Jimmie Johnson

Harvick takes hot streak to Kentucky, one of his last winless tracks

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For the last two months, things have been going very well for Kevin Harvick.

In the 12 races since the Cup Series returned to competition on May 17 – with Harvick’s win at Darlington – the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has accumulated four victories, seven top fives and an additional three top 10s.

This year marks the eighth time Harvick has reached or exceeded four wins in a season. The only other time he’s had four wins prior to race No. 17 was 2018 when he had five. It was also in 2018 that Harvick went on to win a career-best eight races in a season.

Among his victories this year was his June 27 win at Pocono Raceway, his first on the three-turn speedway.

That left only two active Cup tracks the 44-year-old driver has yet to win on – Kentucky Speedway and the Charlotte Roval.

Harvick gets his 10th attempt to win at Kentucky on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Through nine starts, the 1.5-mile track hasn’t been too kind to Harvick.

In fact, while he’s led 128 laps there, those all came in the 2016 race. He trails only Jimmie Johnson (206 laps led) among active lap leaders who have not won at Kentucky.

He goes into Sunday’s race with just one Kentucky top-five finish (2018) and five top 10s.

Working in Harvick’s favor now is his 1.5-mile program. He’s led the most laps in four of the last seven races on 1.5-mile tracks.

In the five races at 1.5-mile tracks this season he’s led a total of 306 laps, including 151 in his win at Atlanta.

Following his win Sunday in the Brickyard 400, his second in a row and third overall there, Harvick was asked what it felt like to be competing at such a high level this season.

“I think when you look at the root of the equation, it’s the team, right?” Harvick said. “It’s the crew chief (Rodney Childers) and the driver that have been together, the engineer. We had one engineer move on, but we’ve had the same engineer with Dax (Gerringer). You keep adding little pieces to keep making that puzzle come together and fit together well. But experience plays a big role in this.

“I think for us, when we come to the racetrack, I know I have to be prepared. I know every guy on my team is going to be prepared and has done everything he can during that week leading up to that race to do 100% of his job. If you’re not prepared, you’ve let every person down because that’s the type of team we’ve been fortunate to put together over the last seven years.

“Everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing allowed us to do that from the beginning. It keeps progressing. You keep getting more and more details out of things because you keep the people together, and everybody believes in what I just said. If you don’t do 100% of your job during the week, you have let the rest of the team down because they have.”

After two negative COVID-19 tests, Jimmie Johnson cleared to race

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After missing last weekend’s Brickyard 400 because of a positive COVID-19 test, Jimmie Johnson medically has been cleared to return to competition, Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday morning.

Johnson will drive his No. 48 Chevrolet in Sunday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Johnson tested negative twice this week – on Monday and Tuesday – and was cleared by his physician Tuesday evening in accordance with NASCAR guidelines. A Hendrick release said Johnson never experienced symptoms.

Justin Allgaier drove the No. 48 in the Brickyard 400 and finished 37th after being involved in an early crash on pit road.

“My family is so grateful for the incredible love and support we’ve received over the last several days,” Johnson said in a team release. “I especially want to thank Justin Allgaier for stepping in for me at Indy and being a true pro. I’m excited about getting back to business with my team this weekend.”

Hendrick Motorsports said four crew members were tested for COVID-19 after Johnson’s positive result. All four had negative results.

The No. 48 team will have its regular personnel roster for Sunday’s race.

Johnson’s positive test was announced last Friday, making him the first NASCAR driver to test positive for COVID-19. Johnson was tested last Friday after his wife’s Wednesday test returned positive.

Sunday’s Brickyard 400 was the first Cup race the seven-time champion has missed in his full-time career, which began in 2002.

Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the playoff grid after missing Sunday’s race.

NASCAR teams, groups approved for millions in federal COVID-19 loans

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Several NASCAR teams and related organizations were approved for between $150,000 and $10 million in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPE), according to data provided Monday.

