Kevin Harvick records second-fastest qualifying speed in NASCAR history — and does it twice at Michigan

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It wasn’t enough for Kevin Harvick to just be Freaky Fast on Friday. No, Harvick had to get greedy.

Harvick broke the track record at Michigan International Speedway not once but twice during Friday’s three rounds of knockout qualifying.

As a result, Harvick will start from the pole for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400. It’s his third pole of the season, most of any driver. It’s also the fastest qualifying effort in NASCAR since Bill Elliott ran 212.809 mph in 1987 at Talladega Superspeedway (prior to NASCAR mandating restrictor plates the following year at both Talladega and Daytona International Speedway).

Harvick initially broke Joey Logano’s track record (203.949 mph, set last August) by recording a speed of 203.995 mph (at 35.295 seconds) during the first of Friday’s three qualifying rounds.

Harvick then went out in the third and final round and really put the pedal to the metal, snapping his own brand-new record with a best-lap speed of 204.557 mph (at 35.198 seconds).

“You just have to relax and pay attention to not over-driving because it’s so easy to miss your line on the entry into the corners,” Harvick told Fox Sports1. “My guys are doing a great job and we just have to keep doing everything we’ve been doing and we have fast race cars.”

Logano’s qualifying effort last August snapped the previous mark set by Marcos Ambrose (203.241 mph) in June 2012, after the track had been repaved during the offseason. Ambrose’s run two years ago had shattered the previous MIS speed record of Ryan Newman by more than nine mph.

Also of note:

* Hendrick Motorsports placed three drivers in the top seven starters: Jeff Gordon will start from the outside pole, Pocono winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. starts third and Jimmie Johnson starts seventh.

Earnhardt is seeking his third win at Michigan, while Johnson is still seeking his first career Cup win at the two-mile, high-speed oval.

* Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola qualified fourth, Team Penske saw Brad Keselowski qualify fifth while teammate Joey Logano was ninth.

* In a very odd twist, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray qualified 11th, but teammate Kyle Larson did not go out and make a run in the final qualifying round, relegating him to a 12th-place starting position.

* Juan Pablo Montoya, making the first of two appearances in a Sprint Cup race this season (he’ll also attempt to make next month’s Brickyard 400), qualified 28th for Sunday’s race.

“This place is so quick, that getting used to the car is hard,” Montoya said. “There was so much push that the car wouldn’t turn at all.

“It’s exciting to be here with Team Penske and Ford. It’s a hell of an opportunity. The idea of being here in Michigan is more of getting myself and Greg (crew chief Greg Erwin) ready for Indy. Our big goal is to go to Indy and win.”

Ryan Truex had the 39th-fastest speed in the first round, but because of provisional starts for other drivers from 36th through 43rd, is the only driver who did not qualify for Sunday’s race. It’s the third DNQ for Truex thus far in his rookie Sprint Cup season.

Here’s the starting grid for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway:

Row 1: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon

Row 2: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aric Almirola

Row 3: Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski

Row 4: Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch

Row 5: Joey Logano, Brian Vickers

Row 6: Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson

Row 7: Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch

Row 8: Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr.

Row 9: Justin Allgaier, Greg Biffle

Row 10: Austin Dillon, Marcos Ambrose

Row 11: Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards

Row 12: Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman

Row 13: AJ Allmendinger, Tony Stewart

Row 14: Danica Patrick, Juan Pablo Montoya

Row 15: Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Row 16: Casey Mears, David Gilliland

Row 17: David Ragan, Brian Moffitt

Row 18: J.J. Yeley, David Stremme

Row 19: Michael Annett, Josh Wise

Row 20: Landon Cassill, Reed Sorenson

Row 21: Alex Bowman, Cole Whitt

Row 22: Travis Kvapil

Failed to qualify (DNQ): Ryan Truex

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Scott Dixon makes young IndyCar fan’s day (VIDEO)

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After his significant accident in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Scott Dixon was almost more frustrated with the fact his Chip Ganassi Racing team would have to build up a new chassis to replace his one that flew several hundred feet after catapulting over Jay Howard.

