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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Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.