Kevin Harvick

Freaky Fast yet again: Kevin Harvick wins Sprint Cup pole at Kansas, Joey Logano alongside

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The only drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to have two wins thus far this season — Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano – will start from the front row in Saturday’s Five-Hour Energy 400 Benefiting the Special Operations Warrior Foundation at Kansas Speedway.

Harvick once again lived up to his “Freaky Fast” nickname, taking his second pole of the season in his Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet with a top speed of 194.252 mph, a new track record. It was also Harvick’s second career pole at Kansas.

“My qualifying record hasn’t been great, but they’ve really done a good job in getting our qualifying stuff situated after the first four or five weeks of the season,” Harvick said of his No. 4 SHR crew. “To come here and sit on the pole, I thought I had screwed it up. I never got through (turns) 3 and 4 how I wanted to. I felt like I got through 1 and 2 all three laps pretty good, but 3 and 4 was a little bit too tight. I got a little bit concerned, but all-in-all, it worked out okay.”

Harvick and all three of his other Stewart Haas Racing teammates qualified within the top nine spots.

Logano wasn’t far behind Harvick, as his Team Penske Ford also broke the old track mark at 193.910 mph, part of a three-driver Ford juggernaut from second- to fourth-place.

“We got a lot of second-place qualifying efforts, which I mean isn’t the end of the world,” Logano said. “It’s just I really like winning and second kinda blows. But overall, we have a real good starting spot, we can see the track from there and we’ll go for it.”

Logano’s Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, qualified third (193.507 mph), followed by Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards (193.188).

Rookie Kyle Larson (193.050) will start fifth, followed by Kurt Busch (sixth, 193.043), Ryan Newman (seventh, 192.816), Tony Stewart (eighth, 192.548), Danica Patrick (ninth, 192.452) and Greg Biffle (10th, 191.980).

Also of note in the qualifying session:

* Rookie Ryan Blaney, making his first attempt to qualify for a Sprint Cup race, made the field in 21st place.

* Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon will start 13th, alongside Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in 14th.

* Kansas native Clint Bowyer, still seeking his first career win on his “home track,” qualified a disappointing 23rd.

* While proud that his son made the field, sadly, dad Dave Blaney was the odd man out, the only driver to fail to make the 43-driver field for Saturday’s race.

Here’s the unofficial starting grid for Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway:

Row 1 Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano

Row 2 Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards

Row 3 Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch

Row 4 Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart

Row 5 Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle

Row 6 Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola

Row 7 Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson

Row 8 Brian Vickers, Paul Menard

Row 9 Kasey Kahne, Justin Allgaier

Row 10 Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Row 11 Ryan Blaney, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Row 12 Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch

Row 13 Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr.

Row 14 Casey Mears, Matt Kenseth

Row 15 AJ Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin

Row 16 Ryan Truex, Josh Wise

Row 17 Alex Bowman, Michael Annett

Row 18 J.J. Yeley, Cole Whitt

Row 19 Reed Sorenson, David Ragan

Row 20 David Gilliland, Landon Cassill

Row 21 Travis Kvapil, Timmy Hill

Row 22 Joe Nemecheck

Failed to qualify: Dave Blaney

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Mercedes AMG Petronas tops its 2014 point total, despite fewer points available

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The end of the Formula 1 season just completed means a chance to compare stats and points standings year-on-year. So forgive the dive into nerddom, but it’s the most wonderful time of year to bust out the calculators.

We’ll start first with the double World Champions, Mercedes AMG Petronas, who have managed to top their tally in the Constructor’s Championship from 2014.

For the second consecutive year, Mercedes has won 16 of 19 races and gone 1-2 in the driver’s championship.

Where they’ve improved: they set the record for 15 front row lockouts, they took 12 1-2 race finishes after taking “only” 11 in 2014, and, perhaps most impressively, topped its overall points total despite having fewer points on offer.

The double points finale last year meant a maximum of 86 points was possible (50 and 36 for first and second rather than the 25 and 18).

Yes, Mercedes scored fewer points this year at Abu Dhabi than last… but still scored the maximum achievable (43 of 43 versus 50 of 86).

It meant Mercedes ended 2015 with two more points than it did in 2014 – 703 to 701. Lewis Hamilton’s own tally went down by three, from 384 to 381, but teammate Nico Rosberg made up the difference with a five-point gain from 317 to 322.

Percentage-wise, Mercedes scored 703 of a maximum possible 817 points – or 86.07 percent of the potential maximum number (43 points, times 19 races).

It’s an uptick from the still remarkable 81.51 percent of the potential maximum last year (701 of 860).

To put in perspective how dominant that number is by contrast to the rest of the field, Mercedes scored 703 of 1,919 total points (101 total points per race, times 19 races) on offer in 2015.

That meant as one team, Mercedes brought home 36.63 percent of all points available in 2015, which is up from 34.7 percent last year (701 of 2,020 points).

The remaining eight teams that scored were left to divide up the remaining 63 and change percent… or an average of 7.92 percent, per team, or so.

So for 2016, on top of wishing Ferrari and the rest of the field can up their game to match, one of the early story lines to watch will be whether Mercedes can sustain this incredible amount of statistical dominance from its on-track success.

