‘Snowball effect’ led Bob Leavine to sell Cup team

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Seeing the “snowball effect” of a lack of sponsorship, cost for additional cars next year and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy, car owner Bob Leavine said Tuesday that it was clear that he needed to sell Leavine Family Racing.

The team announced Tuesday that it has been sold. The buyer has not been revealed.

Leavine said Tuesday that the team had 11 races available for sponsorship on rookie Christopher Bell‘s car before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the sport in March for 10 weeks. The team’s biggest sponsor, Leavine noted, was his construction company, which also has been impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the virus.

“We haven’t really sold anything and probably won’t sell anything going forward this year,” Leavine said Tuesday of sponsorship.

Leavine also cited a business model that he has been critical of, including the charter system.

Leavine Family Racing was not granted a charter but merged with Circle Sport Racing, which had a charter, for the 2016 season. The partnership ended after that season. Leavine Family Racing bought Tommy Baldwin Racing’s charter in Nov. 2016.

We definitely did not get out of our charter what we put into our charter,” said Leavine, who has not publicly revealed what was paid for the charter. “So, from our standpoint, it is very difficult to say that it was a great investment. It just allowed us to run full time for the five years after we bought it. That’s the best thing I can say for the charter system.”

Leavine Family Racing made its NASCAR debut in 2011. Christopher Bell joined the team prior to this season. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Another challenge was NASCAR’s move to push back the debut of the Next Gen car from 2021 to 2022. Leavine Family Racing has an affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing this season for chassis and support but Leavine said the plan was not to continue that next year.

“We had a whole lot of things banking on the Next Gen coming in,” Leavine said. “Our deal with JGR, our affiliation required us to do certain things. We were looking forward to being a standalone team with one or two cars. So, the pandemic, and sponsorship and how it affected (his construction business), our major sponsor, and then having to come back and buy all the cars again for next year, because we had planned on not needing cars next year.

“It was a snowball effect on multiple things. We saw no way out. We could not afford the affiliation, and what we did this year, next year. That’s what we banked on. Okay, we will do this one year, run good, get our charter value up, and we had a plan. That plan came tumbling down with the pandemic. Then you take a bad business model; it doesn’t work for us.”

Leavine said he lobbied NASCAR and owners in the spring for particular changes, which he did not reveal. When those ideas were rejected, Leavine said he was “very disappointed in what came out of that meeting. I knew that was probably going to be the straw that broke our back. I had to start looking for how best do we protect our team. How best do we keep people employed. A lot of things went into that decision.”

Leavine Family Racing has competed in NASCAR since 2011, making its debut with David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9. The organization didn’t run a full schedule until 2016 with Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon splitting the ride. Others who have driven for the team include Kasey Kahne, Regan SmithMatt DiBenedetto and Bell.

I really gave it all I had for the 10 years and the last five primarily when we went full-time, and I committed, and I thought we could make a difference and be a good team,” Leavine said. “A responsible and respected team in NASCAR. To walk away and not have completed that, I’ve never had to do that before and give up on anything. But I could not let it destroy our business – a 41-year old business – in Texas during these times, so you have to protect something and that’s a profitable organization.”

What drivers said after New Hampshire

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Brad Keselowski – winner: “We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the 2 car, but we just haven’t really went out and kind of dominated a race. Talking to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and like, ‘Man, what do we need to get to that next level?  We’re right there.  We need to go out and just dominate a race,’ and that’s what today was for us with the Western Star/Alliance Parts Ford Mustang.  I’m really proud of my team and the effort that they gave today.  A great race car and to all of Team Penske, thank you.  Its so great to be racing back in front of fans again.  It feels like forever, so welcome back, guys.”

(WHAT KIND OF STATEMENT WAS THIS TODAY?):  “This is the same tire and similar track to Phoenix and we know that’s what you’ve got to do to win this championship. You have to go win Phoenix and we put on a great showing today.  I’m pumped, I really am. The playoffs are a long ways away and they’re gonna be tough, but this is certainly a good sign.”

