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NASCAR Cup Series

Harvick Focused on DAYTONA 500 Prize

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After winning the first Gander RV Duel  at Daytona International Speedway, Kevin Harvick anticipates a different race than the last two. The Clash and both Duels were seen as conservative events with single-file racing throughout the events.

“I don’t think you’re going to see a race like we’ve seen the last two races,” Harvick said following the Duel. “It’s just so much different when you get all the cars out there, you have the lines that have so much more momentum than what they’ve had, especially when you start putting stage points out there and things in the middle of the race.”

Harvick will be starting third in Sundays DAYTONA 500. Getting to the lead will be the biggest challenge, but he will use his experience as an advantage.

“The biggest thing, that fluent routine of doing it over and over, looking in the mirror, being as comfortable and relaxed as you can with the wheel, being able to be comfortable and relaxed but also be able to look backwards,” Harvick said. “Leading probably looks easy on TV.  You spend more time looking backwards than you do forwards. There’s definitely an art to it that you get more comfortable with as you go through doing it a lot more.”

As a former winner of the Great American Race, Harvick has seen the sport evolve in the past couple of seasons, including the strategy to win. Stage racing has implemented more aggression, with drivers fighting for points throughout the event.

“You can’t come from the back any more and drive your way up through there at the end of the race.  You have to be fluent with your moves, precise.  If you don’t, you lose a bunch of spots,” Harvick said.

All 40 drivers will be thinking about holding the Harley J. Earl trophy at the end of the race. The focus begins for Harvick as we inch closer to Sunday. Being one of the favorites can’t stop him from going through his game plan.

“If you’re going to win this race, you’re going to need to be good out front,” Harvick said. “You’re going to need to be able to guard, block, pay a lot of attention to who’s coming, who’s going, and the timing of it all. That’s why you have to race as hard as you can, in my opinion.”

Sunday is going to be about survival; there is no room for error. Harvick fully understands that is what it’s going to take to win the DAYTONA 500.

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Feature

5 Takeaways from the Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway

It was another unpredictable afternoon at Pocono Raceway, where 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch qualified on the pole and won his first race of the year, becoming the seventh different winner in the last seven races at the 2.5-mile triangle.

Here are five key takeaways from today’s race:

Busch’s bonanza

At long last, Kyle Busch found Victory Lane again after an immensely frustrating season . Busch ended a 36-race winless streak, the longest of his Cup career, by nerfing Kevin Harvick out of the lead with 16 laps to go to make the race-winning pass. It was Busch’s first career Cup victory at Pocono.

In the process, Busch became the 14th different driver to win a Cup race this year and the 10th different driver to win in the last 10 races. With a win under his belt and the fast Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas he’s had all year, Busch is suddenly a legitimate championship contender again.

Toyotathon

Kevin Harvick finished second in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, but it was clear Toyotas were the fastest cars at Pocono, with Kyle Busch winning, Martin Truex Jr. third and Denny Hamlin fourth.

Seven-time’s struggles

Jimmie Johnson has seven Cup championships to his name, but he also has three DNFs in the last four races. And for the second consecutive race, Johnson crashed after close racing with teammate Kasey Kahne. Before that, Johnson and Ryan Blaney had contact.

“It’s just hard racing,” said Johnson. “We were going into Turn 3 and the guys were lifting and he (Blaney) just missed his marks a little bit and luckily we didn’t crash. And then I was in the outside lane and losing some spots. I think the No. 5 (Kahne) washed-up into me and king of finished me off over there in Turn 3. It’s definitely not the day we wanted to have but I don’t think either one of those situations were intentional by any stretch.”

Last go-round

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last trip to Pocono as a full-time driver was a decent, but not great, one. He was only mid-pack in practice and qualifying, and he had a pit-road speeding penalty during his first pit stop in the race. That dropped him a lap off the lead and back to 30th..

After Stage 1, Earnhardt got the free pass and on a Lap 71 caution, he gambled on tires to pick up 15 positions, moving him up to third place. That didn’t work and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet quickly dropped through the field.  Still, Earnhardt was seventh when Stage 3 started and he wound up a respectable 12th. But he needs to win to make the playoffs.

