Kevin Harvick claims pole for Challenger Round finale at Dover

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Out of the 14 drivers that have not yet advanced in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kevin Harvick has perhaps the most clear path to moving on after Sunday’s Challenger Round finale at Dover International Speedway. All he needs to do is finish 34th or better.

But it appears he really wants to make sure he’s good for the Contender Round.

Harvick captured his seventh Sprint Cup pole of the season and his first ever at the Monster Mile with a lap of 162.933 mph in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

“They just do a great job in preparing the race cars and put a lot of effort into qualifying, and it’s translated into a lot of good finishes,” Harvick said to ESPN about his team’s efforts.

“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. Obviously, track position is huge here, especially at the beginning of the race. I’ve never been in that [No. 1] stall [at Dover], so I guess it’s gonna be OK on that end of pit road.”

At 41 points ahead of the cut-off, Harvick knows he’s in good shape. And with that, winning is the only goal he has in mind on Sunday.

“You just want to keep building on the momentum that we have, to try and further that as we lead into Kansas,” he said.

Harvick knocked Brad Keselowski off the pole with less than six minutes to go in the final round of qualifying.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (162.404) and Denny Hamlin (162.250) were also able to eclipse Keselowski (162.140), while Jamie McMurray of Chip Ganassi Racing (161.936) was the fastest of the non-Chase competitors in fifth.

Other Chasers that cracked the final round of qualifying today were Jeff Gordon in sixth, Jimmie Johnson in eighth, and Kasey Kahne in 12th.

Going into Sunday, Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, and Aric Almirola are the four drivers that are outside the Top 12 in the Chase Grid. Hamlin helped his cause today, but the other three in this group will all have to start from mid-pack: Almirola from 21st, Kurt Busch from 22nd, and Biffle from 27th.

That said, everyone from Carl Edwards in eighth on back to Almirola in 16th is on that advance bubble. Edwards, who’s eight points over the cutoff, qualified 18th today after waiting until late in the first round to set its qualifying lap.

“I think [crew chief] Jimmy [Fennig] made the right call – at the end of the day, we qualified 18th on our first lap, but if we had gone early, I think we would’ve been 24th and 25th,” Edwards said.

“…I just hope our Fastenal Ford is good in race trim. We’re gonna work really hard on that tomorrow. Obviously, it’s an important race for us. The pressure’s on.”

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT DOVER – AAA 400 (Challenger Round Finale)
Qualifying Results

1. *4-Kevin Harvick
2. *18-Kyle Busch
3. *11-Denny Hamlin
4. *2-Brad Keselowski
5. 1-Jamie McMurray
6. *24-Jeff Gordon
7. 42-Kyle Larson
8. *48-Jimmie Johnson
9. 15-Clint Bowyer
10. 3-Austin Dillon
11. 55-Brian Vickers
12. *5-Kasey Kahne
13. 10-Danica Patrick
14. *20-Matt Kenseth
15. 14-Tony Stewart
16. *22-Joey Logano
17. 9-Marcos Ambrose
18. *99-Carl Edwards
19. 27-Paul Menard
20. *31-Ryan Newman
21. *43-Aric Almirola
22. *41-Kurt Busch
23. 51-Justin Allgaier
24. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
25. *88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
26. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
27. *16-Greg Biffle
28. *47-A.J. Allmendinger
29. 26-Cole Whitt
30. 13-Casey Mears
31. 38-David Gilliland
32. 98-Josh Wise
33. 36-Reed Sorenson
34. 23-Alex Bowman
35. 7-Michael Annett
36. 40-Landon Cassill
37. 34-David Ragan
38. 33-David Stremme
39. 32-J.J. Yeley
40. 37-Mike Bliss
41. 66-Mike Wallace
42. 83-Travis Kvapil
43. 44-Timmy Hill
*Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”