More: Keselowski wins third race of year

Denny Hamlin – finished second: “We just kind of were second there to the 2 (Brad Keselowski). We could really do well on restarts and we were going back-and-forth. Wow, that was some really, really good short track racing there. Hopefully the fans liked what they saw there with me and the 2 for most of the day. Some great side-by-side racing. We treated each other fair and it’s good that we got one-two out of it.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished third: “We ran second in the first stage and had a tire get away on pit road, had to come from the back. That definitely made things a lot more challenging. Had a decent Sport Clips Toyota, just wasn’t quite driving like we needed it to and then it kind of burned the tires off after 25 or 30 laps. We could hang with them and we would fall consistently off the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 11 (Denny Hamlin). Third-best car and we finished third so all in all, a good day. Just have to find a little bit more. Just missed the balance a little bit today. Love coming up here to Loudon and this was a fun day.”

Joey Logano – finished fourth: “It was an okay day. (Crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) put together a great car for me, something that was pretty competitive. I thought maybe it was something we could win with if we had the track position right.  We scored a few stage points. It was a somewhat uneventful day. Our pit stall was very challenging. It’s just kind of how this works right now. If you have a bad race the race before, you get stuck with a really bad stall and stuck in between a couple cars and that cost us a little bit. And then there on one of those cautions there towards the end I heard Paul say, ‘Pit,’ and the part that I missed is where he said, ‘if they split, pit.’  So all I got was the pit part, so we pitted when there really wasn’t many cars or any cars that pitted. And then we kind of got lucky and got a caution five or six laps after that. We did fuel only, which just made us really loose the last run.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished sixth: We had some troubles and had a fast car from the start, we just had to tighten it up some. I was a little frustrated at times just because of how fast of a car we had and we were sort of stuck back in a little mess, had some big trouble on one pit stop and really set us back, so we were battling to try to get up where we belonged and then once we did we were pretty competitive. I thought we had a car that could have ran in the top two or three until that very last run we just got a little too tight on the last set of tires. We were tight and lost a little speed, so we ended up still having a solid day finishing sixth, which I’m happy about in the sense of our last two weeks were very rough as far as luck. We’ve had fast race cars, but the takeaway I take from it is we’ve really been in a good groove for the last many weeks I can remember. For the last sevenish weeks we’ve had cars that can run up in the top five and top 10 no problem, so I’m real encouraged about that moving forward. I think we’ll stay in a good rhythm. Other than that, not too crazy of a day. I’m glad we came out with a solid run that the team deserves when we’re obviously fighting for points.”

Aric Almirola – finished seventh: “Well the streak continues. Nine top 10s in a row. So proud of this Smithfield Hometown Heroes Ford Mustang team. We ran up front a little bit in the beginning and were just off a bit on balance of our car. It was a solid day. We continue to build a points gap back to the cutoff line to the guys in the playoffs and we just continue the consistency. One of these days we’re going to get us a win.”

Cole Custer – finished eighth: “Today was definitely the run we needed. If we can keep being this consistent, we’ll have something for the playoffs.”

Chase Elliott – finished ninth: “We were hoping to have a better finish today. I felt like we were making some ground up there late in Stage 2 and at the start of the final stage. Then those guys got ahead of us when we stayed out and they pitted. That got us back in traffic and our drive off wasn’t good enough to drive back through the field like some of those other guys. Definitely not where we want to be, so we’ll keep working and trying to get it better.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 10th: “New Hampshire Motor Speedway is one of the most challenging tracks on the circuit for me, so to come out of here with a top-10 finish feels great. We had a great starting spot with our No. 8 Feeding America Chevrolet but didn’t have the handling to keep the track position in the preferred line. Our car was very tight for most of the day, which made it really hard to roll the center of the corners like I wanted to, so we had our hands full for the start of the race. We had some great speed though, we just had to adjust on our Chevrolet a little bit to get the handling to match it. Towards the start of Stage 3, the handling loosened up enough for me to really start rolling through the turns on the bottom and pick up some positions. With the final caution coming out when it did, we had to focus on saving fuel for a long time in the final stage, but we managed it well enough to not only make it to the end, but also fight our way into a top-10 finish.”