But a young fan named Lucy put the accident into its proper perspective, as was discovered by Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query in IndyCar’s fan mail.

Query got together with the IndyCar PR team and Dixon to eventually make Lucy’s dream come true, as she got to meet her favorite driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The full story from IndyCar.com is linked here; the full video is linked here.

This was highlighted during Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA show on NBCSN, which you can see above. You can see Verizon IndyCar Series’ KOHLER Grand Prix coverage from Road America live, Sunday on NBCSN at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Mercedes continuing to explore Formula E, October deadline on entry

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GENEVA, Switzerland – Mercedes has until October to make a final decision on entering the FIA Formula E championship and activating its option for a place on the grid in season five, when it would have to be a customer team.

Mercedes announced last October that it had secured an option on a place in Formula E from season five, becoming the latest manufacturer to express its serious interest in the all-electric series.

No updates have been forthcoming from Mercedes regarding its Formula E interest since then, although a number of personnel are understood to have attended the recent Berlin race as it continues to evaluate the series.

When asked by NBC Sports about Mercedes’ Formula E plans at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva earlier this week, head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport Toto Wolff confirmed that an evaluation was still ongoing ahead of an October deadline to trigger its option.

“We are exploring Formula E at the moment and try to form an educated opinion,” Wolff said.

“It is something that is very different, although I think they’ve done a great job in establishing the series in a couple of years only.

“We are in a fact-finding moment and we will make up our mind until October.”

Mercedes missed the deadline to join Formula E in season five (2018/19) as a manufacturer, with nine companies being listed by the series back in March.

Should Mercedes want to enter Formula E in season five, it would have to do so as a customer team, enjoying a powertrain supply from another manufacturer.

“The rules are what they are. If we decide to enter Formula E, we will be a customer team in season five,” Wolff said.

“There’d be no other solution.”

Verstappen quickest in opening Azerbaijan GP practice

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Max Verstappen led Red Bull Racing to a one-two finish in the opening Formula 1 practice session ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, finishing half a second clear of teammate Daniel Ricciardo at the top of the FP1 standings.

Verstappen and Ricciardo were able to make the most of low grip conditions at the Baku City Circuit through first practice, with a number of their rivals finding things more difficult and struggling to keep their cars on-track.

Verstappen recorded a fastest lap time of 1:44.410 in the Red Bull RB13 to take P1 overall, finishing four-tenths of a second clear of Ricciardo.

Sebastian Vettel took third place for Ferrari, half a second down on Verstappen at the front after squeezing a late lap in before a red flag stoppage in the closing stages of the session.

FP1 was halted when Sergio Perez became the first driver to crash at the tight Turn 8 section, carrying too much speed into the corner and clouting the barrier with his Force India car.

Despite the shunt, Perez ended the session fourth ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who failed to challenge the front-runners at the head of the field, finishing over a second behind Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas was sixth in the second Mercedes ahead of Esteban Ocon and Felipe Massa, with Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat rounding out the top 10.

Second practice in Baku begins at 9am ET live on the NBC Sports app before being re-aired on NBCSN at 2pm ET.

Road America weekend, Thursday notes

Brett Hundley with Will Power and Mario Andretti. Photo: IndyCar
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – It’s a busy day of testing, practice and qualifying for all the series not named the Verizon IndyCar Series on Thursday at the KOHLER Grand Prix weekend.

IndyCar sessions begin on Friday and as such there wasn’t meant to be as much to report on that end… until late Thursday afternoon when Schmidt Peterson Motorsports confirmed Mikhail Aleshin’s temporary absence and Robert Wickens to fill in.

Meanwhile with Esteban Gutierrez having been confirmed for the rest of the season at Dale Coyne Racing, it’s anticipated he will have his first oval test next week at Iowa Speedway, to have his first running on an oval ahead of the July 9 Iowa Corn 300.

