Kevin Harvick leads Saturday AM practice at Fontana

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Seeking to get back on track after consecutive poor finishes at Las Vegas and last weekend at Bristol, Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick was fastest in the first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions on tap for today at Auto Club Speedway.

Harvick took the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to the top of the charts with a lap at 186.018 miles per hour on his second of 26 circuits this session around the two-mile oval.

“We’ve had it on both sides of the fence, tight and loose,” Harvick told Fox Sports toward the end of the practice.

“We’re just trying to fill our notebook so we can make some good decisions tonight and based upon what we’ve seen in the forecast now – it’s going to be sunny tomorrow – I’d say [the car being] a little bit tight wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Fellow California native Jeff Gordon was second-quickest at 185.677 mph in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, followed by Team Penske’s Joey Logano in third (185.620 mph), Sunday pole sitter Matt Kenseth in fourth (185.319 mph), and one of Harvick’s SHR teammates, Kurt Busch, in fifth (184.943 mph).

Marcos Ambrose, Jimmie Johnson, Bristol winner Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman rounded out the Top 10. The Cup drivers will return for “Happy Hour” later this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET.

SPRINT CUP AT FONTANA – SATURDAY MORNING TIMES

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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