Because Kevin Harvick is Happy in Indianapolis
Kevin Harvick is quite happy once again. The 25-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series shattered Ryan Newman’s track record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by setting a time of 47.647 seconds to win his 10th career pole.
By setting the quickest time, Harvick has broken the 14th track record this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in what will be the 20th event of the season. This will be the second time in 14 starts at the yard of bricks in which the California-native will lead the field to the green flag. In 2003, he won the pole for the Brickyard 400, and also won the race after pacing the field for 33 laps.
“After the first lap I was probably more nervous than I have been in a while for qualifying. I wasn’t really expecting to have the car run that fast. From there they are all looking at you ‘alright if you screw this up it’s on you buddy’. It’s great to have fast cars they do a great job preparing the cars and just being able to come to the race track and know the cars are going to be fast takes a huge burden off of everybody’s shoulders just to get the balance right," Harvick said.
Jeff Gordon, the inaugural winner of the Brickyard 400 in 1994, will start in the runner-up position after coming up .178 seconds off of Harvick’s time in the final round of qualifying. Gordon was the second quickest car in each of the three rounds behind the No. 4 Chevrolet, and will start on the front row for the fourth time in 20 starts at Indianapolis. Along with Gordon, Bobby Labonte will be the only other driver to have raced in each of the 20 races at Indianapolis.
"To have that off of a day and be back this close, I got a little bit tight off to Turn 4 or we would have been a little bit closer to Kevin, but I’m still really proud of this effort. Qualifying second, qualifying is so huge here. To be on that front row and 20 years after that first Brickyard 400 I get excited about that," Gordon said.
Last year’s winner of the Brickyard 400, Ryan Newman, will start this year’s edition of the race from the fourth position. Juan Pablo Montoya makes his return to Indianapolis after racing at Michigan earlier in the season for Team Penske. After struggling with the handling of his No. 12 Ford during the first practice session of the weekend, Montoya will start from the eighth position.
Missing the race were Brett Moffitt, David Stremme and Matt Crafton. Labonte made the race on having the past champion’s provisional, albeit the No. 37 Chevrolet owned by Tommy Baldwin had no previous attempts entering this weekend’s event. Crafton was attempting to start his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race after winning the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title. Moffitt was attempting to make his third career start in NASCAR’s top-tier division after signing a contract with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Statistically Analyzing the Pocono 400
After hitting the high-banked Dover International Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has arrived to an unorthodox track. The Pocono Raceway, home of the “Tricky Triangle,” is hosting the 33rd annual Pocono 400, and the 73rd race in the track’s history.
In this weekend’s version of statistically analyzing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field, we will give you a look at a bit of history of the results which drivers have recorded.
-Jamie McMurray: After controversially having damage due to the concrete breaking apart at Dover, McMurray is looking to have a cleaner race this weekend at Pocono. Though McMurray has never finished better than ninth at Pocono, he has been consistently inside the top-20 at the two-mile triangle.
-Brad Keselowski: Keselowski is coming off of a runner-up finish at Dover, and is now eighth in the points standings. However, he is utilizing a chassis that has yet to run on the track. After winning at Pocono in 2011, it has been all or nothing for the Michigan native. He has two top-six finishes since then, but also has two finishes outside of the top-15.
-Austin Dillon: Dillon is the most experienced of rookie drivers at Pocono. He has a pair of top-10 finishes at Pocono in two Camping World Truck Series events, but did not lead a single lap in either of those races. After running inside of the top-10 at the season-opener in Daytona, he has yet to crack the top-10 since. However, he has nine top-20s since the Daytona 500 and is solidly 15th in points.
-Kevin Harvick: Harvick has never won at Pocono in 26 starts and has led just five laps after completing over 4,500 laps over the course of his career at Pocono. He was arguably the only driver that could contend with Jimmie Johnson for the win at Dover, but ended up having to make an unscheduled pit stop and was on a pit cycle which was different from the leaders. Harvick has nine top-10s at Pocono, but it is safe to say that he will be a contender this weekend.
-Kasey Kahne: Kahne has been underperforming this year compared to his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports. After winning at Pocono in August of last season, Kahne should feel fairly confident this weekend. The No. 5 team is utilizing the chassis which they used to finish third with at Kansas. Although he has been successful at Pocono in the past, Kahne has an average finish of 17th as he has been involved in multiple wrecks at the track.
-Michael Annett: Annett, like most of the rookie drivers, has never run a race at Pocono. Coming off of what would have been a solid run at Dover had he not experienced trouble to put him over20 laps down, Annett could have a decent race at Pocono.
-Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose compares Pocono to a road course since drivers have to attack each corner differently from one another. In a year where he has just two top-fives, each at short tracks, Ambrose needs a solid run at a larger track. He has six top-20 finishes at Pocono in 10 races, but also has two top-10s.
-Danica Patrick: This could be opportunity weekend for Patrick. However, she is using a car that has been nothing better than mediocre this weekend, and she struggled mightily at Pocono in 2013. If she could have a clean race, Patrick should be able to run inside of the top-25 this weekend.
-Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won his first pair of races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono back in 2006. He has two more wins at Pocono, but has yet to win at Pocono since the track was resurfaced. Hamlin has led 11 of the 16 races he has started at Pocono, but did not lead a single lap in either event at Pocono in 2013. Besides winning at Talladega, he has been inconsistent this year, especially on the larger tracks.
-Casey Mears: Mears has had a solid year after Germain Racing created an alliance with Richard Childress Racing. Pocono has been one of his better tracks in the past, and finished inside of the top-25 in both races last year. Currently, he sits 24th in points with six top-15s after 13 races into the 2014 season.
-Tony Stewart: Stewart is coming off of his best race of the year at Dover. He ran inside the top-10 through all 400 miles, and was going to be a contender for the win had the caution not come out late in the race and he was able to save enough fuel. He won his first race as an owner-driver at Pocono in 2009, and has run very well since the repave. In 30 starts at Pocono, Stewart has 22 top-10s with an average finish of 11th.
-Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has been solid at Pocono in each of the last four races at the track. He has seven top-10s in 16 starts at Dover, but has not contended for a win at the track since 2010. Bowyer enters Pocono 17th in points, but is coming off of one of his better races this year at Dover.
-Greg Biffle: With speculation growing that he might stay at Roush-Fenway Racing, Biffle has finished outside of the top-15 in three straight races. With RFR’s inconsistency this year, Biffle needs a solid run. He finished runner-up during this race last year, but has been inconsistent at the larger tracks this season. With a win at Pocono in 2010, Biffle is looking to regain his momentum as he is now 16th in points.
-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse Jr. struggled in both Pocono races in his rookie year – finishing 26th and 24th, respectively. He has dropped to 26th in points after eight finishes of 22nd or worse this season.
-Kyle Busch: Along with Hamlin, Busch has just been missing a little something on the larger tracks which has prevented him from going to victory lane. He has never won at Pocono, and it is one of his worst tracks with an average finish of 17.8 in 18 starts. Currently, Busch sits seventh in points, even after getting wrecked by Bowyer last weekend at Dover. He has seven top-10s at Pocono, and is looking for his third straight finish of eighth or better at the Tricky Triangle.
-Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has started off races slow this year, but begins to contend for the win after the halfway mark, just like his days at Roush-Fenway Racing. Coming off of back-to-back third-place finishes, Kenseth has momentum on his side. Pocono was one of the few tracks which Kenseth struggled at in 2013, and has done so for the majority of his career. In 28 races at Pocono, Kenseth has just 10 top-10s with a best finish of third in 2003 – his championship season.
-Joey Logano: With two wins this year, Logano can test out different setups as he is all but secure in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has led laps in all but three races this season, but has had three finishes of 32nd or worse. Logano edged out Mark Martin for the win at Pocono in 2012. Since then, he has raced solidly inside of the top-13 in each of the last three Pocono races. Currently, the Team Penske driver sits sixth in points and is looking to have the best season of his young career.
-Alex Bowman:Bowman has a pair of third place finishes at Pocono in two ARCA Series starts back in 2012. He struggled mightily at Dover – getting into the wall three times, and is looking to have a solid day.
-Jeff Gordon: Gordon lost the points lead to Kenseth after Dover, but has a win which should make him feel more secure entering the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The No. 24 car has been fast at each race this year, and he might just be able to capture another victory this weekend at Pocono. He is using the same chassis that he used to win at Kansas, and has had his fair share of success at the two-mile track. Gordon has six wins and 29 top-10s in 42 starts at Pocono, and if he leads 28 or more laps on Sunday, he will surpass the one thousand laps led mark at Pocono.
-Cole Whitt: After making the switch to BK Racing from Swan Racing, Whitt has run inside of the top-30 for the past four races. Though he has not run great, he has outrun his teammates and has shown improvement from the events he ran with Swan.
