(AP Photo/David Tulis)

Kevin Harvick in a class of his own, dominates Atlanta NNS race

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Kevin Harvick made it look more than easy en route to victory in Saturday’s Great Clips 300 to Benefit Feed The Children at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Harvick dominated the event, leading 159 of the event’s 195 laps around the high-speed 1.5-mile track. It was his third career victory at AMS (and second in a row), and increased his supremacy to eight top-5 and 10 top-10 finishes overall in 13 starts there.

“Kevin’s really got this place figured out,” team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after the race. “He just goes out and does his thing.”

There was just one lead change in the entire event: Harvick took the lead on Lap 37 from pole-sitter Chase Elliott (who led the first 36 laps) and never surrendered from that point.

What’s more, there were only two cautions in the race for 18 laps, with the first for debris and the second for rain around the two-thirds part of the event.

In 11 starts in the NNS this season, Harvick now has three wins (in the last six races), along with a pair of runner-up showings and nine overall top-5 finishes.

It also was his 43rd win in NASCAR’s junior series.

“This car was bad-fast from the drop of the green flag,” Harvick told ESPN in victory lane. “It’s just one of those racetracks that I love the challenge of what you get to do here.”

Harvick is hoping to make it back-to-back wins on Sunday in the Sprint Cup’s Oral-B USA 500 race at AMS. He has a great chance, as he’ll start from the pole position.

“I’m real happy with our Jimmy John’s car,” Harvick said of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet that he’ll drive Sunday. “We just have to have it go all your way. These races are hard to win. We’ll just enjoy this one tonight and go from there.”

Joey Logano never led a lap in the race but stayed glued right behind Harvick to finish runner-up.

“I just ran out of time,” Logano said. “I wish we would have had another five, seven laps. Too little, too late. I guess we’ll just have to catch him (Harvick) tomorrow.”

Kyle Larson finished third, followed by Kyle Busch and pole-sitter Elliott.

“It started off real good,” Elliott said. “I made an unacceptable mistake near the end that cost us a couple of spots. My guys deserved better than that. My bad.

“I slid through my box, it’s as simple as that. I was just too far. It’s unacceptable. You can’t be doing that.”

Regan Smith was sixth, followed by Brian Scott, David Ragan, Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler.

Matt Kenseth was 11th, followed by Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher, Brendan Gaughan, Landon Cassill, J.J. Yeley, Mike Bliss, Ryan Reed, James Buescher and Ryan Sieg.

Elliott remains atop the NNS standings, leading teammate Regan Smith by 15 points after Saturday night’s race.

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Raikkonen learned “pretty much nothing” in Sochi practice

xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 9, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Kimi Raikkonen made no secret of his frustration following practice for the Russian Grand Prix on Friday after losing the majority of the day’s running at the Sochi Autodrom.

A diesel spill on the track ahead of the first free practice session cost the field 30 minutes of running, while heavy rain made much of FP2 a fruitless exercise.

Speaking after Friday’s sessions, Raikkonen admitted that Ferrari had learned very little due to the conditions, but said that the team will try to make the best of the situation.

“Today the weather conditions were not very nice,” Raikkonen said. “We could not get much running and we learned pretty much nothing.

“The first practice was dry, but at the beginning of the session there was an issue with the tarmac surface and they had to wash it away. So we lost time and when we got to the track some parts were still wet.

“In the second session, the weather turned out to be a bit tricky and it rained most of the time. It’s one of those days you do absolutely nothing but that’s how it goes.

“It was not ideal today but it was the same for everybody. Hopefully tomorrow it will be dry, and we’ll see how the tires work. We’ll do our normal program and try to make the best out of it.”

Teammate Sebastian Vettel finished third in FP1 and second in FP2, but thinks he may struggle to find any rhythm ahead of qualifying on Saturday after losing most of today’s running.

“Today we did learn a few things, but nothing that we can really use for the weekend,” Vettel said. “The first impression of the car is good, but I can’t really say a lot more as we really didn’t get enough track action today.

“This morning we couldn’t drive much as some of the corners were covered with diesel fuel, and it took a while to clean it all up. In the afternoon it started raining, but tomorrow and Sunday it is supposed to be dry!

“In general, it won’t be easy to get into the right rhythm, as the track tomorrow will feel the same like yesterday – that is, green and with poor grip. Usually, you use the Friday to lay some rubber down, but that was not possible today.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend. For full broadcast details, click here.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 13th is Carlos Munoz, who fell back to earth a bit after winning Indianapolis 500, then series rookie-of-the-year honors in consecutive years.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 8th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 10.5 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish

Munoz fell down to earth a little bit in his second full season in IndyCar, albeit not as badly as fellow 2014 rookie Jack Hawksworth, who’d switched teams and had a myriad of issues throughout the season. He won his first race in the rain at Detroit race one, which was well judged, but there were precious other highlights from the driver who has showcased “wow” potential in the past.

His qualifying fell off year-to-year and that was probably the single thing to pinpoint as to why the decline occurred, falling from eighth to 13th in points. What had been a 10.5 average in 2014 fell to 14th this year, and behind teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ovals seemed his strongest type of circuit this year on the whole. Like teammate Justin Wilson, he’d been in position to score what would have been his third straight Indianapolis 500 top-five finish if a late splash of fuel wasn’t needed. Sixth at Texas from fourth on the grid marked his best overall weekend of the year, and fifth at Iowa and Pocono were also fairly good results.

But whereas Munoz picked his spots well last year and delivered a handful of podiums, his Detroit win marked his only podium visit this year. He didn’t really make much of an impression and was more anonymous than not over the course of the year. His future with Andretti is uncertain for 2016.