Harvick Scores First Career Cup Win At Sonoma
In a game of saving fuel and varying strategies on pit road, Kevin Harvick scored the victory in the Toyota Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway.
“I am so excited. I think as you look at it, getting our first win with Ford, this has been a great journey for us as an organization and team. Kurt winning the Daytona 500 and we have run well. Everybody from Bush, Jimmy John’s and Mobil 1, Outback, Hunt Brothers and everybody,” said Harvick. “It is a great day. It finally all came together and we were able to not have any cautions there at the end. Rodney had great strategy and I was able to take care of the car and get out front. I felt like the 78 was the car we had to race and then he had problems and from there we were in control.”
This is Harvick’s first victory of 2017 and his first victory at Sonoma Raceway. Harvick also won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series race from Sonoma the day before. This is Harvick’s 36th career victory. This is Ford’s 656th win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
After a spin earlier in the race and a late race charge, Clint Bowyer finished in the second position.
“You get there back in traffic and you’re so much faster than them you have to check up to save a mistake. You run over them and you don’t mean to; you get frustrated and get a little bit farther behind and a little bit farther behind. I saw the 42 check up and I get into him and I was thinking, ‘Well, we’ll both survive this’. And then all of a sudden the 47 was coming through him and I smoked him and hurt the left front,” said Bowyer. “We were fast all weekend. With clean air and an long run, that’s always my strong suit. We got the long run, we just hard to start dead last to get it.”
After pitting from the lead for fresh tires and fuel with 22 laps remaining, Brad Keselowski was able to finish in the third position.
“The Freightliner Ford was really good today. We didn’t have the qualifying fun we wanted. We had amazing race pace. That’s a credit to everyone at Team Penske. It felt really good. I just wish I could run this race again I think I might have had better car than driver today and I learned a lot. Just an amazing fun day,” said Keselowski
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-10.
There were 13 different lead changes among 10 different drivers. Martin Truex, Jr. led the most laps at 25. The caution flag flew six times for 12 laps.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a return trip to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400. The race will be on Saturday, July 1st on Motor Racing Network and NBC beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Blaney Scores First MENCS Victory at Pocono
After having radio issues for majority of the day, Ryan Blaney scored his first career victory at Pocono Raceway in the Axalta Presents The Poconos 400.
“I think it exceeds the dream a little bit. I grew up watching my dad race on this race track and it’s so cool to get the Wood Brothers in victory lane, number one, and to do it here at a race track that is really close to Ohio – a home to me – is pretty awesome,” said Blaney.
This is the Wood Brothers first victory since the 2011 Daytona 500. Blaney becomes the seventh different driver to score his first career victory with the Wood Brothers. This weekend marks the 99th victory for the team.
With 10 laps remaining, Blaney had a charge on then race-winner, Kyle Busch, with fresher tires. Busch tried to block Blaney on the front stretch and on the short-stretch, but Blaney was able to pass Busch. While Blaney and Busch were battling for the lead, Kevin Harvick was able to work his way to Blaney, but was unable to pass him in the remaining laps. Harvick was better than Blaney in the second turn, but was no match for Blaney on the rest of the track.
After having brake and engine issues early on in the race, Harvick was able to finish the race in the second position.
“I missed a shift from third-to-second and I have to thank the Roush Yates Engine shop for building a pretty sturdy engine because it should have blown up and it never blowed up,” said Harvick after rallying for a second place finish to winner Ryan Blaney,” said Harvick. “I had a tough time driving in the corner all day. We never could stop like we needed to all weekend, so you just had to be really careful with the brakes. If I'd over-drive it for a lap or two, the pedal would start going down, and then I was really at a deficit. So, I had to be very aware of where I let off every lap.”
After running up front for majority of the race, Erik Jones was able to finish in the third position for his best career Cup finish.
“Just happy, happy that we finally get a finish that we deserve. We ran top-five most of the day and had good strategy and it worked out. The last restart played out right into our hands and got it during the third (stage) and knew we had to hold those guys off and we’d be just fine,” said E. Jones. “It’s exciting, happy we had a fast race car. Wish we had a little bit faster one and then we could have gone up there and raced for it, but definitely a good day for us.”
Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Ky. Busch, and Matt Kenseth rounded-out the top-10.