The U.S. Small Business Administration posted a list of PPP loan data on the U.S. Department of the Treasury website. The Paycheck Protection Program was included in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was established to help businesses weather the financial stress of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Among the many NASCAR teams, racetracks and related organizations (with data including the range of the loan and the number of jobs retained):

* Richard Childress Racing ($5-$10 million, 334 jobs)

* Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates ($2-5 million, 179 jobs)

* Roush Fenway Racing ($2-5 million, 179 jobs)

* Roush & Yates Racing Engines ($2-5 million, 192 jobs)

* JTG Daugherty Racing ($1-2 million, 88 jobs)

* GMS Racing ($1-$2 million, 89 jobs)

* Kyle Busch Motorsports ($1-$2 million, 71 jobs)

* JR Motorsports ($1-$2 million, 88 jobs)

* Germain Racing ($350,000-$1 million, 41 jobs)

* Richard Petty Motorsports ($350,000-$1 million, 43 jobs)

* Dale Earnhardt Inc. ($350,000-$1 million, 55 jobs)

* DGR-Crosley ($350,000-$1 million, 67 jobs)

* Premium Motorsports ($350,000-$1 million, 46 jobs)

* Pocono International Raceway ($350,000-$1 million, 142 jobs)

* Hattori Racing ($150,000-$350,000, 16 jobs)

* Jimmie Johnson Racing ($150,00-$350,000, 8 jobs)

* Motor Racing Outreach ($150,000-$350,000, 9 jobs)

* Rev Racing ($150,000-$350,000, 12 jobs)

* Starcom Racing ($150,000-$350,000, 20 jobs)

* Kaulig Racing ($350,000-$1 million, 36 jobs)

* Mesa Marin Raceway ($150,000-$350,000, 16 jobs)

* Bill McAnally Racing ($150,000-$350,000, 19 jobs)

* Young’s Motorsports ($150,000-$350,000, 0 jobs)

* JD Motorsports ($150,000-$350,000, 0 jobs)

In a statement accompanying the data, the SBA said the data was for businesses that were approved for PPP loans but “does not reflect a determination by SBA that the borrower is eligible for a PPP loan or entitled to loan forgiveness. All PPP loans are subject to SBA review, and all loans over $2 million will automatically be reviewed.”

Contributing: Nate Ryan

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Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

President Trump tweets about Bubba Wallace

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President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning about Bubba Wallace, asking if the only Black driver racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series had apologized for what the President called “another hoax.”

Although not specifically referencing what the FBI described as a noose found in Wallace’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway, Trump references how drivers and NASCAR officials stood behind Wallace during pre-race ceremonies before the June 21 race.

Trump, who gave the command to begin the Daytona 500 in February and his motorcade led the field on to the track, tweeted: “Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”

The FBI determined that no hate crime was committed against Wallace because evidence showed that the garage tie-down rope was fashioned as a noose in October 2019 and no one could have known that Wallace’s team would occupy that stall eight months later. The rope in Wallace’s stall was the only one fashioned as noose.

The noose was discovered by a crew member of Wallace’s team. Because of NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols, drivers are not allowed in the garage area.

Wallace was informed of the noose by NASCAR President Steve Phelps. NASCAR’s investigation did not determine who fashioned the rope in that manner or why.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson told drivers in a group chat that he planned to stand with Wallace during the national anthem before the Talladega race to show his support for Wallace. Former champion Kevin Harvick suggested that drivers push Wallace’s car from his spot in the starting grid to the front of the field.

Drivers did that and stood with Wallace for the invocation and national anthem. Many hugged him before the race. Richard Petty, who had not attended a race since NASCAR resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic, stood with Wallace. After the drivers pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the grid, Wallace climbed from the car and was overcome by emotion. Petty comforted Wallace by putting his arm around the driver.

NASCAR issued the following statement Monday afternoon:

We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership. NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.