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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Force India F1 to race with pink ribbon for Breast Cancer Care

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Force India has announced the start of a multi-year partnership with the Breast Cancer Care charity that will see its Formula 1 cars race with a pink ribbon, starting at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Force India turned its cars pink for the 2017 season after striking a sponsorship agreement with BWT, and will now incorporate the pink ribbon – the global symbol for breast cancer – into its livery.

As per the team, “the focus races will be Monaco, Montreal, Silverstone, Austin and Mexico City where the Breast Cancer Care and pink ribbon will be positioned on the top of the chassis.”

“Our cars turning pink created a lot of positive buzz and it’s a pleasure to be able to harness this feeling to raise awareness for such an important cause and charity,” Force India team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya said.

“We are proud to be working with Breast Cancer Care to bring their work into the spotlight and take advantage of Formula 1’s global reach to improve the lives of everyone affected, directly and indirectly, by breast cancer.”

Andy Harris, director of fundraising and marketing at Breast Cancer Care, added: “Today we are announcing an exciting new partnership with Sahara Force India – and we couldn’t be more delighted.

“Together our goal is to reach more people affected by breast cancer faster. Force India is committed to working with Breast Cancer Care to help achieve our ambition of doubling the number of men and women we support by 2020.

“We want to make sure everyone affected by this life-threatening disease gets the care and support they need to help them through one of the most difficult challenges they could ever face.”

Alonso, Rossi visit NASCAR AMERICA as part of New York media day (VIDEO)

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The defending Indianapolis 500 champion and the driver who’s generated most of the headlines around this year’s 101st running included NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA as part of their New York media tour.

Alexander Rossi and Fernando Alonso joined the show this evening. Rossi, driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda will start third and Alonso, driver of the No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, will roll off from fifth.

The race airs Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on ABC. NBCSN’s coverage of Carb Day is live on Friday from 11 a.m. ET.

 

Indy 500 media day roundup

Photo: IndyCar
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Tuesday marked a busy day for the drivers that make up the field for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. While there was no on-track activity, and won’t be again until Miller Lite Carb Day (5/26 at 11:00 a.m. on NBCSN), the field of 33 were scattered around the country doing a bevy of appearances in the lead up to Sunday’s race. Below is a list drivers and the places they visited.

Bristol, Connecticut/ESPN: James Hinchcliffe
Buffalo: Graham Rahal
Charlotte: Will Power
Chicago: Juan Pablo Montoya
Columbus: Mikhail Aleshin
Dallas-Fort Worth: Tony Kanaan
Dayton: Jack Harvey, Zach Veach
Denver: Buddy Lazier
Detroit: Carlos Munoz, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot
Fort Wayne: Jay Howard, James Davison
Houston: Helio Castroneves
Louisville: Pippa Mann, Ed Jones
Miami-Fort Lauderdale: Oriol Servia, Gabby Chaves, Sebastian Saavedra
Milwaukee: Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball
New York: Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly, Fernando Alonso
Philadelphia: Marco Andretti, Sage Karam
St. Louis: Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato
San Francisco: JR Hildebrand
Tampa-St. Petersburg: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Toronto: Scott Dixon
Washington: Josef Newgarden

It was a day that began early for all drivers, particularly those in transit. However, drivers like Fernando Alonso, Alexander Rossi, and Conor Daly got a jump on their travels last night.

Meanwhile, Oriol Servia, Sebastian Saavedra, and Gabby Chaves flew out early this morning. Servia used the travel to get in some much needed rest ahead of the busy day.

Unsurprisingly, the driver most in demand was Fernando Alonso, who spoke with such outlets as CNN and Sports Illustrated, among others.

Conor Daly, meanwhile, had a unique run-in with professional wrestling star Ric Flair.

Last year’s pole sitter, James Hinchcliffe, kept himself busy with a visit to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. He also spent time at their Los Angeles location ahead of this year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a race in which he won.

And not all of the appearances were within the United States. Polesitter Scott Dixon ventured north of the border to Toronto for his media blitz.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, on the other hand, ventured closer to home, as the Florida native spent his day in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

 

Some drivers even got a little racing in. For example, Pippa Mann enjoyed an arm chair race (which she won) during her stop in Louisville.

Rossi and Alonso, however, kept their racing in the virtual world.

Perhaps the most interesting activity, however, was reserved for Ed Jones. Before joining teammate Pippa Mann in Louisville, Jones joined Zach Veach and Jack Harvey at American Dairy Association Indiana, where Jones was afforded the chance to milk a cow.

A full rundown of events can be seen via the Verizon IndyCar Series twitter.

 

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Alberico living up to ‘Rising Star’ name in solid start to second year

Alberico and Hale. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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INDIANAPOLIS – There’s something about Neil Alberico in his second year in a Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series that brings out the best for the 24-year-old out of Los Gatos, Calif. who now lives in San Clemente.

Alberico, the Rising Star Racing-supported driver, always seems to improve in year two and has done so throughout his now six years in the MRTI.

In the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, Alberico switched from JDC Motorsports as a rookie to Cape Motorsports as a sophomore from 2012 to 2013. He improved from seventh in points to second, and won six races that second year.

The same story applied on the next rung in Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, although he stayed with Cape for both seasons. Third without a win in 2014 ceded to four wins and second place in 2015.

Arguably the best driver who has not yet won a championship in those series, Alberico has positioned himself nicely for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title this year as Carlin’s emerging lead driver following a solid first few weekends of the year, as he now seeks his first win in Indy Lights to keep the career trend going.

