Kevin Harvick’s bid for back-to-back wins ends with broken left front wheel hub

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Kevin Harvick went from halfway to no way in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After leading the race at the 134-lap halfway point of the 267-lap event, Harvick’s bid for back-to-back wins came to an abrupt end when his No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet suffered a broken left front wheel hub after about 175 laps.

When that happened, it became increasingly difficult for Harvick to turn the wheels in the turns around the 1.5-mile progressively-banked racetrack. He ultimately completed 191 laps of the scheduled 267-lap event before taking his ailing car to the garage.

Last week’s Sprint Cup winner at Phoenix, Harvick was the halfway leader for Sunday’s race and went on to lead 23 laps before apparently hitting a piece of debris that locked up the left front wheel on his race car.

With 50 laps remaining in the race and Harvick’s car in the garage being serviced and repaired, he was scored 40th in the 43-car field — although his team hoped to get him back on the track before the end of the race.

As it turned out, Harvick was unable to get back on the track and wound up with a very disappointing 41st-place finish.

“It looks like the left front hub is locked shut,” Harvick told Fox Sports. “The car just kind of lost the handling the last 15 or 20 laps and started to get loose, which makes sense with that left front brake dragging like that.

“Our Jimmy John’s car was Freaky Fast again, and just got to keep doing what we’re doing and everything will be fine with cars like that.”

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March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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