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.

MRTI: Saturday Barber Notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires completed their first races of the weekend on Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park.

Indy Lights saw a pair of teammates battle for the win, while a series veteran suffered first lap trouble for the second race in a row.

In Pro Mazda, things were much more straightforward, as a title contender ran away to a dominant win from the pole.

Reports on both series are below.

Indy Lights: O’Ward Withstands Herta Challenge for Race 1 Victory

Lap 1 told the tale for Indy Lights Race 1, as Colton Herta led from the pole, but Pato O’Ward was able to sneak by on the inside entering Turn 5.

O’Ward subsequently had to withstand a race-long challenge from Herta, who kept the gap at less than one second between the two Andretti Autosport affiliated drivers – Herta races under the Andretti Steinbrenner Racing banner – for most of the 30-lap race. But, O’Ward kept Herta at bay to take the win by one-and-a-half seconds at the checkered flag.

This is also O’Ward’s second win in three races in the 2018 season.

Belardi Auto Racing’s Santi Urrutia finished third, followed by Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni, and Ryan Norman finished fifth to put three Andretti Autosport affiliated drivers in the Top 5.

Meanwhile, Belardi’s Aaron Telitz endured a second consecutive race in which he failed to complete a lap, after he was collected in a Lap 1, Turn 2 spin with Dalton Kellett. Kellett, who spun on his own, was able to continue despite the contact, but Telitz suffered damage to the right-front suspension, forcing him to retire without completing a lap for the second race in a row.

Results are below. Race 2 rolls off at 1:00 p.m. ET.

 

Pro Mazda: Thompson Roles to Dominant Race 1 Victory

Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson dominated Race 1, leading all 25 laps from the pole on his way to victory. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Race 1 for Pro Mazda was hardly ever in doubt. Polesitter Parker Thompson, who soared to pole with a track record in qualifying, led right from the drop of the green flag to lead all 25 laps on his way to winning Race 1.

Thompson had to withstand a brief challenge from RP Motorsport’s Harrison Scott on a Lap 4 restart – a caution was flown for debris on the front straightaway on Lap 2 – but Thompson immediately began gapping the field again, and the Exclusive Autosport driver won by over five seconds.

Scott came home in second, while BN Racing’s David Malukas, Team Pelfrey’s Andres Gutierrez, and Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay battled for third, with Malukas holding off Gutierrez and VeeKay to take the final spot on the podium.

Results are below. Pro Mazda Race 2 rolls off at 10:50 a.m. ET on Sunday.

 

Check back later for driver quotes.

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