William Byron – finished 11th: “That was a hard fought one for us today. We worked hard throughout the race to get the handling right and in the middle stage of the race we were pretty good. We were able to drive up to third and I was happy with that. After that though the car just stopped turning and the handling went away towards the end. It was a typical New Hampshire race in the things you fight here handling-wise, which is good and bad, but we’ll take the solid finish and head to the Michigan doubleheader and have two really good races there.

Jimmie Johnson – finished 12th:

Austin Dillon – finished 13th: “The only thing we were missing was track position. We had to start at the rear of the field but did a good job of working our way into the top 15 or so in Stage 1. In Stage 2 we took right-side tires during a pit stop, which positioned us in the lead for a restart with just a few laps remaining in the Stage. I just couldn’t get going on two tires and ended up losing the lead, but we were still able to maintain enough track position to earn some Stage points. We pitted for fuel-only during a caution in Stage 3 that put us in a great position at the end of the race to go for it while a lot of other teams were in fuel conservation mode. It was amazing how fast the Freightliner Chevrolet was during that long green flag run at the end. We just needed about 20 more laps at the end to be in contention. Overall, it was a solid day for this Freightliner team.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 14th: “That was a really up and down race for us at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today. We knew we had speed in our Kroger Chevrolet but struggled with the handling for the beginning half of the race. Brian Pattie did a great job staying on top of the calls to keep us on the lead lap, and make adjustments that gave us a top-15 finish. We struggled in July, but that’s a solid start to our August to get back on the right momentum.”

Alex Bowman – finished 15th: “We had an up and down day today. We started off chattering the tires, which made the car difficult to drive. (Crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys made some big changes on the stops and got our Chevrolet a little better. A big thanks to my team and everyone back at the shop for their hard work every week. We will move on to Michigan for the doubleheader next week.”

Ryan Preece – finished 16th: “New Hampshire Motor Speedway is always a place I have marked on the schedule, but we really needed a strong run today. I’ve felt like the last few weeks, we’ve had the right adjustments and the right balance in our cars, just couldn’t get luck on our side to get the result we deserved. We ran out of fuel on the final lap that cost us a few positions; but being able to be competitive and get stage points today and still come away with a top-20 finish in our Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet is really positive. I’m proud of all of the hard work everyone has put in at JTG Daugherty Racing and to Trent Owens for making great adjustments all day and I’m looking forward to turning this season around.”

Kurt Busch – finished 17th: “There wasn’t much magic to be found for the Monster Energy team today at the “Magic Mile.” We really struggled with the car being loose on entry all day. The guys made some adjustments to help out, but we just couldn’t find the handling for the long runs. We are working hard to get better on the short tracks like this”.

Clint Bowyer – finished 18th: “We got some bonus points in the first two stages today and we’re still in the top 12. We’ll go to Michigan this week and I know our Fords like that place a lot.”

Michael McDowell – finished 19th: “It was certainly a tough day for our No. 34 team today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. We didn’t fire off exactly how we had hoped, but we consistently made good improvements to the car and ended up with a Top-20 finish after running around the 25th position for a majority of the race.”

