Could Larson, McMurray have answer for Harvick tomorrow?

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Kevin Harvick may be rolling off 13th in tomorrow’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, but after topping both of today’s Sprint Cup practice sessions, it appears he has the car to beat in the Valley of the Sun.

But it also appears that both Chip Ganassi Racing drivers, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, will also be contenders as well, and may have what it takes to fight Harvick to the checkered flag.

Larson has been impressive throughout the weekend at Phoenix. In Friday qualifying, he was quick enough to make the final round – the only rookie competitor to do so – and will line up eighth on the grid tomorrow. He’s been strong as well in the three practice sessions, where he’s been sixth, fourth, and second-fastest in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet.

McMurray has also been solid this weekend. His third-place qualifying effort was especially noteworthy considering that he didn’t qualify in the Top-5 on an oval all of last season (his best oval start was a sixth at Bristol last March). And like Larson, he’s had good practices (14th, second, seventh).

Here are a few others to watch out for…

BRAD KESELOWSKI – Pole sitter
Don’t let the P20 in final practice fool you. With both poles in the Nationwide race (currently ongoing) and Sprint Cup race, Keselowski has the pace to be a contender.

JOEY LOGANO – Starting second
Second, 10th, and eighth-quickest in the practice sessions, Logano appears set to have a steady piece for Sunday.

DALE EARNHARDT JR. – Starting fifth
Another solid performer in practice – he topped the first one on Friday and was fourth and sixth-quickest in the next two.

CARL EDWARDS – Starting 23rd
Working on race trim was his main focus on Friday, but he almost won at PIR last fall from the very spot he’ll be starting on Sunday. Good pit stops should get him up the pylon.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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