O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 - Qualifying

Kevin Harvick earns first Nationwide pole at Texas

Leave a comment

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.


IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti
Leave a comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.

Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish

It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.

Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.

As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.

His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.

The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
Leave a comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.

The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.

Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.

More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.