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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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Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly
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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.

Social Roundup: IndyCar tests at Sonoma, Fontana

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Simon Pagenaud
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There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The engines of the Verizon IndyCar Series have roared back to life this week, a month before the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a test at Phoenix International Raceway two days ago, two more tests are occurring today in California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and at Sonoma Raceway.

At Auto Cub Speedway is Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

In Sonoma is the entirety of the Chip Ganassi Racing team and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud from Team Penske.

Here’s a look at how the day is progressing at each test through social media. We’ll update throughout the day. If you’re attending either test, tweet us pictures at @MotorSportsTalk or @danielmcfadin of how you’re taking in the beginning of the 2016 season.

Sonoma Raceway

Auto Club Speedway