Audi to test six young guns in its DTM car

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi
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It’s not just Mercedes (and Kevin Magnussen) that’s testing young guns in one of its DTM cars this week at Jerez.

Audi announced that it would give a six-pack of youngsters a shot to test as well, from Tuesday to Thursday, at the same place in the Audi RS 5 DTM.

Those six include:

  • Matthew Brabham (21/USA)
  • Mitch Evans (21/New Zealand)
  • Antonio Giovinazzi (21/Italy)
  • Ben Hanley (30/Great Britain)
  • Alex Palou (18/Spain)
  • Arthur Pic (24/France)

Note most of these six have or had some level of open-wheel experience, with Evans having tried his hand successfully in a couple different sports cars this year. The young Kiwi finished second in his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after winning at Spa in his sports car debut, driving Jota Sport’s Gibson 015S Nissan.

Brabham comes over to test the DTM car after racing primarily in the Mazda Road to Indy the last four years. He won the 2012 USF2000 and 2013 Pro Mazda titles, then raced the full 2014 and partial 2015 seasons in Indy Lights; he’s also driven in Formula E for Andretti Autosport and in the Stadium Super Trucks.

Kevin Hart, Ludacris, Marco Andretti head to Abu Dhabi for F1 finale

Marco Andretti
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Marco Andretti has had a good run of attending season finale events.

Obviously, the 28-year-old grandson of Mario Andretti rounded out his 10th season in the Verizon IndyCar Series at its own season finale at Sonoma, finishing 11th and then ending the year ninth in points.

But Andretti told NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan, among other reporters, at Phoenix International Raceway where he’d tested his IndyCar and then made the promotional rounds that he’d have a busy next couple weeks ahead.

“I’m watching too many races. I need to be in them!” Andretti said. “(Homestead), I’m going as Jeff Gordon’s guest. Then going to Abu Dhabi Formula 1. (Our season) needs to be longer.”

Last week, he and fellow IndyCar stars Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe made the trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway – incidentally, as did Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton – to witness Jeff Gordon’s final drive before hanging up his helmet after 23 incredible years at NASCAR’s top level.

This week, it was Marco’s turn to hit Hamilton’s usual turf, as he and his friends Ludacris and Kevin Hart made the trip to Abu Dhabi to witness the F1 finale.

Marco, who had a Honda Racing F1 test in the late 2000s but never was able to make the move to emulate both Mario and Michael, each of whom raced in F1, appeared wowed by the Yas Marina Circuit once he arrived from Chicago.

Abu Dhabi F1 quals!! @kevinhart4real @ludacris

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Yas is hands down the most insane facility ! #AbuDhabi. Wish I was driving !!

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Andretti, Luda, Hart and crew met up with Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo at the weekend.

Andretti is continuing the trip into this week, with further posts via his Instagram page.

Hart – one of this country’s most talented and recognizable comedians at the moment – also appeared to enjoy the atmosphere.

As did Ludacris, who posted this view from a yacht.

The only way to watch the F1 Race in Abu Dhabi. #yachtlife

A photo posted by @ludacris on

The vacation crew found Hamilton after the race on Sunday night.

Hamilton’s friend, another artist in Big Sean, who’d performed the halftime show at the Philadelphia Eagles-Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, also made the flight out to Abu Dhabi.

Complete with other more obscure, random celebrities like Rick Astley – who apparently “Rick-rolled” free practice two coverage on the world feed – Edgar Davids and Dwight Yorke, it was a weekend of interesting folks hitting Abu Dhabi. My MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith noted those three, below, in various tweets over the weekend.

Out of Thanksgiving, IndyCar’s open spots are exactly in same place as this time last year

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Now that it’s a new work week and the tryptophan has hopefully worked itself through your system, you’ve had and enjoyed your family time, it’s time for the final few full work weeks of the 2015 calendar before the next round of holidays – Christmas time.

Those who already have confirmed seats for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season are certainly thankful for what they have.

Meanwhile if we flash back some 12 months to look at the then-available amount of talent waiting in the wings, here’s what stood as the unconfirmed seats:

  • Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth car (along with a formal confirmation of the full lineup)
  • Andretti Autosport, fourth car (plus a possible fifth)
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, second car
  • KVSH Racing/KV Racing Technology, second car
  • CFH Racing, No. 20 road and street course driver alongside Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • Dale Coyne Racing, both cars
  • Bryan Herta Autosport, first car

Flash forward 12 months later, and the situation is exactly identical. Those exact same seats have yet to be confirmed for 2016.

The only differences from above is that the first three drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing – four-time and defending champion Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball – already have been formally confirmed for 2016, and Sage Karam has not.

Karam’s manager told a little over a week ago that his contract was not retained for 2016; that said, it’s “only” November and conceivably he could return if enough budget is found.

Sebastien Bourdais is still anticipated to return with KVSH Racing for a third season; A.J. Foyt Enterprises also hasn’t formally confirmed, but is expected to keep its same lineup of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth.

Gabby Chaves is expected to return for a second season with BHA, while of the other seats listed above, the second SPM seat is the most intriguing option.

Proof then that the more things change in IndyCar, the more they stay the same. And when there’s very little news on the driver market… there’s very little news on the driver market.