Final restart costly for runner-up Kevin Harvick

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A bad final restart may have kept Kevin Harvick from a potential win today in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Just after the field got the green flag with 23 laps remaining, Harvick (who restarted second alongside then-leader Mark Martin) found himself in the middle of a three-wide battle going into Turn 1 with eventual race winner Joey Logano on the inside and Kurt Busch on the outside.

That came about because Harvick was forced to slow down to keep himself from crossing the start-finish line ahead of Martin, which would’ve likely ended his chances of victory with a restart violation.

“I just mistimed that last restart there,” said Harvick. “I was rolling pretty good on the 55 [Martin] and I was going to beat him to the start/finish line, so I had to check up and that allowed the 22 [Logano] to kind of make it three-wide and get under me and then we had to fight back from there.”

Logano and Busch were able to get past Harvick, and while the Richard Childress Racing driver was able to re-take second from Busch in the closing laps, he was unable to chase down Logano after Martin ran out of fuel with three to go.

But at fourth in the standings, he is still well on his way to clinching a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. So, for him, these final ‘regular season’ races are all about getting ready for the ten-race playoff run.

In that regard, he believes that he can be a contender for the championship with more performances like the one he and his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team had today.

“[The team] did a great job today and I think everybody was on their game,” he said. “So, I think as long as we run like that every week and finish in the Top-5 every week, we’ll have a shot.”

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/