Here’s a couple other IndyCar notes…

DIXON’S SURPRISE TO A YOUNG FAN

Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network reporter Jake Query, who will also be hosting this weekend’s Indy Lights coverage from Road America on NBCSN, found a fan letter from a young girl named Lucy addressed to INDYCAR after Scott Dixon’s wild ride at the Indianapolis 500. Lucy proceeded to thank INDYCAR for its safety efforts in keeping Dixon intact.

Well, between the efforts of Query and the IndyCar PR staff, a meeting between the two was arranged. You can see the video of that, below.

PACKERS QB TAKES A RIDE WITH MARIO

Not that Packers QB though.

Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley had a ride today with Mario Andretti in Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports, the two-seat IndyCar. He posted on it below.

Elsewhere, here is a bit more from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and Pirelli World Challenge ranks.

MRTI

  • First practice is in the books for USF2000 and rather than Oliver Askew being on top for Cape Motorsports, it was actually the Pabst Racing team that went 1-2-3 with Dutchman Rinus VeeKay ahead of Guyana driver Calvin Ming and Brazilian Lucas Kohl. Not bad for Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team. Askew was fourth, and David Malukas was an impressive fifth. Full results are here.
  • In first qualifying for Pro Mazda, Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni took the pole with a best time of 2:06.5835, ahead of Cape Motorsports’ Anthony Martin at 2:07.9055. Team Pelfrey’s trio of Carlos Cunha, TJ Fischer and Nikita Lastochkin completed the top five. Full results are here.
  • Overall, the USF2000 field grows by one from the projected 18 up to 19 with F4 driver Jacob Loomis moving up to Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 Tatuus USF-17 Mazda, filling in for Ayla Agren. Agren’s full-season teammates Robert Megennis and Kaylen Frederick paid tribute to Agren, who is still here this weekend, with tribute cool shirts.
  • Meanwhile the Pro Mazda field dips by two. Neither Phillippe Denes, who was seventh in points heading into the weekend, nor Kevin Davis is here. It leaves the field at 15 cars, including series debutantes Kris Wright (who has tested with JDC Motorsports), Dave Zavelson and Kevin Bury. Zavelson’s car number switches from 4, listed initially, to 2.
  • Max Hanratty, who returns, has a new livery on his No. 6 ArmsUp Motorsports entry.
  • Anthony Martin is confident any issues with his Cape Motorsports Pro Mazda car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course have been sorted. The Australian proved that point by leading the opening practice session with a best time of 2:13.1661 in mixed conditions. Full times from that are linked here.
  • The reduced USF2000 field sees a couple drivers here who may be back later this year but others who may be done for the year. Agren, out at Team Pelfrey this weekend, is here and working towards a return later this season. Her past teammate at Pelfrey, Luke Gabin, is also here and is unsure whether he’ll be back in action for Exclusive Autosport.
  • Meanwhile Darren Keane, who makes his debut with Newman Wachs Racing in USF2000 this weekend, is expected to return to the team for remaining races. He’ll miss Iowa Speedway but plans to return at Mid-Ohio. Ozz Negri coaches Keane in USF2000; Tom Dyer, another Acura NSX GT3 driver, coaches the Pelfrey USF2000 drivers.

PWC

  • The PWC grid drops by a couple this week with a couple changes in the GT and GTA ranks. Bentley Team Absolute is down to one car with Yufeng Luo not here in his No. 78 Bentley Continental GT3, leaving only Adderly Fong. Fong, however, will miss the Mid-Ohio weekend owing to a schedule clash with the China GT Championship. Pablo Perez Companc, who was also due to race in GTA in the No. 69 Mercedes-AMG GT3, is another no-show this weekend.
  • K-PAX Racing has eclipsed the 100-podium plateau in recent rounds. The team’s three-car lineup resumes this weekend with Alvaro Parente, Bryan Sellers and Mike Hedlund, Parente and Hedlund having just returned from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
  • Austin Versteeg makes his debut in the GTS class No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4, a car that’s won this season in the hands of Nico Jamin. Jamin is here this weekend in his Andretti Autosport Indy Lights car.
  • PWC had several test and practice sessions during the day.