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Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola ready to dive in at virtual Talladega

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If iRacing was a lake, Kevin Harvick is ready to dive back in while Aric Almirola is about to get wet for the first time.

Harvick will be taking part in his second-ever iRacing event in this Sunday’s Geico 70 at a virtual Talladega Superspeedway. He finished 29th in his eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series debut last Sunday at a virtual Richmond Raceway.

Harvick is still lamenting how he finished next-to-last in the 30-car field, beating only his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer, who was dead last.

“The whole iRacing process is sort of overwhelming for me,” Harvick said in a media release. “I finally just said, ‘The heck with it. I’m going to go race.’

“It’s just like racing anything else – if you don’t go race, you just get further behind, because everyone is getting better. So, I decided to dive in at Richmond.”

Harvick qualified 17th at Richmond, but right after that is when things began to get discombobulated. Here’s how the driver of the No. 4 Ford Mustang continued his woeful tale (sorry, but you can’t help but laugh at what he went through):

“I was running fine, but you’ve got your spotter in one ear, and you’ve also got the engine noise from the car. Plus, I was on Skype because the team was broadcasting on Twitch.

“So, I’ve got my laptop on my left, my iPad on my right, and my phone on the floor, and I’ve got all this stuff going on in my ear. I’m at the point in my iRacing career where if something flashes on the screen or something is in my ear, it distracts me because I have to be so focused on what I’m doing because I don’t really know what I’m doing.

“So, I’m running along there and have passed a couple of cars and all of a sudden we’re having trouble with the laptop with FOX connecting. Before the race, I sent them my other Skype account and said use this one because it’s on my iPad. Then in the race, I hit the car on the left side of me, and then I hit the guy on the right side of me and I brake checked the guy behind me. Well, it was because my iPad rings into my headset, so I don’t hear the engine noise, my spotter, nothing, because it’s that crazy Skype ring.

“I jerk the wheel to the right and to the left. I’m reaching over trying to shut the iPad off. I’m trying to hit send, but the facial recognition says use your passcode. So, I’m trying to reach over to grab the iPad and, meanwhile, I’m hitting everyone who is around me. From that point, it kind of spiraled out of control.”

Harvick vows to redeem himself this Sunday at what is arguably NASCAR’s hardest track. In 38 career starts at the 2.6-mile high-banked superspeedway in real life, Harvick has just one win (10 years ago in 2010), along with seven top-five and 15 top-10 finishes.

As for Almirola, he has a great deal of confidence coming to ‘Dega. But you can potentially chalk that up to youthful exuberance or naiveté, as Sunday will be his iRacing rookie debut.

“Well, I’ve won at Talladega before (fall 2018), so it shouldn’t be that hard, right?” the driver of the No. 10 Ford quipped in a media release. “In all seriousness, I’ve seen these veteran drivers and champions of the sport practice for hours and still struggle to finish the race, so the expectation for myself is low.”

But that doesn’t mean Almirola is totally pessimistic about his chances. Just like in real life, success at ‘Dega oftentimes comes down to being in the right place at the right time – like the last lap.

“It’ll be interesting to make my Pro Invitational debut at Talladega where we’ll just have to survive,” said Almirola, who has a record of one win, four top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 20 career starts at the real-life superspeedway. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be one of the last guys standing and have a shot at it.

“Whether we wreck on the first lap or have a decent day, this is just a lot of fun for race fans, my fans, and to get back on track – even a virtual track.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Daytona road course entry lists

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NASCAR’s national series will make their debuts on the Daytona road course this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck events will be held without any practice or qualifying.

NASCAR is prohibiting drivers from competing in more than one series this weekend on the Daytona road course in an effort to get extra track time. NASCAR states that is to make the event fair for everyone.

Sunday’s Cup race will be broadcast on NBC.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the races at the Daytona road course 

Cup – Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine drivers are entered for the race at the Daytona road course.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

Joey Gase is in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Gray Gaulding is in the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is in the No. 62 for Beard Motorsports.

Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for Motorsports Business Management.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for Cup entry list

 

Xfinity – UNOH 188 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Andy Lally is back in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car after finishing fifth last week at Road America.

AJ Allmendinger, who finished second last week at Road America, is in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

IMSA driver Earl Bamber will make his Xfinity debut this weekend in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Brandon Gdovic will make his second start of the season, driving the No. 26 for Sam Hunt Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Truck – Sunoco 159 (Noon ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in the race that will be held before the Cup event on Sunday on the Daytona road course.

Alex Tagliani will drive the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Click here for Truck entry list

Silly Season Scorecard: Christopher Bell moves back to JGR

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No surprise that Christopher Bell moves over to the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing next season with Leavine Family Racing being sold and Erik Jones not remaining with JGR beyond this season. Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Monday.

While JGR lets the 24-year-old Jones, who has 133 Cup starts go, it brings in the 25-year-old Bell who has made 22 career Cup starts. Jones said before Sunday’s race he was “blindsided a little bit” by JGR’s move.

It’s part of the building momentum of Silly Season. In the last week, Team Penske signed Brad Keselowski to a reported one-year extension and Bubba Wallace said he has an offer for next year not only from Richard Petty Motorsports but also Chip Ganassi Racing.

Here’s how the Cup Silly Season scorecard looks as of Aug. 10.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said in a press conference Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through at least 2021.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 10: Aric Almirola is in a contract year at Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto is in a contract year at Wood Brothers Racing. He said after the Aug. 9 Michigan race: “I haven’t really talked about that stuff for next year yet, but we’ve just been so focused and head down on digging and trying to make the playoffs and run well. We haven’t even really talked about it, so, hopefully, I stay here for a very long time to come and that’s what they had expressed to me when I came over here.”

No. 32: Corey LaJoie is in a contract year at Go Fas Racing.

No. 42: Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports on Aug. 8 in regards to talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year: “We really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace said Aug. 9 he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports and an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 car next season.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Leavine Family Racing announced it was selling its assets earlier this week. The buyer has not been announced. Christopher Bell will move to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for 2021.

Christopher Bell to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021

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Christopher Bell will drive for the No. 20 next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team announced Monday, a decision that was expected with Erik Jones’ contract expiring after this season and it not being renewed. 

“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said in a statement from the team. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”

Said car owner Joe Gibbs: “We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021. He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”

Bell drove for JGR in in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, winning 15 races, before moving to the Cup Series and Leavine Family Racing this season. Leavine Family Racing announced last week that it has been sold.

Entering Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Bell is 19th in points. His best finish this season is fourth at the first Pocono race in late June.

Xfinity playoff grid after Road America

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Brandon Brown extended his hold on the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid last weekend at Road America after struggles early in the race.

Brown needed to be pushed back to pit road before the field took the green because of a mechanical issue. He fell a lap down as his crew diagnosed the issue, got his lap back, scored four stage points in the second stage and finished 12th, one spot off his best career finish on a road course.

MORE: Brandon Brown wants to reward father with a special celebration

MORE: Austin Cindric wins at Road America 

Brown’s effort and Jeremy Clements misfortune in being collected in a crash to finish 29th led to Brown extending his lead on Clements for the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid to 53 points. Myatt Snider is 73 points behind Brown. Eight races remain until the Xfinity playoffs begin Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at the playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Those shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Xfinity playoff grid.