-Paul Menard: Menard has seven top-10 finishes already this year. He is using the chassis which he used at Darlington, and is looking to capture his second top-five of the season. Menard has two top-10 finishes at Pocono in 14 starts at the track, but finished 30th or worse in both Pocono races last year.
-Ryan Newman: Since making the move over to Richard Childress Racing, Newman has been running inside of the top-20 for the most part. However, he has not been contending for wins. That may change at Pocono as he participated in the test on May 27, and he is racing the car which he ran at Las Vegas and Texas. Newman has an average finish of 11.7 at Pocono in 24 starts, and is looking for his fourth straight top-six finish.
-Alex Kennedy: Kennedy is making his season debut for Circle Sport Racing in the No. 33 Chevrolet. He will also race the two road course events over the summer months. He made three starts for Humphrey-Smith Motorsports last year (including Pocono).
-David Ragan: Ragan and the entire Front Row Motorsports team have struggled getting adjusted to the new aero package this year. However, Ragan finished 21st in one of the two Pocono races last year, and is expected to run inside the top-30 if he does not experience any mechanical issues.
-Reed Sorenson: Soreneson’s best career finish at Pocono was 20th in 2009 with Richard Petty Motorsports. Coming off of one of his best races this year at Dover, Sorenson will welcome a new sponsor to the No. 36 Chevrolet this weekend with Theme Park Connection coming aboard for Tommy Baldwin Racing.
-David Gilliland: Gilliland has experienced trouble over the past four races, and is looking just to finish a race. His best Pocono finish with Front Row Motorsports was a 21st-place finish in 2012.
-Kurt Busch: Busch will be using a brand new chassis this weekend. After finishing 18th at Dover, Busch is 28th in points, but is rather secure in the top-30. However, he has just two top-10s this year, and has been extremely inconsistent. Busch has a pair of wins at Pocono in 25 starts, and also has 14 top-10s at the track including a third-place finish at Pocono in August last year.
-Kyle Larson: Larson has never raced at Pocono, so he will be doing the “double” by racing the ARCA Series event on Saturday. He has run well at the high speed tracks this year, and has finished inside of the top-20 all but two times this season.
-Aric Almirola: Almirola has consistently run around the top-20 at Pocono over the last three races. His No. 43 car has run inside of the top-13 over the past four races, and has momentum on his side.
-A.J. Allmendinger: The alliance with RCR has begun to pay dividends for JTG Daugherty Racing. He has three top-10s this year, but has struggled at Pocono as of late. Allmendinger’s average finish at Pocono in 12 starts is worse than 24th, and had a pair of 33rd-place finishes in both Pocono races last year.
-Jimmie Johnson: Coming off of back-to-back wins, Johnson is looking for his third win of 2014. After running very well at both races at Pocono last season, including a win in this event, Johnson is poised to return to victory lane once again. He has three career wins at Pocono with an average finish better than ninth in 24 starts.
-Justin Allgaier: Allgaier won at Pocono in the ARCA Series back in 2008, and has four top-10s in six prior Pocono starts. He is starting to pick up momentum with Steve Addington as he has five top-25 finishes this year.
-Brian Vickers: Vickers has been running well in his return to full-time racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He has five top-10s this year, and currently sits 13th in points. This will be the first time Vickers will race at Pocono since 2011, but he completed the test in late May which should help him get readjusted to Pocono. In 14 prior starts at Pocono, Vickers’ best finish was second in 2008 with Red Bull Racing, and in 2005 with Hendrick Motorsports as it has been one of his better tracks. However, he has not raced on the new surface.
-Timmy Hill: Hill will be running the No. 66 Toyota at Pocono as Joe Nemechek will be racing at Texas in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
-Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has five top-10s at Pocono in 16 starts, and nearly won at Pocono in 2012. This year, however, Truex has struggled with Furniture Row Racing. He had his best run of the year at Dover with a sixth-place finish, and is looking to take that momentum to Pocono.
-Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt Jr. has six top-10s this year, and has run well at the larger tracks. His average finish this year is approximately 12th after 13 events, but is still looking for a win on a non-restrictor plate track. Earnhardt Jr. finished in the top-five in both Pocono races last year, and is utilizing the same chassis he raced with at the Auto Club Speedway earlier this year.
-Carl Edwards: Edwards has been inconsistent this year, but when he runs well – he races inside of the top-five. When he runs poorly – Edwards struggles to stay inside of the top-20. He’ll be racing with a new chassis this weekend, and is looking for his third win at Pocono in what will be his 19th start at the track. Edwards has eight top-10s at Pocono, and is looking to capture his first win since 2008 at Pocono.