Ty Dillon – finished 22nd: “Today was a long one for our GEICO team. My guys worked hard all day, but our Camaro ZL1 1LE was tight for the majority of the race. We would make a little gain and then the balance would get tight again. During the second stage, our left rear fender was flared out after contact and we lost track position on pit road to make repairs. We hoped some guys would run out of fuel there at the end, because we were one or two laps to the good, but the cards didn’t fall that way. On to the double in Michigan.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 23rd: “Not much to hit on today. Our Cash App Chevy was just okay. Nothing to be proud about. But we gave it our best effort. We were just way too tight. We’ve got to restart from baseline when we come back to this place. We’ve always kind of fought that and never really had decent results. All in all, a minor setback to start the race, so we’ve got some clawing to do. We’ve got six races left to get a shot at the playoffs, so we’ve got to get our mojo back. It seems like we’ve been searching for it for the last couple of weeks and we’ll keep after it. So, on to Michigan.”

Daniel Suarez  – finished 26th: “We gave it everything we had today with our It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota. We were pretty good on restarts most of the day but then it was surprising how quickly it went away within about 15 laps the early part of the race. We worked to make it better on the long run, and it felt like it was coming to me during the long run at the end. But that was pretty much all we had today. We just need to keep working hard. Next week, we’ll have two chances to keep making things better.”

Corey LaJoie – finished 35th:

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 36th: “That was definitely a hard hit, but I’m okay. An unfortunate end to our day in the No. 38 CITGARD Ford Mustang. We had a fast car and were pretty good on the short run. We struggled a little on the long run, but overall we had a fast race car. I can’t thank my guys enough for how we unloaded. We unloaded with speed and felt good about our situation. We had a top-15 car today, but we pitted for tires towards the end and must have run something over and had a left-front tire go down, which ended our day.”

Kyle Busch – finished 38th: “I blew a right-front tire for some reason. I have no idea why. Way too early in the going for anything to be wrong or even to build enough brake temp or brake heat. I don’t know. Just hate it for our Pedigree team and the fight that we’ve been having this year seems to be continuing. Last time I was here in a Pedigree car, we blew a right-front tire for no reason as well too. Just seems to be our luck with the Pedigree scheme for some reason here at New Hampshire. It’s still 2020, but sooner or later we have to turn this stuff around.”

 

Aric Almirola draws the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire

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Aric Almirola will start first for the third time this season in the NASCAR Cup Series after drawing the pole position in the starting lineup for Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Almirola, who finished third at New Hampshire two years ago, also started first June 27 at Pocono Raceway and July 19 at Texas Motor Speedway. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s No. 10 Ford has drawn a top-five starting spot in the last five Cup races set by random draws.

Denny Hamlin, who finished second at New Hampshire last year, will start second in his No. 11 Toyota.

STARTING LINEUP: Where everyone will start in the Cup race at New Hampshire

Here are the next five rows in order: Chase Elliott (the highest-starting Chevrolet in third), Brad Keselowski (fourth), Kyle Busch (fifth), Clint Bowyer (sixth after moving this week into the top 12 starting order draw), defending race winner Kevin Harvick (seventh), Alex Bowman (eighth), Joey Logano (ninth), Kurt Busch (10th), Martin Truex  Jr. (11th) and Ryan Blaney (12th)

Other notables in the New Hampshire starting lineup:

Tyler Reddick (13th); Cole Custer (14th) Bubba Wallace (15th); William Byron (16th); Erik Jones (17th); Matt DiBenedetto (19th); Jimmie Johnson (20th); Matt Kenseth (21st); Austin Dillon (23rd).

The New Hampshire Cup starting lineup was ordered Thursday afternoon through a random draw of the following groups:

  • Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points

Click here for the New Hampshire Cup starting lineup for Sunday’s race.

