Harvick wins at Kansas; Johnson cuts Kenseth’s Chase lead to three points

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Kevin Harvick (pictured) boosted his Sprint Cup championship hopes in his final season with Richard Childress Racing, winning from the pole in today’s caution-marred Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Harvick was able to scoot away off a restart with 19 laps to go in order to earn his third win of the season, and move within 25 points of Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Matt Kenseth.

These guys just did a great job all weekend,” Harvick told The Associated Press. “To have a car fast enough for me to qualify on the pole says a lot about how fast this thing is.”

Kenseth was able to stay atop the standings but saw his edge over Jimmie Johnson drop to three points. Johnson came away with a sixth-place finish, while Kenseth was forced to rally for an 11th place result after being penalized mid-race for speeding on pit road.

The biggest loser in the Heartland was Kyle Busch, who once again suffered a tough day on the 1.5-mile oval outside Kansas City. On Lap 200, Busch got loose and hit the wall, inflicting major front-end damage to his car in the process.

As a result, he fell to fifth in the Chase at 35 points behind Kenseth, as both Harvick and Jeff Gordon (fourth, 32 points behind Kenseth) were able to leapfrog him in the title picture.

A first-lap incident involving Kyle Busch, Danica Patrick, David Reutimann and Cole Whitt seemed to set the tone for the race, which took place in cool conditions and had a record 15 cautions – including one on Lap 155 for a brush fire outside of Turn 1 that emerged near a spectator area. According to NASCAR, the fire was quickly put out and no injuries were reported.

Harvick took the checkered flag ahead of Kurt Busch, Gordon, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.