Richmond takeaways: Kevin Harvick happy with his roaring 40s in NASCAR Cup series

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RICHMOND, Virginia – Kevin Harvick, 46, takes no offense to any odes about being the old man racer of the NASCAR Cup Series.

He relishes the title even if he avoids dwelling on its significance – that Harvick could be remembered as the most successful elder statesman in stock-car history.

“I do take pride in that,” he said. “I love it.”

With his second consecutive Cup Series victory, the 2014 champion now has 29 wins since turning 40 after the 2015 season (his birthdate is Dec. 8, 1975).

Along with being nearly half of his career total of 60 victories (tying him with Kyle Busch for ninth all time), it also ranks him third for Cup wins by drivers over 40 behind Lee Petty (42) and Bobby Allison (38). Though Mark Martin often is remembered as a middle-age superstar (having won five races in 2009, the season he turned 50), Harvick has nearly triple the wins that Martin notched (11) after 40.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s contract runs through 2023, but it seems reasonable to wonder if Harvick will race beyond that (“My wife is going to kill you if you talk about racing into the 50s. I don’t know about that.

We’re going to enjoy what we’re doing, and we’d like to stay present.”).

More than four years ago after famously tweeting “#OldGuysRule” as a youth movement took root in NASCAR’s premier series, the Bakersfield, California, native shows no signs of slowing down amid so many indicators that his contemporaries moved on from racing long ago.

Harvick saw four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon (now the chief operating officer at Hendrick Motorsports) on his drive to victory lane, where he was interviewed by NBC Sports analysts Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty. His win was called in part by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is in the NASCAR on NBC booth after Clint Bowyer worked the first half for Fox Sports.

Harvick raced against all of them during a Cup career that started more than 21 years ago, stepping into the ride vacated by the death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500.

“A lot of the guys that I grew up racing with, they’re all retired and doing other things, but I get to still see them,” he said. “It’s those quiet high fives that are a lot of fun and kind of keep it in perspective for me because of the fact that you’re older and supposed to be done and kind of headed down a path that is toward the end.

“I’ve always prided myself in trying to be competitive and do what it takes to be competitive and make the sacrifices that it takes to be competitive. But I do enjoy it. There’s nothing better than winning. That’s what we do. I don’t know how to really put it all into perspective because it’s just not something that I just stop and really ever look at. I never really stop and say, ‘Where are all those 60 wins?’ I don’t really look at the numbers. Maybe this is a fault of mine, but I think it’s also one of the reasons that we progress forward. But it’s never about what you have done, what the numbers look like. It’s what do we got to do next week, what could we have done better last week, how do we keep this all in perspective.”

There are other ways that Harvick finds perspective without taking stock in statistics. With an overlooked mind for business and marketing (Kevin Harvick Inc. has flourished ), he noted multiple times in postrace interviews Sunday how the scene at Richmond Raceway last weekend reflected his generation-spanning career.

In the Sept. 6, 2003 race at Richmond, Harvick engaged in one of his most memorable rows when he stomped atop Ricky Rudd’s hood in retaliation for being punted late into the wall (Rudd famously said he couldn’t understand what Harvick was yelling because “he’s got that little yap-yap mouth”).

What Harvick remembers most about the incident was the blinding flashbulbs popping from a sellout crowd of 112,000. Those seemed relics Sunday when a solid crowd of 50,000 snapped photos with their smartphones during the second of two afternoon Cup races at Richmond in 2022.

“That was always one of my favorite things coming to the green flag were all the bulbs that would flash on the cameras and things back in the day,” he said. “It’s just different. I sound like my dad or my parents, right? You guys all know it and sound old and talk about how it used to be. It’s just different. It’s not the same.

“We had a good crowd today and a good crowd at Michigan last week, and next week we’re going to go to Watkins Glen and there’s going to be people everywhere. But it’s still never going to be what it was, right? Like it’s still never going to be 105,000 people (at Richmond), it’s still never going to be 250,000 people at the Daytona 500, it’s never going to be 200,000 people at Charlotte and nobody has got cameras with flashbulbs anymore that you’re going to have 200,000 people snapping a picture at the start of the race. It’s just different.”

Different like being the only full-time Cup driver born in the 1970s (45-year-old J.J. Yeley, who has 11 starts this year, is the only other true Gen Xer in the series).

The oldest and youngest driver in the field at Richmond shared a pace truck ride before the race, and Harvick still was chuckling hours later about that conversation with 19-year-old Ty Gibbs.

“Just some of the things that you talk about are very entertaining and also just opens your eyes to the different perspectives of how people see things and just what’s happening,” Harvick said. “I think I’ve tried to be more open with a lot of those guys. You hear so many people (say), ‘Well, that guy wouldn’t talk to me.’ I just try to talk to all of them, right, because why not? You want to be kind of engaged with your competitors and peers and people that you’re around.”

By becoming a bit of a mentor to Bubba Wallace and other 20somethings in Cup, Harvick is fitting in while still standing out – which he consciously resists the temptation to mull.

“Maybe sometimes I need to just stop and kind of take it all in, but I always feel like it’s bragging when you stop and talk about yourself,” he said. “I just want to be … I like most of the kids in the garage. I like being around the competitors. I’ve got a much better relationship with most everybody in the field, the crew chiefs, the owners. I like that part. You want them to respect you when you’re done.”