A cautionary tale

In NASCAR, you can’t win a race on the first lap, but you can lose it. On the opening lap of the Overton’s 400, Matt Kenseth spun in Turn 3, triggering a big crash behind him that snared eight drivers, including Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick and Chris Buescher. It was a horrible way to start the race for these drivers.

“I had passed about seven cars the first two corners,” said Almirola, who finished 38th and last. “I was making a lot of progress and then we got to Turn 3 and everybody just stacked up. I saw some smoke. I saw some cars stopped. I got piled in from behind and just drove into the accident. … Sort of a bummer not to even make a whole lap. Not our day.”

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

EDWARDS: “I Feel Accomplished”

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Some of NASCAR’s biggest drivers have decided to hang up their helmets following illustrious careers in recent years.

Carl Edwards became the latest and most unexpected competitor to step away from racing full-time when he addressed the media on Wednesday morning at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Edwards cited career satisfaction, wanting to devote his time to other interests, and health as his three reasons for ending his NASCAR career at 37-years-old.

“I am truly, I am personally satisfied with my career,” Edwards said.

While Edwards didn’t capture a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, he leaves the sport having bettered himself personally.

“Going through that whole process and becoming a better person, a stronger person, a better competitor, a better teammate, a better friend to people, that’s a big deal to me, and I feel accomplished,” Edwards said.

Wanting to focus on other aspects of his life away from competing full-time in NASCAR factored heavily into Edwards’ decision.

“I’ve been doing that for 20 years, and I need to take that time right now and devote it to people and things that are important to me, things I’m really passionate about,” Edwards said.

Drivers face a constant risk when they compete and having avoided significant injury throughout his 12-year NASCAR Cup career heavily influenced this announcement.

“I can stand here healthy, and that’s a testament after all the racing I’ve done and all the stupid stuff I’ve done in a race car, that is a true testament to NASCAR, to the tracks, to the people who have built my race cars, to my competitors, and to the drivers who have come before me who haven’t been so fortunate,” Edwards said.

When envisioning his life following his career, Edwards wants to remain as healthy as when he competed behind the wheel.

Having said that, though, it’s a risky sport,” Edwards said. “I’m aware of the risks.  I don’t like how it feels to take the hits that we take, and I’m a sharp guy, and I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years.  So those risks are something that I want to minimize.”

While Edwards didn’t use the word retirement, he said if he ever raced again, it would be with JGR.

“If I’m going to get back in a race car, which I’m not saying the R word here, I’ve seen how that’s worked out for guys, but if I’m going to get back in a race car, I’m calling Coach Gibbs first,” Edwards said. “There is no better race team.  There is no faster car than a Toyota Camry.  There’s no better engine.  There’s no better crew chief than Dave Rogers.  There’s no better crew.”

The 2016 season was one of the most successful of Edwards’ career. He scored three victories, six poles, nine top five and 18 top-10 finishes, marking his best season statistically since he finished runner-up in the championship in 2011.

Edwards’ performance last year earned him a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he nearly captured the title. He outran his three championship contenders for much of the event, leading 47 laps, the most among the drivers battling for the title.

If not for a late caution with under 20 laps remaining in the event, Edwards likely would have walked away with the championship. However, a late restart led to contact with fellow title contender Joey Logano and a crash that resulted in a disappointing 34th-place finish for Edwards.

He reflected back on his career and this latest championship run following the season finale, and couldn’t think of a better time to walk away.

“And after Homestead, I had some time to sit, think and reflect about all of this, and for those three reasons that I gave you, I thought, man, it just ‑‑ I can’t come up with a good reason why now isn’t a good time,” Edwards said.

Edwards steps away at the top of his game having accomplished a great deal of success in the NASCAR Cup Series. Through his 28 career wins and signature backflip victory celebration, he left an impression on the sport and is able to exit feeling accomplished. 

“It’s been something that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I have no regrets. it’s been a blast.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.