Staying balanced in Chase critical for Kevin Harvick, No. 4 team

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Kevin Harvick led a race-high 79 laps last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, only to fade to fifth after he and Kyle Larson were passed for the lead by eventual winner Brad Keselowski with 15 laps to go.

Nonetheless, P5 is a good start for him in the Chase’s Challenger Round, which continues this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Harvick figures that he simply needs two more solid weeks like that to safely enter the Contender Round as one of the Top 12 in the Chase Grid.

And in order to do that, knowing when and when not to take a chance will be important.

Take the series’ most recent visit to NHMS in July. Late in that race, Harvick took on two tires in a pit stop and was told to save as much fuel as he could.

That helped the team gain critical track position, but when the race was taken into green-white-checkered, Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart Haas Chevrolet ran dry on the restart. Instead of challenging Keselowski for the win, he finished 30th.

“I think there is a balance, I know for us, that we’ve tried to focus on, because it’s really not something that you want to flip the switch on and off as far as how you call a race and how you run a race…Now you have to take that fifth or six-place finish and move on and not wreck the car,” Harvick said this week.

“I think as far as going for it and trying to make up two laps of fuel or something like that like we did [at NHMS in July], you can’t do those types of things unless you’re just in a desperate position where you have to win a race.”

However, Harvick believes that the team’s improvement in consistency since Indianapolis will help them avoid such a scenario.

From the Brickyard 400 onward, they’ve garnered two runner-up finishes, four Top-5s, and six Top-10s in the last eight races. And they could have very well won last month at Atlanta if not for Harvick getting caught in a green-white-checkered crash.

Then there’s the new pit crew members that have migrated to the No. 4 crew for the Chase. Last Sunday at Chicagoland, the crew had a mishap with a loose wheel that forced Harvick to take an early restart in 22nd, but bounced back to help him get up among the leaders again.

Altogether, Harvick remains optimistic about what lies ahead.

“I feel like with the speed and all the things we have, that it’s just going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes as a group,” Harvick said. “You’ve got to have a little good luck to go along with that and hopefully, we’ve used our bad luck up along through the year and we can have a good 10 weeks.

“I’m excited and confident. You just never know how these things are going to play out, but if it plays out right, I think we have just as good a shot as anybody.”

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 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


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