NASCAR America: Stewart-Haas Racing makes team history at Michigan

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With Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing once again made team history.

Clint Bowyer led a 1-2-3 finish for the team, as Kevin Harvick finished second and Kurt Busch placed third.

It’s the first time SHR has swept the top three positions. It’s a feat that has been accomplished 18 times now, but not since Roush Fenway Racing did it in 2008 at Dover.

On NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman and Dale Jarrett discussed the team’s achievement.

“They’ve been there, they’ve put themselves in position, this organization has done their work and they’re giving their drivers cars they can race hard with every single week,” Jarrett said. “As a driver, that’s what you want every single week is that opportunity.”

Said Kligerman: “You’re just seeing the culmination of a lot of work over the offseason. We saw when they switched over to Ford it was a bit of a slow transition, but this team has worked really hard in their processes behind the scenes. … All of that is coming to fruition.”

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NASCAR adds tire tests at Texas, Phoenix

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In an update to the rule book, NASCAR is adding tire tests Aug. 14-15 at Texas Motor Speedway and Oct. 2-3 at ISM Raceway in Arizona.

The Texas tire test is scheduled to have a team each from Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske and Furniture Row Racing. The test is to determine tires for the fall playoff race at Texas.

The Phoenix test is scheduled to have a team each from Chip Ganassi Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. That test is set to find a tire combination for the 2019 races there.

The Atlanta Motor Speedway tire test will now be Oct. 16-17. It was pushed back from Aug. 14-15.

Also in the rule bulletin:

Effective July 11 in the Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR will use owner points instead of attempts to qualify in determining provisionals.

Also, when Truck qualifying is canceled, two spots (positions 26 and 27 in the lineup) will be awarded based on the fastest combined practice speeds to vehicles not yet assigned a starting spot. The top 25 spots will be determined by owner points. Filling out the final spots will remain the same as stated in the rule book.

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NASCAR America: Pit strategy hurts Aric Almirola’s Coke 600 effort

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Two days after his 13th-place finish in the Coke 600, Aric Almirola met with NASCAR America’s Dave Burns to discuss what went wrong for him in the race and what’s going right overall for him at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Almirola pointed to pit strategy near the midway point of the race as being a cause for why he wasn’t able to get a better finish in his No. 10 Ford.

“Right before Stage 3 there was a caution and we had just a few laps on our tires and we elected not to pit,” Almirola said. “I thought we were going to be OK. Then we had a green flag (run) where we only ran two or three laps and it allowed a lot of the guys who came and pitted to pass a handful of cars very quickly. … So the next restart that came we had kind of made our bed at that point. So we had to stick with that decision.”

Almirola said every “little problem” he had running in the top five was “compounded” once he was racing back toward 15th.

The first-year driver with SHR also addressed how the success of Kevin Harvick‘s No. 4 team has helped all four teams at the organization. Through 13 races, all four teams are in the top 10 in points.

“High tide raises all ships,” Almirola said. “I feel like it’s a collective unit. … I feel like this is by far the best all four teams have worked together.”

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Busy schedule, family time keep Kevin Harvick’s mind off success

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin Harvick is having a moment.

Harvick has won six times this season, including last week’s All-Star Race. In tonight’s Coca-Cola 600, Harvick  to win three consecutive points races for the second time this season.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who starts last tonight after failing qualifying inspection three times, describes the impact of his hot streak on his life away from the track as “very strange.”

“I think when you look at everything that’s going on, every week feels like a normal week,” Harvick said Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I understand that things are going exceptionally well here at the race track and every race track that we’ve been to so far, but there’s that way of getting grounded when you’re at home because, honestly, my kids could care less about what happens here.  My son (Keelan) is more excited that I show up to his baseball game and stand on first base and tell him whether to run to second or not, and those type of things. He’s more concerned about me dropping him off in the car pool line.”

Last Saturday, Harvick took part in a one hour morning practice session for the All-Star Race. He then booked it to his son’s baseball game before driving back to the track for the drivers meeting and multiple appearances. After a one-hour nap, he watched the Monster Open and took part in the All-Star Race, where he won three of four stages.

“If your ass wouldn’t be tired by now, I don’t know who you are.  But I’m beat,” Harvick said in his winner’s press conference.

On Thursday, Harvick said his busy schedule allows him to “hide in my hole during the week.”

