Kevin Harvick earns first Nationwide pole at Texas

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Kevin Harvick earned his first Nationwide Series pole at Texas Motor Speedway in a session that saw a sizable chunk of the field have problems simply getting onto the track to turn laps.

According to NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton, 17 cars had some sort of inspection violation before qualifying, with the majority of the issues centering around the cars’ rear-end housing, toe, and camber.

Among those affected were some major names including Nationwide Series all-time wins leader Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, and Ty Dillon, who all failed to set times and will have to start tonight’s O’Reilly 300 from the back.

Dillon’s car owner, Richard Childress, was spotted talking with Pemberton after qualifying. On Thursday, Dillon led both of the Nationwide practice sessions.

“It’s a new process for the Nationwide Series cars and there’s a lot to be learned sometimes by the teams and how they adjust,” Pemberton told reporters. “We have a new right side tire here, we don’t know if the deflection of the tire is throwing the camber issues off and a few things like that.

“But basically, Richard and I talked and we want to make sure everything goes right moving forward and we’ll get together and talk further on a plan just to make sure everybody gets on the right page.”

While the inspection drama unfolded, Harvick was able to earn the pole with a lap of 184.963 mph in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet during the final round of qualifying.

That was enough to beat Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth, who starts second on the strength of a 184.464 mph lap in his No. 20 Toyota.

JRM and JGR drivers all make up the first three rows of the O’Reilly 300 grid. Row 2 will feature Regan Smith and Dale Earnhardt Jr. from JRM, while JGR’s Elliott Sadler and JRM rookie Chase Elliott make up Row 3.

Smith and Trevor Bayne are currently tied for the Nationwide points lead, but Smith holds the tiebreaker thanks to his season-opening win at Daytona in February. Bayne will start on the outside of Row 4 alongside Brendan Gaughan.

As for the four drivers that didn’t take times due to their problems in inspection, Kyle Busch will start 36th, Larson 37th, Dillon 38th, and Chris Buescher 39th.

Tonight’s race is set for a green flag of 8:30 p.m. ET.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES AT TEXAS – QUALIFYING RESULTS

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds