Kevin Harvick: Expect drivers to have “a lot of different agendas” in ‘Dega quals

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NASCAR’s upcoming visit to Talladega Superspeedway will also mark the first time that the knockout-style qualifying format has been used for a restrictor plate track.

At 2.66 miles in length, Talladega comes in well above the 1.25-mile track length line of demarcation. Thus, competitors will go through the three-round version of the format.

Drivers will have to use the draft at 200+ miles per hour like they do in the races, so they can post times fast enough to keep them advancing through the qualifying rounds.

And that means we’ll be for a much different qualifying show than what we’ve seen so far this season.

“As you take it to the superspeedways, it could be very unique for the fact that everyone’s going to try to get those huge runs from the back of the pack,” Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick said in a release.

“So, you’re going to have a lot of different agendas. The timing of when you make your runs is going to be a little bit different.

“There are going to be some interesting moments, I would say, as we go through qualifying, but I think it’s going to be exciting compared to what we’re used to.”

Harvick, who has won multiple times on restrictor plate tracks, believes that the approach to how he’ll handle Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 will come down to how he fares in the qualifying session on Saturday.

However, as his two victories at Phoenix and Darlington have virtually sealed his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, that does make it easier for him to simply go for it.

“A lot of these tracks, if you can qualify decent and race up front with the current rules package, I think it’s better to stay up front and try to keep yourself there throughout the day,” he said. “Obviously, if you don’t qualify well, you go with the opposite strategy.

“For us, having a couple of wins in the bank, I think you race as hard as you can all day to try and keep yourself up front and have a complete day of hopefully keeping the car rolling when it’s time to be around at the end.”

Regardless of where he qualifies, Harvick is hopeful that he’ll have more speed in his No. 4 SHR Chevrolet than what he felt he had in it during Daytona Speedweeks in February.

Harvick rose from 38th on the Daytona 500 grid to finish 13th, but he says that was more to do with pit strategy and good stops.

“I know the guys were working on finding some speed and making the cars a little better before we headed off to Talladega,” he added. “It’s a constant progression. I felt like we had a little bit of a lack of speed but I think, by the time we get to Talladega, we will have found that.

“Hopefully, that will allow us to be a little bit better than we were at Daytona.”

Toro Rosso at crossroads after Kvyat’s point, Hartley’s strong debut

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In a weekend with something to prove at Circuit of The Americas, Daniil Kvyat rose to the occasion with what he called “his best race of the season for sure” at the United States Grand Prix.

But it may not be enough for the Russian to have saved his seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso for the three final races this year.

Meanwhile, New Zealander Brendon Hartley capped off his roller-coaster debut weekend in Formula 1 with a solid 13th place finish after starting from the rear of the grid, learning as the race went on and bringing home his Toro Rosso chassis to the flag.

Toro Rosso faces a dilemma of three drivers available but only two seats to fill for the final three Grands Prix, with the Mexican Grand Prix coming up just next week.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly will be back after missing Austin due to his Super Formula commitments at Suzuka in Japan, but ultimately that went for naught as the races were canceled due to a typhoon.

Kvyat qualified 12th, was promoted to 11th by way of grid penalties and ended 10th, scoring a point for only the third race this year and first time since coming ninth in the Spanish Grand Prix back in May.

It was a weekend where he would have been expected to outdo Hartley, and did so, but not by a massive margin. And he was already coming in with a track time disadvantage, losing out in FP1 as Indonesian Formula 2 driver Sean Gelael ran in his chassis.

As it was, he rated his weekend performance highly and didn’t do his chances of staying in the car any harm.

Speaking to NBCSN after the race, Kvyat said, “Yeah, it was a perfect race. I did everything well. Brought the points home. It was close with (Felipe) Massa.

“We had some energy release issues on the engine. But it was a massive weekend. It was great. I really enjoyed myself. It was a good job by the team to keep it together with very limited running.

Hartley built up confidence throughout the weekend as he learned the car, the Pirelli tires and how an F1 race races versus an endurance race that he’d been used to doing for several years.

Having coming into the weekend with no expectations and just taking the race session-by-session, he felt good at the end of it.

“There’s so many little things to reflect on,” he told NBCSN. “I’ll put the eyes at rest and process it all. I did the standing start and it wasn’t the best… it’s been a long time.

“But yeah, (you’re learning) in terms of following in traffic, what 20 laps on these tires means, how much you can push it. I’m pretty satisfied. The pace was pretty strong. I made the mistake of getting passed by (Lance) Stroll. I couldn’t pass him back. Lots of challenges. I hope I can get another shot at it.

“Up until this moment… I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to do the job. I’m really relaxed. Now there might be some conversations.”

Toro Rosso figures to reveal its Mexican Grand Prix driver lineup early this week.