NASCAR: Extra laps lead to Gordon, Harvick running out of fuel

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Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick looked like they would pick up Top-5 finishes in today’s Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway thanks to a call to stay out on track under a Lap 249 caution.

But their plans went awry when Justin Allgaier’s crash with four laps remaining in regulation sent the race into Green-White-Checkered.

Gordon would run out of fuel during the caution leading to the G-W-C restart, while Harvick himself hit empty as the field came down for the green flag.

The fuel woes relegated Gordon and Harvick to results of 26th and 30th, respectively. Not everything is bad for Gordon, however, as he retains the Sprint Cup championship lead by 12 points over Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

After Denny Hamlin had to give up second for a splash of fuel under the final yellow, Gordon was to be behind leader and eventual winner Brad Keselowski for the G-W-C restart until his No. 24 Chevy went dry on Lap 302.

After getting to the pits for a splash, Gordon took the restart in 27th and gained one spot in the last two laps. Despite the heartbreak, both Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson still thought their late strategy was worth the risk.

In an interesting note, Gordon had actually fallen back as far as 26th during the early portion of the race due to handling issues.

He needed a wave-around to get back on the lead lap at Lap 113, but Gordon was able to move into the Top 10 by the caution flag at Lap 211. In subsequent pit stops, he was able to go even further up to third place.

Then, after staying out with 51 to go, Gordon assumed the lead for 18 laps before he lost it to Keselowski on Lap 270. Gordon would cede second as well to Hamlin at Lap 281 before Allgaier’s crash changed the complexion of the race.

“We knew we were very close,” said Gordon. “That pick-up is in the right side and so I was scuffing my tires and think I just took enough fuel out of the pick-up and I could never get any back in there. I tried.

“I think if we would have gone green, we would have been fine. I think it was really just because under caution it wouldn’t pick-up the amount of fuel that was in there. We might have run out anyway. But, it was the best effort and chance we had at winning this race.”

As for Harvick, he ran within the Top 10 before falling back to 19th shortly after halfway. On his final stop at Lap 213 (two tires, fuel, chassis), he was told to save fuel:

By this point, Harvick had climbed back within the Top 10 and he stayed in that bracket until the Lap 249 caution, where he did not pit. As the race hit its final stages, Harvick jumped into the Top 5.

When G-W-C went into effect, Harvick moved up to third with Hamlin pitting and then to second when Gordon ran dry. But instead of racing Keselowski for the win…

After the race, crew chief Rodney Childers both hailed Harvick and rued the late caution and extra laps.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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