Harvick collects Top-10 after tough Martinsville weekend

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Kevin Harvick was not one of the dominant drivers today at Martinsville Speedway, but his sixth-place finish in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger enabled him to keep sight of those ahead of him in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Harvick remains fourth in the championship at 28 points behind leaders Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson going into next Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

This afternoon’s solid effort came after Harvick apologized for his comments following yesterday’s Camping World Truck Series race, which saw him feud extensively with Ty Dillon and then criticize Ty and his older brother, Austin – both of them grandsons of Harvick’s team owner, Richard Childress.

Like many of the other cars today at Martinsville, Harvick’s No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet took some damage in the 500-lap race. In particular, a radiator leak gave him and his team some consternation.

“[The car’s] all beat-up and it’s leaking water, so we didn’t have any water pressure there for about 150 laps, so it was a little bit nerve-wracking,” Harvick said. “Luckily, it was a small hole. We battled all day and had a decent day and had a decent car. They adjusted for the damage and had the car really good there at the end and we lived to fight another day.”

Harvick also had a run-in with Ryan Newman on Lap 318 that sent the latter spinning out of sixth place at the time and crashing into the Turn 1 wall. Newman was forced to the garage for major repairs, losing around 60 laps in the process (he would finish 38th).

“I tried to shoot in a gap there and just barely clipped the right rear of his car,” said Harvick, who apologized for his role in the incident. “I know it doesn’t make his day any better.”

As for what lies ahead in the championship – namely, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami, the final three tracks left on the schedule – he was succinct.

Good tracks in three weeks,” he said. “We just have to do what we have to do.”

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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