Luck finally on Kevin Harvick’s side in Darlington G-W-C win (VIDEO)

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A broken wheel hub at Las Vegas.

An oil line failure at Bristol.

A blown tire at Fontana.

An engine failure at Texas.

It had been a tough month and change for Kevin Harvick after his win in March at Phoenix. But it’s all water under the bridge as he’s now fully cemented himself into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Like Joey Logano last Monday at Texas, Harvick was forced to fight in Green-White-Checkered after dominating tonight’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

And like Logano, he came through in the clutch, going from third to first over two G-W-C attempts to become the first repeat winner of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

“We’ve had to overcome a lot over the last several weeks, but we’ve had really fast cars,” Harvick said in Victory Lane to Fox Sports. “We just kept our heads down and kept doing what we had to do.”

Harvick ultimately led seven times for a whopping 238 laps, marking the fifth time in his career that he’s led at least 200 laps in a single race (he’s now won in four of those five instances).

But he had to go through one last scrap for the trophy when Logano slowed down with an apparent problem to bring out the yellow with 10 laps remaining.

That brought the leaders to the pits to load up on fresh rubber, and while Harvick took four tires, he was dropped to fifth behind Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon – all of whom took two.

A restart ensued with five laps to go, and Harvick was able to get to third place behind Johnson and Earnhardt before debris was spotted in Turn 3 to bring out another yellow with three laps left.

That put the race into G-W-C mode and on the first attempt, Earnhardt and Harvick took advantage of a bad start from Johnson to take first and second before Kurt Busch was tagged from behind by Clint Bowyer in Turn 2.

Busch was sent skidding into the inside retaining wall on the backstretch, forcing the second of a possible three G-W-C attempts.

When G-W-C No. 2 got underway, both Earnhardt and Harvick were able to sail off from Johnson. But as the two headed to Turn 3, Harvick went to the outside and then powered by Earnhardt in Turn 4 to take the lead at the white flag.

It proved to be the race-winning pass as Harvick went on to beat Earnhardt by .439 of a second to earn his inaugural triumph at “The Lady in Black.”

“I needed those Green-White-Checkers,” Harvick said. “The last one is probably the one I needed the most just for the fact that I was able to get really good restarts and able to time the restarts really well – and those guys had older tires and were spinning the tires.

“I knew if I could make it through [Turns] 1 and 2 and close to [Earnhardt], I knew I had the top line down [in Turns 3 and 4] and they were on the bottom.”

As for Earnhardt, he settled for his third runner-up finish of the season, which was still a great bounce-back after crashing out early in Fort Worth.

“[Harvick] had the best car and the best tires,” Earnhardt admitted. “I wasn’t lookin’ in the mirror to tell where anybody was – [spotter] TJ [Majors] said he was coming. I maybe should have run the top there in [Turns] 3 and 4 coming to the white and made him work the bottom to get around us.

“We had a great car. Best finish I’ve had here – I don’t really run that great here, so the guys had to prepare a really good car for us to run that well. I gotta give the National Guard team a lot of credit.”

Johnson, who qualified 26th, rallied from running as far back as 31st in the opening stint of the race to claim a third-place finish at the track where he’s won three times.

Also performing well after a tough qualifying run was Matt Kenseth, who turned in yet another steady ‘Matt Kenseth race’ by finishing fourth after starting from 25th.

Greg Biffle was also sharp tonight, placing fifth for his best result at Darlington since claiming back-to-back wins there in 2005 and 2006.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – DARLINGTON RACEWAY
Bojangles’ Southern 500
Unofficial Results

1. Kevin Harvick, led 238 laps
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr., led 5 laps
3. Jimmie Johnson, led 8 laps
4. Matt Kenseth, led 12 laps
5. Greg Biffle, led 5 laps
6. Kyle Busch
7. Jeff Gordon, led 8 laps
8. Kyle Larson
9. Tony Stewart
10. Ryan Newman
11. Austin Dillon
12. Clint Bowyer
13. Carl Edwards
14. Marcos Ambrose
15. A.J. Allmendinger
16. Jamie McMurray
17. Brad Keselowski, led 4 laps
18. Casey Mears
19. Denny Hamlin, led 3 laps
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21. Josh Wise
22. Danica Patrick
TWO LAPS DOWN
23. Justin Allgaier
24. Aric Almirola
25. Landon Cassill
THREE LAPS DOWN
26. Brian Vickers, led 30 laps
27. Martin Truex Jr.
FOUR LAPS DOWN
28. David Gilliland
FIVE LAPS DOWN
29. Alex Bowman
30. Parker Kligerman
31. Kurt Busch, Lap 368, Accident
SEVEN LAPS DOWN
32. David Ragan, led 1 lap
33. Travis Kvapil
EIGHT LAPS DOWN
34. Joe Nemechek

35. Joey Logano, led 37 laps, Lap 359, Front Hub
36. David Stremme, Lap 326, Brakes
37. Kasey Kahne, led 23 laps, Lap 323, Accident
38. Cole Whitt, Lap 301, Running
39. Reed Sorenson, Lap 289, Overheating
40. Ryan Truex, Lap 274, Running
41. Paul Menard, Lap 270, Running
42. Michael Annett, Lap 101, Accident
43. Dave Blaney, Lap 65, Brakes

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”