NASCAR Cup Series at New Hampshire 

Race Time: 3 p.m. ET, Sunday

Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway; Loudon, New Hampshire (1.058-mile speedway)

Length: 301 laps (318.46 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 75. Stage 2 ends Lap 185

TV coverage: NBCSN

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

New Hampshire Cup starting lineup: Click here for the starting order Sunday

Next Xfinity race: Aug. 8 at Road America (45 laps, 182.16 miles) noon ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Aug. 7 at Michigan (100 laps, 200 miles) 6 p.m. ET on FS1

What drivers said at Kansas

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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “He (Kevin Harvick) got loose there and when you get in clean air, I think it was probably the first time he was in clean air all day. I saw him get loose and I saw kind of blood in the water there, so we just ran him down. Obviously, I thought (Brad Keselowski) had a really, really fast car and there were a couple others. We just did a great job of getting it right when it really, really mattered. This is how you win them.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI — Finished 2nd: “I thought Denny (Hamlin) and I were probably pretty close to equal the second half of the night. It was just a matter of who got out in front. We didn’t get out in front on the restarts there and he was able to take advantage and bring home the win. All in all, it was still a really good day.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 3rd: “We were catching them; I just needed more time. I don’t know, every time we got the lead, the caution would come out and guys with two tires (in front of us) and we would be sixth or seventh and battle our way back. That was really the difference tonight. Every time we got the lead, we gave it up on strategy and then had to battle back. At the end, ultimately, we just ran out of time.”

KEVIN HARVICK — Finished 4th: “We needed a miracle. Our Busch Light Apple Ford Mustang was really loose. We got a couple good restarts and had a couple good laps but we were in trouble there regardless if it didn’t just keep going yellow. Our guys did a good job keeping us in the fight all night but we definitely have some work to do.”

Erik Jones — Finished 5th: “This is what we needed; we needed a really good points day. It kind of seems like we’ve been in this spot the last couple of years unfortunately. It feels good to climb out of it. The Reser’s Camry was really good. We started really deep and just could never quite get up to the front and get some clean air. I kind of made a mistake on that last restart, I was trying to push too hard to get to the outside and gave up some ground there on those guys and had to make that back up. Good effort. Pit crew did good and the team gave me a good car. We just have to keep doing that and keep wracking these points up and hopefully get a win.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 6th: “I am pretty eager to get a W. This race team has been doing a great job. We have been running really good. A long time ago I would have given anything to just run top 10 every week and run like we have been running but when you start tasting victory and run up front and race around those guys, you want to seal the deal and go to victory lane. Tonight we were just a little bit off. We didn’t have as good of a car compared to the field as we have the last several weeks. I am proud of my guys. We keep chipping away and building up that points buffer to the cutoff which is nice but now we are ready to go get the W and some bonus points for the playoffs.”

Cole Custer — Finished 7th: “Thanks to the guys for fighting all day. It definitely wasn’t the prettiest day, but we made something of it. Right there at the end was the best I had been in the top groove all day. It feels good to get another top-10 and take a few days off before we go to New Hampshire next weekend.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 8th: “Rough night. We threw about every adjustment at our Camaro that we possibly could. Thankfully, we were able to finally get it a little better there towards the end and go back towards the front a little bit. Hate that we lost a bunch of spots on that last restart – just wide open and some people drove around us. We’ve got some work to do, for sure, we know that. But getting a good, solid finish this week was good and a good momentum-builder back in the right direction.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 9th: “The car was a little tough at times throughout the race. We struggled on some of the restarts with tires on heat cycles, but thanks to my guys on this Monster Energy Chevy. We battled hard together and never gave up on working to make it better and try to find the sweetest spot to run. We just need to keep after it and turn these top 10’s into better results.”

