Kevin Harvick blasts Roush for handling of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s exit

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin Harvick criticized Roush Fenway Racing’s move to dump Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season and the agency that represented Stenhouse for a “really, really, really, really bad contract.”

Harvick said his agency, KHI Management., will begin representing Stenhouse next year.

Harvick was bothered by how little warning Stenhouse had before Roush Fenway Racing informed him Wednesday morning that he would not be retained after this season.

“We’re trying to help him through a pretty bad situation and a really, really, really, really bad contract that was already written before we had been involved,” Harvick said Friday after Cup qualifying at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“It’s unfortunate timing. Those particular business practices are tough to deal with just because of how late in the season it is and how few cars there are. Based on everything that we’ve been involved with, nothing had ever been talked about.

“When I had tough moments at (Richard Childress Racing) and things were bad, we would sit down and we would talk through things and we’d say OK this is what we need to do, this is what I need to do better, this is what I think the team needs to do better. You had real life conversations. Just to drop the hatchet in a surprise meeting with seven days to go is pretty bad business ethics in my opinion.”

Roush Fenway Racing decided to release Stenhouse after Chris Buescher became available.

“You’re blindsided by the decision,” Harvick said. “We’ve been trying to help Ricky though the situation. Spire hasn’t done anything for him all year but it’s their contract that they’re living under.”

Spire Sports + Entertainment issued a statement in response to Harvick’s comment.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is not only one of the most talented drivers we have had the opportunity to represent, he is a better person. We were fortunate enough to be with Ricky all the way from his winged sprint car days … to NASCAR and watched him grow up right in front of our eyes. 

“We went through a lot with Ricky both on and off the track and were always humbled as he approached his life with a Southern matter of factness few have.

“Ricky gave us notice that he was terminating our agreement in December 2017. A settlement was reached and he was free to sign with any agency if he so chose to do so. We were puzzled at the comments of Mr. Harvick today as neither RSJ nor Spire had any further obligations to each other. However, Ricky remained a friend to all of us and we continued to cheer him on every weekend. It goes without saying, but he knows we are always here to help in any situation but we respected his decision and his reasons behind it. 

“We were shocked to read this week that Ricky would not be driving for Roush beginning next season. Apparently, his current management team was as well. Finding out this late in the game that you have to find your client a job in a shrinking market can be a little jarring and maybe that was behind the comment. We sympathize with our friends at KHI Management, as well as to our former client who gave his heart and soul to Roush Racing and brought not only wins but championships to that organization.

“It was not easy watching him struggle in the Cup series while Roush admittedly searched for their footing, yet Ricky continued to give it his all every week. Perhaps it had run its course as we read this week, but we have no doubt that whatever team is fortunate to have Ricky as their driver will reap the benefits of having a driver that stands on the gas every time he is on any type of racetrack and has integrity and values off of it.”

Asked if he’s tried to help Stenhouse, Harvick said Friday:

“We’ve tried to be a little bit of an assistance in trying to help him forward through a process where he doesn’t have anybody. Ricky has got a great reputation in the garage, well connected. He’s the only driver at Roush Racing that has won races since Carl Edwards left. That’s the unfortunate thing. He’s a Cup winner. He’s a two-time Xfinity Series champion. It’s just a bad timing and it sucks.”

Asked if Roush Fenway Racing should have given Stenhouse more notice that his job was in jeopardy, Harvick said: “I don’t run their business. That’s not the way I would run a business.”

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.”