Truex Jr maintains the points lead by one point over Larson. Harvick is 144 points behind Truex in third, Ky. Busch is 121 points behind the leader. and Keselowski rounds out the top-five in points only 130 points behind Truex.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to Michigan International Raceway for the FireKeepers Casino 400. The race will run on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network with green flag flying shortly after 3:00 p.m. EDT.
Blaney Scores First NXS Charlotte Win
CONCORD, N.C— After multiple restarts in the final 20 laps, Ryan Blaney scored his first win of 2017 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Hisense 4K TV 300.
“It was really tough. We kept having tons and tons of cautions,” Blaney said. “We lost the lead on a pit stop when we kind of got blocked in and I wasn’t sure I was going to get a shot at it. It worked out where we could put ourselves in position to get the win and we capitalized on it. Everybody did a great job.”
This is Blaney’s first win since September of 2015 at Kentucky Speedway. This is his fifth victory 56 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, and his first win at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Blaney and his father, Dave, are the first father-son duo to win at Charlotte.
Blaney was able to hold of Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick on a late race restart with four laps remaining. Blaney worked his way towards the front of the field after starting in the rear due to unapproved adjustments after the car was impounded after qualifying.
Harvick finished second in the race after not being able to receive any help on the final restart by Blaney and Brad Keselowski. This is Harvick’s 18th top-10 finish in 28 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and his third top-10 of 2017.
“If I could do (the final restart) again I would probably do it differently. I felt like the 12 (Blaney) had the best car on restarts. He was the one who helped us get the lead. Just wasn’t able to get going through one and two. I needed to be clear by the time I got to three and four. I hadn’t been taking the top but I felt if the 12 and 22 got paired up on the top, I would be in double trouble,” said Harvick. I had a heck of a time today. All in all, I just got beat there by the 12. He did a good job all day there on the restarts. I’m really proud of everybody on the team. We ran well and led a bunch of laps.”
Dillon finished in the third position in the race following having to go to the rear after an initial start violation in the opening laps. Dillon dropped to the rear, but was able to work his way to the third position by race end. This was Dillon’s sixth top-10 finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We did a really good job. Our Chevy really came to us. I hate it for our pit crew there. I messed up on the start. There at the end, I had a Penske sandwich. I couldn’t do much about it. I got hit on the restart but it wasn’t enough to carry me to the front. We had a lot of fun today,” said Dillon. “The track changed and we are trying to figure out what we need here. We’re getting closer.”
Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Cole Custer, Brennan Poole, Brendan Gaughan, and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top-10 in Saturday afternoon’s event.
The race was slowed 12 times for 52 laps by caution. There were 12 lead changes among seven drivers with leading the most laps at . The average speed of the race was 113.720 mph. The time of the race was two hours, 38 minutes, and 17 seconds. Blaney beat Harvick by 0.244 seconds,
Elliott Sadler remains the point leader after his 35th place finish by six points over teammate Justin Allgaier, 57 points over William Byron, 79 points over Daniel Hemric, and 83 points over fifth place driver, Darrell Wallace Jr.
Next up for the Xfinity Series is the OneMain Financial 200, a Dash4Cash event, from Dover International Raceway. The race will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1 on June 3rd at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Harvick Scores Charlotte 600 Pole
CONCORD, N.C— Kevin Harvick will start from the pole in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway. This is Harvick’s first pole for the 600 and his third pole of 2017. This is Stewart-Haas Racing’s 33rd pole since its inception in 2009.
“The cars in qualifying were a lot looser than they were in practice and just based on past experience here it was a handful through one and two. I just about lost it the first run, but the car was so good in three and four I didn’t want to overadjust on it and make it too tight down there because you get tighter as the lap runs, so the guys did a good job of making adjustments, but not making it so tight that I couldn’t carry the throttle like I needed to in three and four. So they just did a great job on our Mobil 1 Ford,” said Harvick.
