NASCAR: Kevin Harvick to get teammate Tony Stewart’s pit crew (VIDEO)

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Stewart-Haas Racing has announced that Chase for the Sprint Cup contender Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart will swap their respective pit crews, effective immediately.

SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a team release that the change was made “in the best interests of the entire organization.”

Zipadelli added: “Our primary goal is to win races and championships, and this pit crew swap provides championship experience to the No. 4 team [Harvick] and continued race-winning experience to the No. 14 team [Stewart].”

Harvick’s now-previous crew has been criticized for multiple mistakes during the 2014 regular season. In last week’s regular season finale at Richmond International Raceway, they were twice unable to keep their man up front during early yellow-flag pit stops.

Brad Keselowski took the lead in the pits on a debris caution at Lap 125, and he never gave up the point again en route to his fourth win of 2014 that also earned him the No. 1 seed in the Chase.

Harvick settled for a fifth-place finish, and afterwards, he was blunt about what it would take to bring home the Cup.

“We’ve gone 26 weeks and haven’t fixed pit road,” he said. “We have to fix pit road in order to win a championship.”

Now, Harvick will have Stewart’s tire changers, tire carriers and jackman from the latter’s 2011 title-winning team: Ira Jo Hussey (front tire changer), Todd Drakulich (front tire carrier), Daniel Smith (rear tire changer), Mike Morneau (rear tire carrier), and Mike Casto (jackman).

The former No. 4 crew – Bryan Jacobsen (front tire changer), Brett Morrell (front tire carrier), Jonathan Sherman (rear tire changer), Josh Sobecki (rear tire carrier), and Getty Cavitt Jr. (jackman) – now joins Stewart’s No. 14 side.

Considering that Harvick’s often-blazing speed this year has been blunted repeatedly by pit woes, SHR’s decision is one that should give him some more peace of mind going into Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland.

Harvick can no longer afford to have races squandered, especially with wins now serving as a ticket to the next Chase round. With these championship-winning crew members now in the 4 camp, he may finally return to being “The Closer” – and at just the right time.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III