William Byron — Finished 10th: “It was a solid finish for us – we needed that for sure for the playoffs. We started the race way off. We were really loose – just really struggling. The guys, Keith (Rodden, filling in as crew chief) and everybody made a lot of great adjustments throughout the race. It really got us in a position where we could attack. As soon as we got probably 10 laps on our tires, the car felt pretty good. We just stayed out there on no tires, really ran there with(Brad Keselowski) and was able to pass him back for the lead. I thought we were looking really good. Unfortunately, the two tires didn’t really work out for us there at the end. I think we just had too many laps on the left side and struggled there.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 11th: “That wasn’t the finish this M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry deserved today. We were tight most of the race and I just got into the wall there. We are making progress and think we showed that tonight. We will go back, get ready and head to New Hampshire next week.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 12th: “Man, that was a long night. I appreciate the effort of my NAPA team. We just need to clean it up and are going to move on to New Hampshire.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 13th: “We had a fast No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet on the long runs tonight at Kansas Speedway. We just needed a little more on the short runs. It was a tale of two extremes almost, where we fired off extremely loose but about halfway through the race built way too tight. I was able to run the top during Stage 1 before anyone else really could, and that allowed us to climb well up into the top 10 to get some valuable stage points. As the night went on and our car got tighter, I wasn’t able to run up there as well and had to search around for speed to try to keep up with the changing track conditions. Luckily, we were able to avoid a handful of wrecks during Stage 3 and started to climb back up through the field once we were able to loosen our Chevrolet back up a little bit. In the end, we just needed a couple more longer runs to really be able to get back into the top 10 tonight.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 14th: “Man, we were so loose in the first two stages. We worked hard on it and got it better in the final stage. I don’t know how the heck I didn’t wreck in that (Lap 177) big wreck. We got some damage then we dodged a couple more (wrecks) after that. It was a tough race, but nobody on our One Cure team gave up and our pit crew helped us out a bunch tonight. It’s good to be back in the top 12 in points. That will help our qualifying spot in New Hampshire. It’s always good to be back home in Kansas. I just wish we could have had the fans here tonight. We really missed them and ready to get them back to the track.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 15th: “My GEICO guys fought for it tonight. We had a rough start to the race, but we never stopped chipping away at it. Everyone on this Germain Racing team kept digging, (crew chief Matt Borland) made our Camaro ZL1 1LE better with adjustments and we brought home another top-15 finish. This is our third top-16 finish in four races and I’m proud of our team for working hard. We will look to keep this momentum rolling in Loudon.” 

Michael McDowell — Finished 16th: “That was a very eventful night. Our car was super loose to start the race, but (crew chief Drew Blickensderfer) and our guys worked really hard all race long to make consistent improvements to our No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford Mustang. Missing some of those wrecks near the end definitely helped and we took the checkered flag P16, which is another solid run for us and a good points day.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 18th: “It was another good execution day, I’m proud of everyone. It took a while for the track to come in and we struggled with the rear end being loose and trying to make the Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Camry turn in the first part of the race. Dave (Winston, crew chief) did a good job with the adjustments and we were running pretty good at the end. Communication was really good tonight. I have to say good job by my spotter (Steve Barkdoll) for helping me get through all the trouble that happened in front of me. We all know we need to get faster. We just need to keep building. Once we get all the pieces together, we’re going to be good.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 19th: “We weren’t too bad to fire off, just a little on the tighter side, and the track freed up as the night went on. I didn’t have a lot of front grip at the top, so couldn’t really run the same line as some of those other guys. Restarts were crazy tonight and we managed to stay out of trouble for most of the race, but the car came around on me towards the end there. I’m still proud of the effort from everyone at Front Row Motorsports to still bring home a top-20 finish after the night we had. We’ll shake it off and get ready for New Hampshire next week.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 20th: “We had a decent DEX Imaging Ford today. We were loose most of the race and tried to get the car tighten up with the track conditions constantly changing. Unfortunately, I got in the wall and we had to make an unscheduled stop. We’ll put this behind us and move on to New Hampshire next week.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 27th: “We headed into Kansas Speedway with goals of backing up RCR’s 1-2 finish from Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, and I really think we could have done it if it weren’t for the wreck we were involved in. Our handling was off to begin with, but we stayed in it and kept making the American Ethanol Chevrolet better and better. We finally got it dialed in and were battling for 12th on a restart in Stage 3 when chaos broke out in front of us. We had nowhere to go and ended up with a lot of damage. We were missing a lot of parts, but we did the best we could to nurse our Chevy to the finish. It’s just a shame because we were just as good, if not better, than the cars who finished up front. We could have had a top 10, easily, if it weren’t for that wreck. That’s how it goes sometimes.”

