of the puzzle that’s missing. 

“… I wouldn’t lay all the decisions that have been made in the sport are definitely not all on NASCAR’s shoulders. Thats one of the more frustrating things that happens. Everybody comes into how do we make the sport better, whether it’s competition or social media or whatever, and can’t set aside those agendas to do what’s right for the sport.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of politics in every decision that gets made and everything we do in today’s world. This is not my favorite thing to talk about, but obviously with everything that happened this week, this is definitely a topic we have to talk about.”

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Winners and losers from Las Vegas

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WINNERS

Paul Wolfe — Great call to have Joey Logano not pit before the final restart. Of course it helped that six other cars stayed out. Still, the top two cars came down pit road and Logano, running third, stayed out and won.

Matt DiBenedettoFinishes second in his second race with the Wood Brothers.

Jimmie JohnsonScored his first top-five finish since last summer’s Daytona race.

Bubba Wallace Decision not to pit allowed him to finish sixth, giving him his best Cup finish on a 1.5-mile track.

LOSERS

Todd Gordon and Greg Ives— For every high, there is a low. Gordon apologized on the radio to Ryan Blaney for calling him to pit road while leading before the final restart. Blaney finished 11th. Ives called Bowman to pit road while running second before the final restart. Bowman finished 13th. Ives tweeted that he was “VERY frustrated with my call at the end not to game on old tires, especially in Vegas.”

19 pit crew — Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew got him into the lead under caution after Stage 2 but he had to return to pit under that caution to tighten loose lug nuts. Said Truex after the race: “We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.”

William ByronLined up second on the final restart but contact with Matt DiBenedetto led to a tire rub and Byron falling back before he was involved in the crash that ended race. He finished 22nd.

Ross Chastain says his finish ‘unacceptable’ in place of Newman

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He scored a 10th-place finish in the first stage and ran as high as fifth Sunday in a car he never raced before.

Ross Chastain still had a harsh evaluation of his 27th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Ford, which he drove in place of an injured Ryan Newman.

Chastain finished two laps down after causing the final caution on a Lap 262 spin, which he judged “unacceptable,” along with his restart performance (“guys kind of ate me alive”) as a substitute for Roush Fenway Racing.

“It’s hard to get out of the car after you have a top-10 car, and you go and run into people and pick the wrong lanes on restarts and then spin it out at the end,” Chastain said. “That’s pretty silly. Just a lot of mistakes on my end and then at the end just overdriving and for one position to be the first car a lap down. That’s unacceptable.”

Chastain had an average running position of 16.87 over the 400-mile race, which went south after he pitted under green from 15th on Lap 217 of 267. The yellow flag flew five laps later, and Chastain took a wavearound to restart 21st.

(Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the restart, he made contact with Kurt Busch and pitted under green to fix a tire rub, which left him a lap down when he spun with five laps remaining.

“There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton,” he said. “The car deserved a lot better finish.  Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. I just have to be better.

“RFR and everybody puts so much into these cars, and ultimately I’m the one holding the wheel.  We had such a good first stage and had so much confidence and from there I just started making mistakes.”

Chastain, who finished 10th in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race, will be driving the No. 6 for Roush while Newman recovers from his Daytona 500 crash. In a statement from the team Sunday morning, Newman indicated he plans to drive again this season, but no timetable has been provided for his return.

Chase Briscoe wins rain-delayed Xfinity race in Las Vegas

Chase Briscoe
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Chase Briscoe won Sunday’s rain-delayed Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, beating fellow Ford driver Austin Cindric by almost three seconds to claim his third career Xfinity win.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 89 laps in the race, which began late Saturday afternoon but was red flagged on Lap 51 due to rain.

Briscoe and Cindric were the only Ford drivers in the field.

Ryan Sieg placed third to earn his sixth career top-five finish and his first on a 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Daytona winner Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

“That was really a team win,” Briscoe told Fox Sports. “We were really good, then as soon as the sun went down when we were in dirty air, we just weren’t really good. In clean air, obviously there at the end we were really good. … This is something I feel we can do all year long.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

More: Click here for race results.

More: Click here for the point standings.

WHAT’S NEXT: Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway at 4 p.m. ET Feb. 29 on FS1.

Chevy drivers positive about new Camaro body after Las Vegas

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Positive reviews are in from a few Chevrolet Cup drivers after their first race on an intermediate track with the updated Camaro ZL1 1LE body, which was introduced this year in an effort to improve the manufacturer’s performance after two lackluster seasons.

Those reviews are backed by the final results for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the chaos created by a last-lap crash, six Chevrolets finished in the top 10. They were led by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson placing in the top five.

That followed Chase Elliott leading 70 laps and winning both stages before his one-car incident in the middle of the final stage.

In last year’s spring race on the 1.5-mile track, only two Chevys – Kurt Busch (fifth) and Elliott (ninth) – finished in the top 10. Three Chevy drivers combined to lead 23 of the race’s 267 laps.

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it,” said Johnson. “We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.”

Johnson earned his first top five since last July’s race at Daytona. He placed 19th in this race last year.

“It’s really rewarding to see,” Johnson said. “Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevys up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”

Johnson’s teammate, Alex Bowman, was running in second when the final caution came out inside 10 laps to go. After his team chose to pit, Bowman placed 13th.

“This new Camaro, for its first time on a downforce track, I’m just really pleased with it so far,” Bowman said. “I think it’s going to be really good for us. Obviously, I’m bummed out to finish 13th after staring at a second place or a win. But it’s part of it; it’s how racing goes. We win as a team and lose as a team. It just didn’t go our way there at the end.”

Last year, Chevrolet only earned seven wins, with two coming on 1.5-mile tracks. Bowman claimed one of those at Chicagoland Speedway.

Added Bowman: “Compared to how we started the last two seasons, I think we’ve got something for them this year.”

One Chevrolet driver said it was “still early” for assessing the new bodies.

“I think the Hendrick cars were really good,” said Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who placed ninth. “I felt about the same as last year. So, we just have to continue to get better.”