Chris Gabehart appreciates rivalry with Kevin Harvick’s team


The Cup regular season is winding down, and so are the quirky race weekends created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This weekend at Dover International Speedway will see the last of three scheduled Cup doubleheaders. The series holds races on the 1-mile track Saturday and Sunday afternoon (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The two doubleheaders that preceded it, held at Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway, have been the Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin show, as they finished first and second in three of the four races.

After Hamlin beat Harvick in the first Pocono race, the order flipped the next day. Earlier this month at Michigan, Harvick swept the weekend, but he beat Hamlin in Race No. 2 by just .093 seconds.

They enter this weekend with Harvick and Hamlin leading the series with six and five wins respectively.

More: Denny Hamlin knocks Kevin Harvick from No. 1 in power rankings.

And through 23 races, there’s been no trace of mudslinging between the two teams. That’s how Chris Gabehart, Hamlin’s second year crew chief, prefers it.

“I think that’s the neat part about what we’re fortunate enough to do at two great organizations like Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas (Racing),” Gabehart said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint.’ “We’re able to compete at sport’s very top level with the best resources and people are the biggest resource. So the best people at the very pinnacle of stock car racing. So when you’re fortunate enough to make it to that level as crew chiefs, engineers, drivers, you’re very thankful for that, I know I am.

“In doing that, you come to appreciate just how hard it was to get there and then those that you compete against, you admire their same situation and you realize just how hard they worked to get there, too. At that point, you’ve both been so fortunate and accomplished so much that it’s really more about the competition itself and appreciating each team’s ability to push the other one higher.

“And I know that’s how (Harvick crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and I look at it. To say that we don’t compete fiercely … is certainly not true in terms of the level of competition. I mean, we’re fierce competitors. But you know, when we shake each other’s hands afterwards, it just comes from a real understanding just how fortunately lucky we are to be doing what we’re doing at this level.”

Childers had nothing but praise for Gabehart and his team following Harvick’s win in the second Michigan race. Afterward, Childers met up with Gabehart to give him a message of congratulations.

“Obviously both drivers are doing a great job,” Childers said that night. “Everybody is bringing great cars to the race track. It’s been a fun little battle all year.

“To have a past relationship with Chris from the (go) karting days and stuff, we’ve always got along good, we respect each other a lot. … They’re a bunch of classy guys. We just try to keep it fun and keep each other motivated, keep pushing as hard as we can.”

Denny Hamlin crew chief Chris Gabehart before the July 12 race at Kentucky Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

In their first two years together, Gabehart and Hamlin have led the competition. After Hamlin’s winless 2018 season, they’ve claimed a series-leading 11 wins together. That’s one more victory than Harvick and Childers.

Through 23 races this season, Hamlin has placed first or second in 10 of them (43.5% of the time).

Gabehart credits Hamlin’s leadership in allowing an atmosphere that let him put together a winning team.

“So much of life is about timing and whether or not you’re ready for a moment or situation as a driver or crew chief or just in your personal life, right?” Gabehart told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think for Denny and the transitions he had went through over the last few years in his career and then you know, some of his personal life, and me doing the same from a crew chiefing perspective in the Xfinity Series and then coming over here and I think all of us just meshed at the same time, and we both had the same goals and aspirations and we were ready for each other, I guess is the best way to say it.”

Gabehart said he was “proud” and “thankful” of Hamlin’s “willingness” to let a rookie crew chief “come in and make this race team the way I saw fit without second guessing me or questioning me, or putting the type of scrutiny on me that he could have as a veteran, as a successful veteran in this sport. He did nothing of the sort and it was that level of trust that really allowed the foundation to be built and is the reason we’re where we’re at today. Denny, I think, would tell you that I have established myself as leader of this race team, but it was his leadership in the very beginning that allowed it all to be the case.”

This weekend Hamlin will get two attempts to earn his first Cup win at the “Monster Mile.” He has five top fives in 28 starts there, including a second-place result in the 2018 playoff race.

Entering Dover, Gabehart said the doubleheaders so far have “actually been kind of fun.”

“I like the aspect of the doubleheader from a competitive point of view, because I can’t tell you how many times we’ve all left a racetrack and said, ‘Man, if I could just run that race over and we do this or we do that, that car would be where it needs to be and we could have run so much better.’ Well, now you get your chance, right, because it’s the exact same car one day later and you’ve ran a race, you have all the data, you know where you’re lacking. Can you turn around and turn it into a better day?”

NASCAR weekend schedule at World Wide Technology Raceway, Portland


NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weekend weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 4

Garage open

  • 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)


Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.