In the opening round, Kyle Busch was fastest at 191.381 mph. Denny Hamlin was second fastest at 191.008 mph. Erik Jones was third fastest at 190.799 mph. Matt Kenseth posted the fourth fasted speed in the round at 190.752 mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five at 190.638 mph. No drivers were sent home as the 40 cars showed up. Corey LaJoie and Kyle LAtson
In the second round, Harvick posted the fastest time at 193.237 mph. Ky. Busch posted the second fastest speed in the round 193.223 mph. Chase Elliott posted the third fastest speed in the round at 191.734 mph. Clint Bowyer posted the fourth fastest speed at 191.673 mph. Martin Truex, Jr. rounded out the top-five in the second round at 191.605 mph.
In the final round, Harvick posted a speed of 193.424 mph to grab the pole. Ky. Busch posted a speed of 192.513 mph for the second position, Elliott posted the third fastest time at 192.260 mph, Kenseth posted the fourth fastest speed at 192.130 mph, and E. Jones posted the fifth fastest speed to round out the top-five on Sunday at 191.782 mph. Hamlin, Blaney, Truex, Bowyer, and Keselowski rounded out the top-10.
Friday will be a dark day at Charlotte Motor Speedway for teams. Teams will have two practice sessions on Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. EST and 11:30 a.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.
Busch Talks Viability of Truck Series
CONCORD, N.C— With the announcement of the suspended operations of Red Horse Racing, Kyle Busch was adamant on Friday that things need to change in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) for it to be viable.
According to Busch, Kyle mentioned the it takes $3.2 million per season to run a fully competitive team in NCWTS, while advocating for reducing the costs.
“Our cost is 3.2. That's how much it takes to run a full operation of a truck team, and that number should be around 2, and how to get it lower, there's some engine talks I know and some body talks I know, but we're hitting it, but we're only hitting it about a half a million by doing that,” said Busch.
What is the biggest cost for teams? It is the people.
“Your biggest expense is your people, and that's where it all comes from. But as far as our model goes, it does work right now thanks to the support of Toyota, thanks to the support of the (Noah) Gragson with Switch, and the Myatt Snider’s and the Bubba Wallace's sponsors and Erik Jones' sponsors and the people like that that we've had over the course of the years that were able to make it all work.”
As Cup guys own teams in NCWTS, it is not about the money. There are many challenges for people like Busch and Brad Keselowski, who fields two teams in NCWTS.
“To really make it work and to drive your costs down, you have to have three teams, and even four teams makes it even better, but we're not to the point yet where we're ready to grow because we still need to develop our third team and make it a strong force to be reckoned with each and every week,” said Busch. “But once we get to four teams, people are mad at us because then we're too good, people can't beat us, whatever you want to say, so people are mad that we're overtaking the sport, which all we're trying to do is continue to help and build it, but there's a double‑edged sword in anything that I do anyways, so we just keep working on it, keep trying, and make it work as best we can for us."
With the 2018 schedule being released this week, people like Kevin Harvick have advocated that the NCWTS moves more to a “grassroots” schedule, something that the series was built on in its early inception.
"I would definitely enjoy that model of going back to those race tracks. Now again, how you accomplish that and how you get that done, that's for people a hell of a lot smarter than me to figure out, but I would certainly enjoy seeing the Truck Series go back to Tucson, or even around here, go to Motor Mile, go to some of these short tracks that you can put 10, 15, 20,000 people in the stands for an exciting truck race because in all honesty, that's the crowd count that you're getting at a mile‑and‑a‑half anyways, so pack the place, make it look good, and put on a good show for the fans and go back to some of the roots of short track racing that these drivers are coming up from, that the trucks came from, and Friday night shows, Saturday night shows, whatever it might be at some of these cool short tracks, and I think you'll put on a great show, you'll have the fans come out and support that. It's just how to make the model work. There's TV money involved, there's sanctioning agreements involved, there's all kind of too much behind‑the‑scenes BS that I'm not smart enough to figure out, but hopefully somebody can be smart enough to figure it out. Maybe this guy can figure that out,” said Busch.
The question was raised about if going to these smaller tracks would be a challenge and how would it work.