Ryan Preece — Finished 34th: “To be honest with you, we had a fast race car right there at the end. It’s frustrating for all of us at JTG Daugherty because we’ve been working really hard and probably had a top-10 car there at the end. I’m alright, just ready for this year to turn around.”

Joey Logano — Finished 35th: “I felt it going into (Turn) 3 right before we took the green and I felt it kind of landing on the splitter and honestly thought that the left front shock went bad. It wasn’t like it was flat, it was just down a little bit. Maybe it was bad judgement on my part. I just thought it wasn’t that bad and didn’t want to lose all our track position for something I wasn’t sure of. Hindsight is 20-20 and I apologize to everyone that was involved in it. It just stinks. It is one of those judgement calls. You are coming to the green and swerving your tires and something feels funny and you just aren’t sure.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 36th: “I couldn’t tell what was going on. I just tried to go low. I saw guys checked up off of (Turn) 2. I didn’t see it. I just got clipped in the right side. Nothing I could do different. I am not going to lie. I am pretty frickin irritated. We have had garbage luck the last couple of weeks.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 37th: “It was a frustrating ending. I thought our Richard Petty Motorsports team could overcome our obstacles today at the Kansas Speedway. We were really free – I think we had a tire going down right before we spun. And then got it too tight, so we kind of went through the full end of the spectrum. Started to get our way back right and just got caught up in someone else’s mess with nowhere to go.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 40th: “A fire started in the cockpit. Something electrical under the dash. So, it’s a bummer to end the day like that for our Kroger team. I felt like we had a really good shot at a top 10 if we kept dialing our car in. I really like Kansas. I’m glad we’ve got kind of an off-week now before New Hampshire so we can regroup.”

Kevin Harvick draws pole for Thursday Cup race at Kansas

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Kevin Harvick will start from the pole position Thursday night at Kansas Speedway (7:30 pm ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app), the first time he will lead the NASCAR Cup starting lineup to the green flag this season.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s previous best starting position in 2020 was second in qualifying for the March 8 race at Phoenix Raceway.

Since NASCAR’s return during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (with the majority of fields set by a random draw), the No. 4 Ford’s best starting spot had been a third at Kentucky Speedway. Harvick had started outside the top five in seven of the past 10 Cup races, but his luck changed when NASCAR randomly set the lineup Wednesday for Kansas.

STARTING LINEUP: Where everyone will start in the Cup race at Kansas

Harvick has three Cup victories at Kansas, most recently in the May 12, 2018 race at the 1.5-mile speedway.

Joey Logano‘s No. 22 will start second beside Harvick, making it an all-Ford front row for the second consecutive race. Fords also will comprise the second row with Aric Almirola starting third and Ryan Blaney fourth.

Martin Truex Jr.‘s No. 19 Toyota will start fifth beside the No. 88 Chevrolet of Alex Bowman in sixth.

Here are the next three rows in order:

Brad Keselowski (seventh), Kyle Busch (eighth), Kurt Busch (ninth), Denny Hamlin (10th), Chase Elliott (11th) and Matt DiBenedetto (12th).

Other notables:

Matt Kenseth (14th), William Byron (15th), Austin Dillon (16th), Bubba Wallace (17th), Clint Bowyer (19th), Jimmie Johnson (20th), Erik Jones (21st), Tyler Reddick (23rd).

The field was ordered Wednesday afternoon through a random draw of the following groups:

  • Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points

Click here for the Kansas Cup starting lineup for Thursday’s race.

NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas 

Race Time: 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday

Track: Kansas Speedway; Kansas City, Kansas (1.5-mile speedway)

Length: 267 laps (400.5 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 80. Stage 2 ends Lap 160

TV coverage: NBCSN

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Kansas (167 laps, 250.5 miles) 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Truck race: Friday at Kansas (134 laps, 201 miles) 7 p.m. ET on FS1