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

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.”