"Well, you just said it right there. If we make less money you're digging our grave, so the sanctioning agreements can't be for any less money, that's for sure. We actually need them to be for more. In order to cut our costs, we need to be able to make more money or compete for more money to race for more winnings. If you cut our winnings out, you might as well just say goodbye. You know, there's a problem in that fact right there, too. You know, it's just ‑‑ it's about trying to get the butts in the seats,” said Busch. “That's what matters most. If South Boston packed the place every single time and made money and NASCAR made money, the teams made money and all of us would still be going there, so there's obviously something that was missing, and I don't know what that was. But to figure that out and to be able to pack some of these short tracks and to put the trucks back on some of those standalone events, it's all about exciting moments, exciting racing, having some rooting and gouging, and it's probably worth having fights in the pits. That's what it all comes down to, and you know, we'll see if any of that happens."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also chimed in about the importance of the truck series and XFINITY series.
“Yeah, we moved our Truck team up to the Xfinity Series to make another team there. When I was in the series we went to South Boston and places like that and I miss watching those races. They were great races. I don’t know if the business model works to be able to go back and undo everything we’ve done, but I’d rather tune-in and watch them run the beach or the fairgrounds. Man! I’d love to go run a Xfinity race at the fairgrounds, in our cars. That would be at the top of my list if it was on the schedule,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I run Richmond and Bristol. That’s the only ones I’m running this year because that’s the only short track action you can find. But, the 1.5-miles just aren’t that fun. We run too many of them for it to be fun. We rarely run the short tracks. So, you try to get as much of that as you can. Not everybody is the same. This is just me talking. I don’t know if all the drivers like short tracks that much. But, I would certainly tune-in.”
Busch believes that the interest and sponsorship are just not there for the Trucks.
"I don't know what Brad's (Keselowski) scenario is. You'll have to ask him. I do believe that I have heard that he puts money in himself. I know that I put money in myself. You know, I wouldn't say that the model is working for us. I just think that we're content with the amount of money that we are spending,” said Busch. “That makes it worth our while. There just aren't any big sponsors. There aren't any Fortune 500 companies I think besides M&M's, Mars, with Pedigree now that's joining us with Todd Gilliland with Pedigree to be on our truck, and it's just not ‑‑ there's not enough people on TV, there's not enough people in the stands. The sponsorship just doesn't come. They just don't care, and that's the most frustrating part of it.”
After qualifying on Thursday night, Harvick expounded even more on the initial comments he made on his radio show "Happy Hours" on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“I can’t walk anywhere and not have somebody talk to me about the Truck Series schedule. I think it’s something that a lot of people want to say and haven’t said, but I think it’s definitely time to look at the grassroots sides of things and I think the Truck Series is a grassroots division. If you could just for example take it somewhere like Nashville Speedway and pair it up with the All-American 400 and put the All-American 400 in Nashville back on the map with a Truck Series race with some SAFER barriers, get the city of Nashville involved and that’s just one race. I think it would be very interesting and I feel like that regionally is a big touring race. You go up to Oxford, Maine, but getting the TV to these cars and these local racers and these people and the enthusiasm that it brings to a local market, that’s what the Truck Series does," said Harvick. "When you look at Eldora and you look at the road race in Canada, you look at these one-off events and every one of them are well attended, every one of them are exciting and well attended. We need events and I think it’s a great way to reinvest from the bottom up in different facilities and you could sit here and name a bunch of them, and what better way to show them you care than by putting soft walls up at the race track somehow and some way to get the cities involved and the race track and work on getting those sanctioning fees down and get them to places where they can knock the fenders off of each other and put on a great show, much like they do at Eldora. I mean, it’s got 20-some thousand people there every time we show up and everybody loves watching on a Wednesday night.”
When asked how it works, Harvick quickly went on how TV funds most everything in today's world.
TV money is still how everyone survives. That’s the reason a lot of these race tracks take these Truck races now because the TV money went up, so there’s a reason that they want to keep them. But there are ways to make all of this work. Everybody doesn’t need to have their hand out, they need to be thinking from the bottom up and how do we make this better?," said Harvick. "You look at some of these historic, just really great short tracks across the country. I’m not saying we need to take them from Daytona or Phoenix or some of these other places, but there are some places that they don’t need to be going and I think it would be interesting to revive the Copper Classic and start the season with the Trucks out there and see the sprint cars show back up and TV is gonna be there to cover it, so now you can film all these races and put these guys on TV. All of a sudden there’s TV there and they can get better sponsorship, so there’s a lot of things that you could do and, like you say, it has to be something that everybody buys into that is worried about making money.”
What can be done? That is something NASCAR and teams are looking to fix.