Kevin Harvick comes up just short at Kansas after leading race-high 119 laps

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For a while, it looked like Kevin Harvick was going to be unbeatable on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.

But the Stewart-Haas Racing driver had to settle for second after leading a race-high 119 laps in the 5-Hour Energy 400.

Harvick made a furious charge on the final lap but came up .112 of a second behind race winner Jeff Gordon.

Starting from the pole, Harvick was dominant in the early stages. But after he pitted in the middle of a green-flag cycle of stops on Lap 103, a spin by Marcos Ambrose brought out the caution at Lap 110 while the cycle was still going.

Harvick got the free pass as the top driver one lap down, but had to take the Lap 119 restart in 18th place. Stuck in traffic, his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nowhere near as quick as it was in clean air out front.

He came in for another stop at Lap 157, which was slow due to a dropped lug nut off of his left front tire. But the air pressure and chassis adjustments made on that stop appeared to help him as he steadily started to make his way back up the pylon.

The comeback was complete when Harvick wrestled the lead away from Joey Logano on a restart with 60 laps to go and just as he had early in the race, he quickly pulled away from the point.

But just before Harvick was to make his final stop of the night with 29 laps to go, he radioed his team and told them the car was out of gas.

He was able to get to the pits for service, but as the final laps and stops played out, Harvick would find himself behind Gordon instead of ahead of him.

“I was paying attention to [the fuel pressure] and didn’t get enough RPM down pit road, and then I didn’t get out of my box very well,” Harvick said. “He wound up getting by me there as we came out of the pit stops.”

Harvick tried to track down Gordon over the final few laps, and on the last lap, he was making serious ground on the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

If the race had been 268 laps long instead of 267 – the 5-Hour Energy 401.5, if you will – Harvick might have claimed his third win of the year instead of Gordon claiming his first.

“[Catching Gordon] wasn’t out of the question, because I knew that when we got to traffic that his car was not very good,” Harvick said. “I just needed to time it right, and I just had too much ground to make up at that time.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.