Another Friday, another Sprint Cup pole for Kevin Harvick

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Kevin Harvick continues to set the standard in qualifying this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver earned his eighth Cup pole of 2014 and his third consecutive Cup pole on the fast, 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway with a track record lap of 197.621 miles per hour.

But will this set him up for a critical victory in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 that would put him into the Eliminator Round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

Or is he in for more disappointment like he had one week ago at Dover – and at multiple other points this season?

Harvick feels that good luck is all he and his No. 4 team really needs. Indeed, it appears they have pretty much everything else down.

“I just feel like with a little bit of good luck, we can beat every car on the race track on any given weekend at any style of race track,” he told ESPN. “And that’s a really positive, good feeling to have as a race car driver.

“Our guys have a lot of confidence in what they’re putting on the race track, and everybody knows that if the chips fall right, we have the speed and the cars to do what we need to do.

“We’ve made adjustments with the reliability from the beginning of the year and the pit crew…Everything’s there. It’s just a matter of everything coming together on the luck side and we’ll just keep plugging away.”

Joining Harvick on the front row will be Brian Vickers, whose strong lap of 196.307 mph was still more than one mile per hour off Harvick’s pole run.

Seven other Chasers managed to get in the final round of qualifying and will be starting toward the front. This group is led by Joey Logano, who will be on the outside of Row 2 alongside the recently eliminated Aric Almirola.

Last week’s winner, Jeff Gordon, and Brad Keselowski are in Row 3 followed by Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Row 4. Non-Chase competitor Tony Stewart will join Kasey Kahne in Row 5, and Row 6 features Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle (like Almirola, eliminated at Dover) and Carl Edwards.

But farther back, three Chasers in particular will be facing a tough climb on Sunday afternoon.

Denny Hamlin ran an identical time – a 27.873 – with Newman for the final advance position in the opening round, but because Newman had a higher Chase seed going into Kansas, Newman got to move to Round 2.

Hamlin will start 25th, just two spots ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in 27th. And defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will be in an even bigger hole, having to start 32nd following a spin in Turn 2 with about five minutes left in Round 1.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT KANSAS – Hollywood Casino 400
Qualifying Results
1. *4-Kevin Harvick
2. 55-Brian Vickers
3. 43-Aric Almirola
4. *22-Joey Logano
5. *24-Jeff Gordon
6. *2-Brad Keselowski
7. *18-Kyle Busch
8. *88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9. 14-Tony Stewart
10. *5-Kasey Kahne
11. 16-Greg Biffle
12. *99-Carl Edwards
13. 27-Paul Menard
14. 1-Jamie McMurray
15. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
16. 3-Austin Dillon
17. *31-Ryan Newman
18. 42-Kyle Larson
19. 15-Clint Bowyer
20. 47-A.J. Allmendinger
21. 51-Justin Allgaier
22. 9-Marcos Ambrose
23. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
24. 41-Kurt Busch
25. *11-Denny Hamlin
26. 13-Casey Mears
27. *20-Matt Kenseth
28. 95-Michael McDowell
29. 10-Danica Patrick
30. 36-Reed Sorenson
31. 38-David Gilliland
32. *48-Jimmie Johnson
33. 23-Alex Bowman
34. 98-Josh Wise
35. 40-Landon Cassill
36. 7-Michael Annett
37. 34-David Ragan
38. 83-J.J. Yeley
39. 26-Cole Whitt
40. 33-Timmy Hill
41. 37-Mike Bliss
42. 32-Joey Gase
43. 66-Mike Wallace
*Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”