43 cars are entered in the race, so no drivers will miss the event.
Previewing NASCAR's Longest Race - the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte
It’s NASCAR’s longest race. Recently, each one of these events comes down to fuel mileage. This year should be no different.
The Coca-Cola 600, formerly known as the World 600, enables teams to bring their family members to the track, and they get to spend more time with their families because of it. As part of the Memorial Day ceremonies, NASCAR teams and drivers unite on this special weekend with a sign of patriotism seldom seen in any other sport. And in the midst of NASCAR’s homeland,
During a test at Charlotte over the off-season, Kevin Harvick was seemingly the best car at the 1.5-mile speedway. Harvick was strong during the Sprint All-Star Race on long runs, and that is going to be important going into the homestretch of an event which he has won twice in the past. The move to Stewart-Haas Racing has started to pay dividends for the 38-year-old driver. However, the rest of SHR did not perform well during the Sprint Showdown and the All-Star Race, and this might be a weekend where things can turn around for the organization. SHR has done well on fuel mileage races this year, taking risks late in events in order to gain as many as 15 spots late in races such as Tony Stewart at Las Vegas.
After winning the Sprint All-Star Race, Jamie McMurray has plenty of momentum going into the Coca-Cola 600, which he finished second in during the 2010 edition of the event. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has done well as of late with Kyle Larson joining the organization this year, and if the All-Star Race was an indication of how the team will run at the All-Star Race, both drivers should contend for top-10 finishes.
Track position was a key during both races last weekend. Drivers which took two tires to get towards the front of the pack were able to stay up there for the most part. During the All-Star Race, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had two of the strongest cars, yet they did not have the track position to compete for the lead. Gordon ended up getting involved in a wreck, and Johnson finished sixth because he did not have a short-run car.
Johnson has not won a points paying event at Charlotte since October of 2009, but he has been strong on the intermediate tracks this season. Even though he has yet to score a victory after winning the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, Johnson is going to be a contender during the Coca-Cola 600. If Johnson can have a clean race, he might show the dominance which he had at Charlotte before the repave nearly a decade ago. Johnson’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, is also going to be a contender this weekend, especially after having a dominant car during the Sprint All-Star Race, leading 20 laps before smacking the wall multiple times.
Kurt Busch will be exhausted after the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday evening. Busch will be racing a backup car in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport, all while racing his Sprint Cup Series vehicle for SHR. Busch will have Parker Kligerman as his backup driver in case the Indianapolis 500 is delayed, but even if Busch can’t start the race, he will be able to qualify the No. 41 Chevrolet, making him still eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup as long as he is inside of the top-30 in points after Richmond in September.
However, even though the usual suspects will contend for the win this weekend, the Coca-Cola 600 provides an extra 100 miles that no other event does. Patience is going to be extremely key during this event. Drivers have a notorious history for over-driving their cars during the early stages of the race. With this race going from the sun beaming down on the track to seeing the night sky glowing above the track, drivers will have to communicate with their crew chiefs the best possible strategy to keeping up with the temperature sensitive track, all the while attempting to stay on the lead lap as green flag runs are at a premium during the Coca-Cola 600.
Here are some notables for the Coca-Cola 600:
-A.J. Allmendinger had an extremely strong car during the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race. Allmendinger moved inside of the top-10 before being involved in an incident. The alliance JTG Daugherty Racing has with Richard Childress Racing is paying off, and it will show this weekend as Allmendinger attempts to get his fourth top-10 of the year.
-Trevor Bayne returns to the seat of the No. 21 Ford. Bayne made his Sprint Cup Series debut at Texas back in 2010, which is a track with somewhat similar characteristics to Charlotte. He finished 16th in the Coca-Cola 600 in 2013, but is looking for more after recording two top-20 finishes at Las Vegas and Texas this season.
-Blake Koch will make his first of multiple starts for Go Fas Racing this weekend in the No. 32 car. Koch raced at Phoenix earlier this year for Front Row Motorsports, but also missed the race at Las Vegas. Even though Koch won’t be a contender in this event, getting 600 miles on the Sprint Cup Series circuit will be one of the best opportunities he has ever had.
-Brian Scott will return to the seat of the No. 33 Chevrolet for Circle Sport Racing in conjunction with Richard Childress Racing. Scott made his Cup Series debut at Charlotte last October, and will be attempting to make his sixth career start in NASCAR’s top-tier division.
