Kevin Harvick’s pretty happy after being fastest in final Sprint Cup practice at Phoenix

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Happy was happiest in Happy Hour Saturday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway.

Kevin Harvick, whose nickname is “Happy,” was the fastest driver in Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s The Profit at CNBC 500.

In 29 laps around the one-mile flat track at PIR, Harvick recorded a fast lap of 136.960 mph (at 26.285 seconds) to pace the field in the one-hour session.

It was a good tune-up for Harvick, who will start Sunday’s race on the inside of the seventh row. Harvick has been one of the most successful drivers at PIR during his career. In 22 starts, Harvick has four Sprint Cup wins, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.

Rookie Kyle Larson was second-fastest at 136.596 mph, followed by Ryan Newman (136.508), Kurt Busch (136.503) and Jeff Gordon (136.374).

Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sixth fastest (136.338), followed by seventh through 10th fastest Jamie McMurray (136.302), Joey Logano (136.297), Brian Vickers (136.250) and Carl Edwards (136.235). Edwards is the defending winner of Sunday’s race.

Perhaps wanting to save his car for Sunday’s race, not to mention he’ll be without crew chief Paul Wolfe (flew back to North Carolina early Saturday to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s first child), pole-sitter Brad Keselowski’s fastest lap was 20th on the grid (135.905).

Joe Nemechek (133.146) and Reed Sorensen (131.492) were the slowest drivers in the session.

Only 41 of the 43 cars qualified for Sunday’s race took part in Saturday’s final practice. Sitting out were Blake Koch and 72-year-old Morgan Shepherd.

Drivers who failed to qualify for Sunday’s race were Landon Cassill, Dave Blaney and Josh Wise.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”