Kevin Harvick wins Cup pole for today’s Brickyard 400

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INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Harvick, the 2003 Brickyard 400 winner, scored his third career pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday morning. Harvick went out early and ran a fast lap of 185.766 mph in the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.

“Clean air will be huge,” Harvick told NBC Sports. “I thought we had a fast car (Saturday) in race practice. Clean air and strategy are important because handling will come into play at some point. You will have to hang on to them at the beginning of the run so there are a number of things having to come into play.

“Hopefully, today, we can finish where we start.”

Paul Menard’s No. 21 Ford was second at 185.724 mph followed by one of the drivers fighting to stay in the playoffs, Clint Bowyer. His No. 14 Ford turned in a lap at 185.277 mph. He was followed by Joey Logano’s Ford at 184.193 mph and four-time Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson, who is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time in his career, at 185.181 mph.

Click here for qualifying results

Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson are vying for the final two playoff spots. Bowyer is eight points ahead of Suarez and Newman. Those two are tied with Suarez holding the tiebreaker. Johnson is 18 points behind Suarez and Newman.

Newman went out early in the session, where three cars were on the 2.5-mile oval at the same time. Newman’s No. 6 Ford clocked in with a speed at 183.273 mph and will start 22nd.

Suarez qualified 20th at 183.643 mph.

William Byron, Jr. entered qualifications as the pole winner for this year’s Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500. A Brickyard 400 pole would have made Byron the first driver in NASCAR history to win the pole at all of the “Crown Jewel” events in the Monster Energy Cup Series in the same season.

His speed of 182.043 mph in the No. 24 Chevrolet put him 29thon the starting grid.

This is the only event of the season where qualifications are held the morning of the race. The green flag of the 26thannual NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 2:05 p.m. Eastern Time on NBC.

NASCAR mourns Kobe Bryant

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Joining their brethren in other sports, the NASCAR world took to social media upon learning the tragic news of the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Bryant had met a number of NASCAR drivers in his career, including Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. They were among a number of NASCAR notables who took to social media to mourn Bryant:

 

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Chad Knaus and wife expecting second child

Photo courtesy Brooke Knaus official Instagram account
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Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Chad Knaus and wife Brooke are expecting their second child.

Brooke made the announcement Saturday on her Instagram account.

The couple, already parents to one-year-old son Kip, will soon be adding a daughter to their growing family.

Brooke Knaus’s Instagram post said the baby is due in July.

Kip figured prominently in the baby revelation, coming at the end of mom and dad’s ski run while vacationing in Telluride, Colorado:

 

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Kyle Larson flips, misses finals of Australia’s biggest sprint car race

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Kyle Larson’s hope of following up last week’s Chili Bowl win with a triumph in Australia’s prestigious Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic fell far short Sunday.

Larson’s bid to race his way into the 24-car finals of the three-day race at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia, ended when he flipped (uninjured) on the opening lap of a last-chance qualifying heat race earlier in the evening.

Instead of being one of the featured drivers in the Classic’s 40-lap finale – the largest and most popular sprint car race of the year in the land down under – Larson was left to watch the event from the pits and cheer on Dyson Motorsport teammate and fellow American Carson Macedo.

Even that didn’t go very well, as Macedo flipped his own sprint car on the first lap of the Classic, resulting in a last-place finish. The highest finishing American was Cory Eliason, who ended up fourth.

Meanwhile, it was an all-Australian podium, with James McFadden winning the Classic for the second time in his career, followed by James Veal and Kerry Madsen.

In eight days, Larson went from capturing what he called the biggest win ever of his racing career on all levels – the Chili Bowl in his 13th try last Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma – to nothing but bad luck and utter frustration throughout his Australian journey.

Larson’s first race on Wednesday in the King’s Challenge at Borderline Speedway was rained out.

Then, in the first night of the Classic on Friday, Larson wrecked heavily in his first heat race, including flipping (he was uninjured). After his team repaired his car, Larson went back on the track, only to suffer a blown engine that knocked him out of contention to race in that evening’s feature event.

After not being on the schedule to race in Night 2 of the Classic on Saturday, Larson had one last chance to make Sunday’s featured championship event.

A total of 80 drivers battled it out in the B, C and D Mains for the eight remaining spots in the A Main, but Larson would end up not being one of those — as can be seen in the second line of the following tweet by his team:

Larson now returns to the United States to prepare for the Daytona 500 on February 16.

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Kyle Busch feeling like ‘the new guy’ during his Rolex 24 debut at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch was looking forward to his first stint at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The two-time Cup champion was less enthused about his second turn behind the wheel in the IMSA season opener. Busch will climb back into the No. 14 Lexus RCF GT3 at 2 a.m. Sunday, just past the midpoint of the endurance race classic at Daytona International Speedway.

“That’s going to suck, yeah,” Busch deadpanned. “That’s exactly when I told them I did not want to run, and I got it.  Thank you very much.

“(I’m) the new guy.  I pulled the short straw.”

Click here to read more about how Busch felt about his AIM Vasser Sullivan car.