Kevin Harvick’s car fails inspection, will start at rear of Coca-Cola 600 (video)

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin Harvick will start at the rear of the field for the Coca-Cola 600 after his car failed to pass inspection Thursday and did not make a qualifying attempt.

Harvick’s team also will miss 30 minutes of final practice Saturday and be without car chief Robert Smith the rest of the weekend.

Harvick’s car failed inspection three times.

MORE: Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

“I think it’s something that has been building throughout the year and at some point you had to get back control of it,’’ crew chief Rodney Childers said. “Basically, the template side of it wasn’t getting used and straight edges weren’t getting used and we were purely going off the (Optical Scanning Station). That was fine until it somewhat starts to get out of hand. They changed some things around last week and some personnel around and some positions around and started checking things differently.

“The whole garage had trouble last week, but we all got through it. I’ll be honest with you, we worked on this thing for 12 hours Monday (at the shop) trying to get all of it how they wanted it. We felt good about it when we unloaded it. We went through it and … everything was good.

“We went back through for qualifying and it was red. We sanded on it and it was more red, and we sanded on it again and it was more red. That part I don’t understand. That part is disappointing. It’s not their fault.

“Everybody is going to push things as much as they can, and I think everybody knows that the 4 team is out to push things as much as they can and win races. It’s disappointing to start in the back. It’s disappointing not to have (Smith) here. We’ll get through it as a race team. We’ll have a good car on Sunday.’’

About losing 30 minutes of practice time Saturday, Childers said: “You either got a good car or you don’t. I’m guessing it will be pretty good. We’ll just have to serve our penalty and move on.’’

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All-Star Race buzz still has many in NASCAR talking

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The rules package and racing in Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race and Monster Open has many in the sport debating what to do next.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief racing development officer, said Monday on “The Morning Drive” that series officials will meet Wednesday with industry officials to discuss the race and “see where we go from here.”

The Xfinity Series will run a similar package this season at Pocono (June 2), Michigan (June 9) and Indianapolis (Sept. 8) after running it only at Indy last year.

MORE: Transcript of NASCAR’s comments after the All-Star Race

While O’Donnell noted Saturday night that he would “never say never” to running what was used in the All-Star race again later this year in Cup, he said the focus was on 2019 for the package.

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., said he would be for running the package in Cup at Kentucky (July 14). Kentucky is the last 1.5-mile track on the schedule before the playoffs begin in September.

“Certainly that track has been a place where R&D for the rest of the sport has happened, and we’d be happy to have it again there,” Smith told NBC Sports about Kentucky. “Any mile-and-a-half track, whether it’s ours or not. My interest is in making the whole sport fantastic, and I think we’ve got great opportunities for that.’’

Car owner Joe Gibbs said after the All-Star Race that more evaluation is needed with the package.

“I think there’s a lot to talk about,” Gibbs told NBC Sports after the race. “I’m sure we’ll make a good decision. Everybody is going to work together. I think (the race) will be something that everybody evaluates and thinks about. I think there’s a lot to it that going forward in the future would be very different. Cars will have a chance to be in the wind tunnel and do all the things that we do with them.”

Todd Gordon, crew chief for Joey Logano, cautioned Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about a rush to use the package at other tracks immediately.

“You saw the race and as a team member you feel like, wow, there’s something there, but I think we’ve got to be smart about how we roll forward,” he said. “Sometimes that’s going to take more time than I think what our fan base is going to understand, but we’ve got to smart about how we look at this and what we can do with it. I think there’s potential there. If we just implement what we just did, I don’t know if we’re getting all the potential out of it.”

There also was quite a discussion on social media from several in the sport, from spotters and crew chiefs and more, about the racing and what to do next. Here’s what some were saying on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

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Kevin Harvick rallies to pass Martin Truex Jr. late to win at Kansas

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Kevin Harvcik passed Martin Truex Jr. coming to the white flag and ran away to win his fifth Cup race of the season Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.

“How about that?’’ Harvick screamed on his radio.

“God, you’re the man,’’ crew chief Rodney Childers said.