“I went to five meetings this week and participated in a lot of conversations about this sport,” Harvick. “I participated in a lot of conversations about the team and did interviews, but all of that happens in between when Keelan goes to school.  It’s all scheduled around his baseball games.  Those are all things that are first priorities, so that, to me, helps keep this in its position of number two.  It helps keep me from realizing everything that’s actually happening.”

The 2014 Cup champion compared his mental compartmentalization to what he experienced in 2001, when he took the place of Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing after his death on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

Harvick did double duty and raced full-time in both Cup and the Xfinity Series.

After his Atlanta win earlier this season, Harvick called that period in his life “very confusing.”

“It’s different,” Harvick said Thursday. “But it’s kind of the same because it kind of guards you from being able to really pay attention to all the things that are happening and going on and the actual attention and things that are being given to the situation.”

What’s next for All-Star rules package? That’s what NASCAR faces

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CONCORD, N.C. — The fans stood even as Kevin Harvick held the lead for the final 10 laps.

They stood because this was unlike anything they had seen at Charlotte Motor Speedway — cars bunched on a track that typically stretches them like taffy over 1.5 miles; cars two-wide often, three wide at times and four wide once.

This was so different even though there wasn’t a lead change in the final stage — duplicating the finish of last year’s race.

“I think you knew on Lap 7 that Kyle Busch had won the All-Star Race, I think we all knew that last year,’’ said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer.

Not Saturday night. A new aero package combined with restrictor plates created a form of racing that Harvick suggested could be a seminal moment years from now.

But for fans wanting more of what they saw Saturday, when will it return to Cup?

Not until next year.

While O’Donnell said “never say never’’ to the rules package being run this year, the reality is it won’t. NASCAR’s charter agreement precludes rule changes that would create significant costs for teams unless it is safety related. That’s not the only reason this package will not return this year.

Many questions need to be examined and that goes deeper than what took place on the track, O’Donnell said.

“For us, we’ve got to take the time, be smart about this, really look at it, see where we can go from here,’’ O’Donnell said. “But I think it’s fair to say that this is something we absolutely want to look at.’’

The question will be where else to run it.

“I wouldn’t want to take it to every 1.5-mile track,’’ said Kyle Larson, who finished seventh. “I’d hate to see this at Homestead or Chicago or something like that. I’d think Kentucky would be a nice one to try at it. It seemed like you could run with people on your right side a little bit a lot better than normal, so I’m thinking Kentucky when somebody’s on your door into (Turn) 3, maybe you won’t get as loose getting in, but yeah, I don’t think every track, but there’s some it could work for.’’

Denny Hamlin, who finished fourth, was open to the possibilities.

“I thought the race looked decent from my perspective,’’ he said. “Maybe it could use some refinement but overall if the fans or the stakeholders believe they saw a good race, then we can work on it from here. I’m not really opposed to anything, really.’’

What to do next is just another obstacle to hurdle. One that Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, has been doing for the past few months.

Smith spearheaded the push to run this package in the All-Star Race before the season when NASCAR discussed a plan with the sport’s key stakeholders to try this package in 2019.

Not everyone liked Smith’s idea. So he and other SMI officials worked for a few months to convince team owners it was worth the additional cost. The point being teams could do this in a test and pay for the costs or they could do it in a race that paid the winner $1 million.

But there’s much to consider before such changes can be instituted. Team executives told NBC Sports that restrictor plate motors are typically more expensive than a regular motor, so more races with this setup could prove more costly. Also, with cars running closer together, there’s the great chance of more multicar crashes and the added costs of repairing or replacing cars.

“It’s going to be different than our other packages,’’ said Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing. “It’s a motor package, potentially a body change from what we race on downforce racetracks. We’re just creating more work for ourselves which just takes more resources. It puts good racing on, the races are spread out, we’ll all figure it out as teams.  Dumping it on us right now wouldn’t be the right thing to do.’’

Of course, cost shouldn’t be the determining factor for why something isn’t done. The ultimate goal, as Smith sees it, is simple.

“To me the measure is highlights, and we had a lot of highlights tonight,’’ he told NBC Sports. “Highlight-worthy racing is something I like to talk about, that’s my goal with every single race. Tonight I spent most of the day from 10:30 this morning to just now out with the fans … I was able to observe a lot and hear a lot and I saw a lot of fans standing on their feet, they weren’t using their seats much.’’

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