Harvick already has that respect, which is good.

Because maybe it could be a while before he’s done.


Richmond was a strategy-laden affair for the second consecutive year, though the pit calls were more straightforward than in the April 2 race in which Denny Hamlin and Harvick finished 1-2 as the only drivers who made two stops in the final stage.

In Sunday’s race, virtually all of the lead-lap cars were on the two-stop strategy in the final 170-lap segment. There still was the opportunity for gambling, but only one car took a major chance. And it paid off.

After falling a lap behind for a penalty on a Lap 172 pit stop, Christopher Bell stayed on track to take a wavearound onto the lead lap under the Lap 232 caution for the end of stage two. Bell, whose 50-lap tires would have dropped him a lap down quickly, got the caution he needed immediately on the Lap 240 restart – allowing him to stay on the lead lap on the way to a second-place finish despite bringing out the race’s final yellow on a Lap 251 spin.

Because Bell already had qualified for the playoffs with his New Hampshire victory, it was a risk worth taking. But there were other winners (William Byron, Austin Cindric, Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman) whose teams declined to gamble on the wavearound in the same position.

On the latest NASCAR on NBC Podcast, analyst Steve Letarte, who had 15 Cup victories as a crew chief for Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., expressed his befuddlement with the lack of aggressive tactics. Letarte also was surprised no team attempted to play the hare by making only one stop in the final stage.

“I’m very disappointed by the lack of creativity on pit road,” Letarte said on the podcast. “There’s a group of guys who were running in the last five positions on the lead lap, and when the leaders came in the middle of Stage 2 for the first time, they followed them in to get lapped. What in the heck are you doing? Just stay out and run 20 more laps. God forbid you get lucky and get a yellow and end up on the lead lap.

“It just amazes me the lack of creativity from some of these teams. I don’t think it’s ignorance or lack of preparation. I believe it’s distraction. The role and the strategy have surpassed what a crew chief can do while worrying about fuel mileage, tire pressure, adjustments, communications and a pit crew. It’s time to take something off his plate. They have too much going on.”


The emphasis on strategy in both Richmond races this season prompted social media debate over the decline of contact racing and caution flags at the 0.75-mile oval.

Since 2010, 22 of 25 Richmond races have featured single-digit caution flags (and that includes 11 races that were guaranteed two stages). There were double-digit cautions in 14 of the previous 25 races from 1997-2009.

There have been some variables during that stretch. The track stopped applying a sealer in 2003 and was repaved in 2004. After more than two decades of racing twice annually on Saturday night, Richmond has moved toward more daytime races (both were on Sunday afternoon this year). But it seems as if “The Action Track” has evolved into a tamer place, and it’s unlikely to change with the Next Gen car that so far has seemed racier on speedways that short tracks.

“It really doesn’t matter if you have this at race at night or day, it doesn’t really change the racing here,” Hamlin said. “These cars are just so aero-sensitive on the short tracks, and we’re shifting, it just makes it really, really difficult to pass. It doesn’t matter whether day or night. Night would be worse than day.

“It’s not a racetrack problem. It’s just an aerodynamic problem. These things just don’t turn behind other cars. They’re certainly more aero sensitive than the previous car we had on short tracks and in shifting. We’ve had races like this a long time (with) long green-flag runs. This is just Richmond and a different type of racetrack. When you go to Bristol, it’s a different type of racing. Here the battles are within. You saw (Bell) close to within 4 car lengths of (Harvick) from God knows how many seconds back. It’s a purist type of racetrack. If you want side by side beating and banging, this is not your racetrack.”


With two races left in the regular season, there still is a chance that both Ryan Blaney (second in points) and Martin Truex Jr. (fourth) both could be eliminated from the playoffs. It would mark the first time since the inception of playoff points in 2017 that a driver ranked in the top 10 of the regular season would be ineligible for the championship.

That’s notable because the top 10 positions come with incremental playoff point bonuses, starting with 15 for the regular-season champion and then decreasing in increments.

According to NASCAR, those points don’t transfer downward to playoff-eligible drivers — meaning that if Blaney and Truex are eliminated in their current positions, that would mean 17 playoff points (10 for second; seven for fourth) would disappear from the available pool for 2022.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs roll into Talladega Superspeedway, a center of uncertainty, for the second race in the Round of 12 this weekend.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) could place the first driver in the Round of 8. Any playoff driver who wins the race automatically advances to the next round.

Through the playoffs to date, playoff drivers are batting zero in the race-win category. Non-playoff drivers — Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Erik Jones — have scored wins in the first four playoff races.

Joey Logano leads the playoff points entering the race. Ross Chastain, who won at Talladega earlier this year, is second.

The four drivers below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron was above the line earlier this week but was penalized 25 points for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. That move lifted Chase Briscoe above the cutline.

Playoff races also are scheduled for the Xfinity Series (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, USA Network) and the Camping World Truck Series (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., FS1) at Talladega.

Here’s a look at the Talladega weekend schedule:

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 74.

Sunday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High of 75.

Friday, Sept. 30

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 2 – 7 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.