-Michael McDowell returns in the No. 95 Ford this weekend. The team has started to move into the right direction after finishing 30th at Texas after a rough start to the year.
Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Preview
One million dollars is on the line Saturday evening. No, it is not your ordinary NASCAR race. This is not just a preparation for NASCAR’s longest spectacle. This is the Sprint All-Star Race.
Jimmie Johnson has won back-to-back All-Star events, and is going for his third straight win. However, Johnson will have to beat Brad Keselowski who is driving the “best car he has ever driven” for the All-Star Race. Johnson had the second fastest 10 lap average in the lone practice session on Friday afternoon, but Keselowski was more than 1.2 mph faster than Johnson.
This edition of NASCAR’s All-Star event is setting up to be different from each of the previous races. After holding the Sprint Showdown on Friday evening, the three drivers which were able to lock themselves into the All-Star Race, Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger and Josh Wise, will be enabled to qualify with the drivers already locked into the one-of-a-kind event. Bowyer and Allmendinger were the class of the 23-car field. Wise pulled off the fan vote upset thanks to the Reddit.Com community, stunning the NASCAR world by beating Danica Patrick in the popularity contest. This will be Wise’s first career All-Star Race start after finishing 18th in the Sprint Showdown.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. paced the practice session on Friday afternoon, but was several miles per hour off the pace set by Keselowski, ending the day sixth out of seven cars to run 10 consecutive laps. Earnhardt Jr. currently sits fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, and is looking to get his first win at Charlotte for the All-Star Race since he won the event during his rookie season.
Coming off of his win at Kansas, Jeff Gordon has plenty of momentum heading into the All-Star Race. Gordon is the points leader after 11 races, and looks to win his first All-Star Race since 2001. However, he has not finished inside of the top-10 for one of NASCAR’s most coveted events since third place finish in 2006.
Kevin Harvick was the fastest car during the test at Charlotte over the winter. Throughout all of the simulation races NASCAR held during that test, Harvick was arguably the best car no matter what type of aero package NASCAR created. Harvick was fourth in practice, and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, and he are looking to win their first All-Star Race together. Harvick's teammate, Kurt Busch, will make it to the All-Star Race after qualifying his No. 26 Honda in the IndyCar Series for his first Indianapolis 500 start. Busch's No. 41 Chevrolet was practiced by Parker Kligerman, who is on standby in case Busch misses the All-Star Race or Coca-Cola 600.
Qualifying for the Sprint All-Star Race will be held on Saturday evening preceding the main event at 7:10 p.m. ET. This qualifying session will be unlike any other throughout the season as drivers will run three laps with a four-tire pit stop without a pit road speed limit, and the total time elapsed will determine the starting grid. This is the first time qualifying will be held on the same evening as the All-Star Race.
After qualifying is completed, the All-Star Race will start at approximately 9:00 p.m. ET.
Sprint Cup Series Qualifying News and Notes
Kansas Speedway qualifying turned in to a pretty special day for Kevin Harvick. For the first time since 2006, Harvick will sit on the pole for the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday afternoon. Knocking Ricky Stenhouse Jr. off of the pole, Harvick will have the honor of first pit stall in the 4th Race for the Chase. Harvick ran a lap speed of 187.526, just slightly faster than Rookie Stenhouse Jr at 187.480.
Harvick topped practice earlier in the day and had nothing but praise for his team. "Everybody on our Budweiser team has done a good job," he said in his press conference following the Pole win. "We made a couple really good runs in practice...but we knew the conditions would be cooler so we put the car back how we started practice and hoped that the race track came our way."
Stenhouse ran a great qualifying lap but unfortunately it just wasn't quite good enough. "We were close but our average start here at Kansas is going to be pretty solid now," he said following his qualifying run.
Jimmie Johnson, who currently sits second in points, will start third on Sunday with a qualifying speed of 187.162.
With some incidents during practice that included a spin and a leaking oil cooler and radiator, Johnson still managed to put his Lowe's No.48 Chevrolet in the second row for Sunday.
Here is how your Chase Contenders qualified:
P1: Kevin Harvick
P3: Jimmie Johnson
P5: Joey Logano
P6: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
P7: Matt Kenseth
P9: Carl Edwards
P14: Jeff Gordon
P15: Kasey Kahne
P17: Ryan Newman
P18: Kyle Busch
P19: Kurt Busch
P22: Clint Bowyer
P26: Greg Biffle