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.”

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

Photo: IndyCar
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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

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