Kevin Harvick earns first Nationwide pole at Texas

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Kevin Harvick earned his first Nationwide Series pole at Texas Motor Speedway in a session that saw a sizable chunk of the field have problems simply getting onto the track to turn laps.

According to NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton, 17 cars had some sort of inspection violation before qualifying, with the majority of the issues centering around the cars’ rear-end housing, toe, and camber.

Among those affected were some major names including Nationwide Series all-time wins leader Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, and Ty Dillon, who all failed to set times and will have to start tonight’s O’Reilly 300 from the back.

Dillon’s car owner, Richard Childress, was spotted talking with Pemberton after qualifying. On Thursday, Dillon led both of the Nationwide practice sessions.

“It’s a new process for the Nationwide Series cars and there’s a lot to be learned sometimes by the teams and how they adjust,” Pemberton told reporters. “We have a new right side tire here, we don’t know if the deflection of the tire is throwing the camber issues off and a few things like that.

“But basically, Richard and I talked and we want to make sure everything goes right moving forward and we’ll get together and talk further on a plan just to make sure everybody gets on the right page.”

While the inspection drama unfolded, Harvick was able to earn the pole with a lap of 184.963 mph in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet during the final round of qualifying.

That was enough to beat Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth, who starts second on the strength of a 184.464 mph lap in his No. 20 Toyota.

JRM and JGR drivers all make up the first three rows of the O’Reilly 300 grid. Row 2 will feature Regan Smith and Dale Earnhardt Jr. from JRM, while JGR’s Elliott Sadler and JRM rookie Chase Elliott make up Row 3.

Smith and Trevor Bayne are currently tied for the Nationwide points lead, but Smith holds the tiebreaker thanks to his season-opening win at Daytona in February. Bayne will start on the outside of Row 4 alongside Brendan Gaughan.

As for the four drivers that didn’t take times due to their problems in inspection, Kyle Busch will start 36th, Larson 37th, Dillon 38th, and Chris Buescher 39th.

Tonight’s race is set for a green flag of 8:30 p.m. ET.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES AT TEXAS – QUALIFYING RESULTS

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.