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

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.