Kevin Harvick rolls to Nationwide win at Richmond

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JR Motorsports got its third consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series win tonight at Richmond International Raceway, but it didn’t come from its heralded young gun, Chase Elliott.

Elliott entered tonight’s ToyotaCare 250 – which was delayed by more than three hours due to rain – coming off back-to-back wins at Texas and Darlington.

But neither he or anyone else had an answer for his JRM teammate and Sprint Cup veteran Kevin Harvick, who earned his seventh career Nationwide win at RIR.

Harvick first assumed the lead on Lap 49 and would not let go for essentially the remainder of the 250-lap race, ultimately pacing 202 laps in a dominant performance.

After the race crossed the halfway point, Harvick was unable to fully shake Elliott like he’d been able to earlier in the race. But following what proved to be the last restart of the night with 54 laps left, Harvick was able to slowly build up an insurmountable gap to the 18-year-old rookie.

However, in Victory Lane, Harvick talked about how Elliott’s been able to make the team better.

“Chase is just a good kid,” he said to ESPN. “He knows how to drive a race car and he pushes us to be better by trying different things than [what] we’ve kind of been in our groove to do through the many years.”

As for Elliott, he admitted that Harvick simply was quicker in the final laps.

“We were just a little tight in the middle of the corner,” Elliott said of his final green-flag run. “I think he just outdrove me a little bit and honestly, I feel like some of it was me. I kind of let him get a little too far in front of me there in those first few laps [after restarts], but I don’t know.

“I need to get up on the wheel a little bit harder next week or next time we’re in that situation again….I feel like we came a long way from where we started practice, so it was cool to finish 1-2 for JRM.”

Kyle Busch earned a third-place result, followed by Kyle Larson in fourth, and pole sitter Brian Scott in fifth. Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith recovered from late contact with one another to finish sixth and eighth respectively, with Chris Buescher splitting them in seventh. Ryan Blaney and James Buescher completed the Top 10.

Elliott now holds a 19-point lead in the NNS standings over Smith as the series heads for Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES – ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond
Unofficial Results
1. Kevin Harvick, led 202 laps
2. Chase Elliott
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kyle Larson
5. Brian Scott, led 45 laps
6. Elliott Salder, led one lap
7. Chris Buescher
8. Regan Smith
9. Ryan Blaney
10. James Buescher
11. Trevor Bayne
12. Ryan Reed
13. Landon Cassill
14. Ty Dillon
15. Cale Conley
ONE LAP DOWN
16. Mike Bliss
17. Dakoda Armstrong
18. J.J. Yeley
19. Daniel Suarez
20. Brendan Gaughan
TWO LAPS DOWN
21. Blake Koch
THREE LAPS DOWN
22. Jeremy Clements, led two laps
FOUR LAPS DOWN
23. Joe Nemechek
24. Jeffrey Earnhardt
25. Josh Wise
26. Ryan Sieg
FIVE LAPS DOWN
27. Mike Wallace
28. Derrike Cope
29. Eric McClure
SIX LAPS DOWN
30. Josh Reaume
31. Joey Gase, 11 laps down

32. Dylan Kwasniewski, Lap 187, Accident
33. Mike Harmon, Lap 112, Vibration
34. Derek White, Lap 58, Rear Gear
35. Tanner Berryhill, Lap 27, Transmission
36. Tommy Joe Martins, Lap 11, Suspension
37. Matt Dibenedetto, Lap 6, Electrical
38. Jeff Green, Lap 5, Vibration
39. Kevin Lepage, Lap 2, Accident
40. Jimmy Weller III, Lap 1, Engine

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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Honda Photo
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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500