Entering Friday’s Freedom 100, the marquee race of the Indy Lights season (live, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Alberico has opened his 2017 account in the No. 22 Dallara IL-15 Mazda with two thirds, two fourths and a sixth place thus far in six races. He sits fourth in points with 103, 36 back of points leader and fellow Californian Kyle Kaiser. For reference, persistent and continual mechanical issues and engine changes stunted a miserable debut season in 2016, and Alberico only had two top-six finishes all season, and left him 11th in points.

Now though Alberico has ascended to the team leader role at the Trevor Carlin-owned, Colin Hale-managed squad. He drives alongside Zachary Claman De Melo, who switched from Juncos Racing, and rookies Matheus Leist and Garth Rickards. All but Rickards have at least one podium this season as the new-look lineup finds its footing.

“Playing the leadership role in a team, I’m used to it,” Alberico told NBC Sports. “I’m comfortable doing what I can do. And that’s your job as a teammate. You have to be fast yourself, but there’s driver and team championships that exist – and we want to win them both.”

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Alberico credits a healthy offseason program where he undertook a lot of private testing and a year’s worth experience both in these cars and with a team that has led to his growth. He also feels more comfortable with the Indy Lights-specification of Cooper Tires, as he struggled to maximize their pace on an optimal lap in qualifying last year.

“Every year you adapt to new challenges as a driver. Last year as a rookie the tire was a big part of that challenge that I needed to learn,” he said. “But it’s now gone more to my favor – or more what I’m used to.

“Going into the offseason, it’s been nice to have a lot of private test time. When you have a private test, there’s driving stuff you can work on, being good on cold tires, or having new tires to work on. It’s the small little details. When you have private time to work on yourself, that’s the most productive.”

While Alberico is serious about the task at hand, he’s not afraid to have fun and laugh it off at the track. That humor involves his engineer, Geoff Fickling, team manager, Hale, and his supporters in Rising Star Racing.

Alberico and Fickling, a renowned and championship-winning engineer in multiple rungs of the MRTI (Ed Jones with Carlin last year and Gabby Chaves with Belardi in 2014 in Indy Lights, plus Jack Hawksworth with Pelfrey in 2012 in Pro Mazda), live not far apart in San Clemente, and at times, almost spend too much time together.

Alberico and Fickling. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“Geoff and I get along great on a personal level. But sometimes he hates when I’m at his house looking for data – he’s gotta be like, ‘I want to get away, and I can’t get away from my driver!’” Alberico laughed. “But he’s very thorough. He’ll go the extra mile to teach me more what I need to learn.”

Alberico has also started making his Instagram videos must-see-content for the rather hilarious interaction between the laid-back Californian and the focused, often intently serious Hale, who has made Carlin a championship-winner in Indy Lights in just its second season. There’s a confidence Alberico has in providing humor here that may not have existed last year given the struggles that were out of his, or the team’s control.

And then there’s the fact Alberico was the one responsible for bringing in the most out-of-left-field IndyCar sponsor this year, which was awesome, in Loki the Wolfdog. We’ll let Neil take it from here…

“Rising Star Racing is, for those that don’t know, such an awesome initiative through MRTI into IndyCar,” Alberico said. “Spencer Pigot and I have been part of that program, which does a lot for young drivers.

“The Loki deal is just basically a friend of mine with a really famous Instagram dog. Social media has become a huge part of the sport the last several years, and I think sponsor and teams need to adapt at those times.”

Loki was on site at Long Beach and met Pigot there for the first time, thanks to the connection between the Rising Star Racing teammates. It’s not been the only partner Alberico has brought in; Laguna Beach-based modern drug addiction and alcoholism treatment center Oceanfront Recovery is on both Alberico’s Indy Lights car and Pigot’s No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet in the Indianapolis 500.

Pigot and Alberico have been Art Wilmes’ two “primary” drivers for RSR over the years, but not the only ones RSR has supported.

Pigot, Loki the Wolfdog, and “Squad” over their shoulder. Go figure. Photo: IndyCar

There’s others such as last year’s Pro Mazda champion, Indy Lights rookie Aaron Telitz (who actually won on his debut at St. Petersburg and has been overlooked from a media perspective) and another MRTI veteran Jake Eidson in the RSR roster. RSR is set to formally add Oliver Askew, who’s off to a stellar start in USF2000, rather soon.

Telitz (center), Herta (left) and Alberico (right) made it an all-American podium at St. Pete. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

As Alberico heads to the Freedom 100 this weekend, he’s got the continuity from a team and engineering standpoint, and determined to secure his breakthrough win in a year when Telitz, Colton Herta and Nico Jamin have all become Indy Lights race winners.

“I like staying with the same team. When you gel with team mechanics, engineers, you don’t want to go through the new process again,” Alberico said. “That’s why you do better in your second year, and in the third year even more so.

“At the IndyCar level it’s about those 10-plus year relationships – and that’s hard to create as a rookie! So you have to learn and adapt with those with 10-year relationships.

“Here, the wind is a bigger factor. But we have the race lap record! We’re not slow. We like this place. Let’s put ourselves in position to win the race.”

Alberico, who mentioned the wind there, also had the chance to play weatherman for the local CBS affiliate (WTTV-4) here in Indianapolis last week. And that provided him and Telitz a chance to provide some competitive banter beyond what they’ve done on track.