“That was cool,’’ said Harvick, who has won 41.6 percent of the Cup races this season.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points report

Truex finished second. Joey Logano placed third, Kyle Larson, who led a race-high 101 laps, was fourth and Denny Hamlin placed fifth.

On the final restart with nine laps to go, Harvick restarted sixth. He used the outside line to get to second and reeled in Truex, who was on older tires than Harvick’s car.

Stage 1 winner: Ryan Blaney

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Larson

How Kevin Harvick won: The decision to pit for four tires late proved to be the key call and helped Harvick charge to the win in the final laps.

Who had a good race: Even though he wasn’t among the leaders most of the night, Martin Truex Jr. pulled out a second-place finish, his third consecutive top-two finish at Kansas. … Joey Logano placed third to earn his seventh top-10 finish in the last eight races. … Denny Hamlin was fifth, earning his fifth top-five finish of the season. He had only two top-five finishes at the same time last year. … Paul Menard matched his best finish of the season by placing sixth.

Who had a bad race: Ryan Blaney had his night end while battling Kyle Larson for third place with about 20 laps to go and hit the wall, ending his night. They made contact and Blaney hit the wall. He drove the car to the garage while Larson continued. Blaney finished 37th. … Matt Kenseth‘s return was not memorable. He battled an ill-handling car in his return, was lapped multiple times and eliminated in a late crash, placing 36th. … A loose wheel forced Brad Keselowski to pit under green and ended any chances for a strong finish. He placed 14th.

Notable: Kevin Harvick has won three of the four races on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

Quote: “Definitely my fault. Just trying too hard,’’ Ryan Blaney to Fox Sports 1 on his incident with Kyle Larson late in the race.

Next: The Monster Energy All-Star Race will be at 8 p.m. ET on May 19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Improved communication has boosted Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing

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Sunday saw more of the same for Stewart-Haas Racing, or at least more of what could be the new normal.

Kevin Harvick visited victory lane for the fourth time this year.

But to get the win, he had to get around a teammate. That was Clint Bowyer, who is getting used to running up front consistently for the first time in years.

Harvick passed Bowyer with 63 laps to go and ran away for the win. Bowyer came home second for his third top five of the season. Bowyer, who led 40 laps, contended despite an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel early in the race.

Kurt Busch finished fifth to give Stewart-Haas Racing three cars in the top five. New teammate Aric Almirola placed 11th.

“This year, we’ve been working well every single weekend,” Bowyer said. “We’re pushing each other to be better, and our setups are all relatively the same, and it shows on the racetrack. (Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and I have done such a way better job of communicating, and all that comes with success. Make no mistake about it, those things come with success, and we’ve had that so far this year, and it makes all the communication and everything a lot better.”

Bowyer also pointed to a restructuring at Stewart-Haas Racing in the offseason that included Busch’s former crew chief, Tony Gibson, taking an oversight position in the SHR shop. Or as team co-owner Tony Stewart said, a “floor babysitter.”

“We had one car (Harvick) last year that was running well, and it doesn’t do an organization very much if you only have one car running well,” Bowyer said. With Gibson coming off the road and “collaborating amongst the teams,” Bowyer said he is “making sure all those cars are ready for battle when they go to the racetrack” and that they’re essentially alike.

“That’s the biggest thing is when you go to the track, you need to be able to bounce off each other and work with one another, and sometimes something is different or whatever, it’s hard to do that,” Bowyer said.

SHR is making it look easy, having claimed five wins through 11 races, with Bowyer earning his first since 2012.

The team has 13 top fives and 25 top 10s among its four drivers. Last year, with the team in its first season with Ford and Danica Patrick driving the No. 10, SHR had 26 top fives (14 from Harvick) and 52 top 10s the entire season.

“When you have confidence in the cars and the tools and everything going on, I think the biggest thing is just all the cylinders are clicking right now,” said Rodney Childers, crew chief for Harvick. “The biggest thing is we haven’t went back and talked about the races that we’ve won. We go back and we talk about how to get better every week, and we build better race cars and they build better engines, and we’ve done better on pit road. To keep this going, we’re going to have to get a lot better every single week, and to keep it to where it needs to be when the championship comes around.”

Stewart said everything about SHR’s operation is “on point” through 11 races. Earlier this season he saw all four of his cars finish in the top 10 for the first time at Phoenix.

“I think Brett Favre said this in a quote once, is that success is kind of one of the worst things that can happen to you because some guys feel like they’ve got where they need to be and they lose that intensity,” Stewart said “That’s something that I feel like our group is really good about, not losing that focus on the fact that we’re a technology‑driven sport, and we have to keep pushing all the time to keep finding more things to go faster and be better than we were the week before.”

All the work SHR has put in has three of their drivers in the top six in points through 11 races. Bowyer, in his second season with SHR, is fourth.

He hasn’t finished in the top 10 since 2013.

“It’s fun to be up in the limelight,” Bowyer said.

Long: NASCAR-related tweets did not reflect positively on sport after Texas race

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As if DeLana Harvick had enough to do. The wife to Kevin Harvick and mother of two children, including a daughter born in December, had to be the voice of reason Sunday night for a sport filled with snipes, swipes and other barbs toward one another after the Texas race.

The back-and-forth carried over to social media and included everyone from a senior NASCAR executive to a team co-owner, crew chiefs and more.

Just as a mother does when she tells a child to stop misbehaving, DeLana Harvick put her foot down on social media with a tweet at 10:38 p.m. ET. It was not addressed to anybody in particular but to anyone watching Twitter after the race — which proved to be as drama-filled as the 500-mile event — it was a good reminder for many on social media.

Until that point, Twitter had been quite interesting for a NASCAR fan if you knew where to look.

NASCAR President Brent Dewar engaged with fans as he often does, but his tone was a bit more aggressive than the other times he’s conversed with fans.

Admittedly, some fans were upset that NASCAR didn’t penalize Harvick’s team for an uncontrolled tire late in the race. NASCAR admitted after the race it made a mistake. Then Monday morning, Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, called the non-call a “close call.’’

Dewar engaged with a fan who was upset about the non-call Sunday night.

Obviously, race control is a secure area and where NASCAR’s officials call the race. To suggest a fan could visit race control seems over the top. While Dewar sought to maintain a sense of levity in the response with the emojis, some could view his comments more harshly than intended.

But it wasn’t just Dewar on social media that stirred debate and discussion on matters. Pit guns were another key point after Sunday’s race, triggered by Harvick’s comments after the race. He expressed his frustration after pit gun issues potentially cost him a chance to win Saturday’s Xfinity and Sunday’s Cup races at Texas.

Harvick said the pit guns “have been absolutely horrible all year, and our guys do a great job on pit road, and the pathetic part about it is the fact you get handed something that doesn’t work correctly, and those guys are just doing everything that they can to try to make it right.”

He isn’t the only one to be upset about the pit guns this year. Cole Pearn, crew chief for Martin Truex Jr., expressed his displeasure with the pit guns at Atlanta. Pearn let his voice be heard again Sunday after the race, commenting on an article that noted Harvick’s frustration with the pit guns.

Pearn referenced the Race Team Alliance, which features most of the Cup teams. Pearn’s team, Furniture Row Racing, is not a member. Pearn’s tweet earned a response from Rob Kauffman, chairman of the Race Team Alliance and a co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing.

Car owner Joe Gibbs said after Kyle Busch‘s win that he’s not a fan of the NASCAR-mandated pit guns.

“I don’t like things not in our hands,” Gibbs said. “So, you know, be quite truthful, I’ve taken a stand on that. That’s something that I hope we continue to really evaluate, continue to evaluate that.”

There was more Sunday.

Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers responded to a tweet from Ty Gibbs that has since been deleted. Gibbs, the 15-year-old grandson of Joe Gibbs and a part of the JGR driver development program, referenced Ford in his tweet after Kyle Busch’s JGR Toyota car won at Texas.

Regardless of whom DeLana Harvick targeted in her tweet Sunday night, NASCAR Twitterverse calmed down. How long remains to be seen.

The stretch of short tracks continues this weekend with Bristol and next weekend with Richmond.

One can only imagine what will be on social media after those races.

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