Speeding penalty, run-in with drain keep Kevin Harvick from Pocono win

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After several races where he lamented that crucial pit crew mistakes kept him from wins, Kevin Harvick had nobody to blame but himself for finishing second in Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Harvick admitted afterward that a pit road speeding penalty earlier in the event could have been the difference between a win and his ultimate runner-up finish to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“It wasn’t exactly how you would lay it out on a piece of paper, for sure,” Harvick said when asked about how his day went. “We had a really fast car in clean air, a really loose car in traffic, and then we kind of got behind when I got the speeding penalty.

“I was making sure I didn’t hit the 11 and I looked down and I was way above where I needed to be on speed.”

Later in the race, Harvick suffered only minor damage as one of 13 cars involved in a huge wreck on Lap 118.

“We were able to somewhat dodge that wreck,” Harvick said. “There was a huge drain on the back of the straightaway on the middle of the asphalt, and ran through, and it bounced us up in the wall as we were trying to go through the wreck on the straightaway back there.

“It wasn’t too bad of damage. (His pit crew members) were able to beat it out and in the end, top it off before we went green there. We were able to save a bunch of gas with a bunch of cars that were doing the same thing there at the beginning of that run, and in the end saved plenty of gas to be able to race hard at the end.

“So it was fun. Our car wasn’t obviously quite as good after we wrecked it, but still they did a great job fixing it. … They said it wasn’t that bad on the radio. Just had the left rear tire or the left rear fender in on the tire. So they beat it all back out, and luckily, it was on the left side and not the right.”

Harvick even managed to find some humor in how he avoided all the cars that were spinning around him, but he couldn’t avoid a stationary drain.

“I just hung a left (to avoid the wrecking cars) and I just wasn’t expecting a two foot by two foot drain to be a foot down into the ground as I went down through the asphalt, Harvick said, adding with a laugh: “We had the wreck clear, just timed the drain wrong, I guess.”

Even with the damage, Harvick looked extremely strong in the final 20 laps, particularly in the final four-lap shootout at the end with Dale Earnhardt Jr. that produced one of the most exciting finishes to a race this season.

“I timed the last (restart) pretty good and was able to get into turn one, but I just couldn’t turn into the corner like I needed to, to stay beside him,” Harvick said of Earnhardt. “He was able to carry momentum.

“Then I caught a good draft off of three, the first lap on the restart, and was able to drive into one with him. And he kind of got up the racetrack and if I could get beside him going into one, I thought I could have a chance.

“He was a little bit better than I was in turn three and just had to kind of maintain there to just stay close. But I was going to need him to slip up in turn one and try to get position in turn two.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way and Harvick was relegated to a still outstanding second-place finish.

“That’s what you’re going to have to do the last 10 weeks,” Harvick said of still managing to get a strong finish with a car that was less than optimal. “Today we were able to accomplish that and hopefully this is a good sign of things to come.”

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Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.