Harvick still in title picture, but faces tall task on Sunday

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Kevin Harvick is still mathematically in contention for the Sprint Cup championship. But facing a 40-point gap to championship leader Jimmie Johnson with just two races left, he admitted Friday at Phoenix International Raceway that hoping for problems for both Johnson and Matt Kenseth (second, -7 points) “is asking for all but a miracle.”

Nonetheless, despite the circumstances, Harvick also said that he couldn’t fret over his Chase – or his season altogether.

“We knew we needed to win at least one race in the Chase, and we accomplished that. It just happens to be a year where you needed to win a couple or three races in the Chase and finish in the Top-5 a lot,” he said before qualifying ninth for Sunday’s Advocare 500 at PIR.

“It’s not been anything to complain about. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and try to win one of these or both of the last two races.”

With three previous wins at PIR and a relatively solid pace through practice this weekend, Harvick could be a threat in tomorrow’s 312-lap event. But if Johnson and Kenseth put in good days as well, it won’t really matter in regards to the championship.

There’s no doubt Harvick will keep fighting until he’s officially done. But during his Friday presser at PIR, he was asked who had the edge between Johnson and Kenseth if he had to take himself out of the title picture.

His reply referenced the unpredictability of the duel between the two men, noting Kenseth finishing second at Martinsville (a place where Johnson has won eight times) and Johnson scoring his first win of the year on a 1.5-mile oval last weekend at Texas.

“It’s a crapshoot at this point…It’s just a matter of who hits it on a particular weekend,” he said. “Obviously, this race track can play a lot of havoc on track position and things happening and [you] get caught up in something, but I think performance-wise, it’s a draw at this point.”

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.