Harvick looks for ‘Dega win that could knock out several Chase rivals

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Kevin Harvick’s win last Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway allowed him to advance to the Chase’s Eliminator Round.

But as far as he’s concerned, his work in the current Contender Round – which ends this Sunday with the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway – is not yet over.

A second consecutive win for Harvick would potentially erase several of his biggest rivals for the Sprint Cup championship.

Going into Sunday, Brad Keselowski of Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are all effectively in win-or-bust situations.

Thus, Harvick is compelled to try and ensure their elimination by robbing them of the automatic advance that comes with a Chase victory.

After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a Chase without Keselowski, Johnson, and Dale Jr. means a better shot for Harvick to finally capture that elusive first Cup.

“Anytime you see people in a vulnerable position where they could not advance to the next round, from a competitor’s standpoint you want to do everything you can do to try and keep an upper hand,” said Harvick, the second driver to advance to the Eliminator Round after Joey Logano did it with his win at Kansas two weeks ago.

“Whatever your best shot is for your team is what you want to see happens. You may have some feelings one way or the other toward teams and drivers and different people, and you want to see different scenarios play out and the excitement that goes with it.

“But in the end, you want the best scenario for your team to win a championship from pure greed standpoint, I guess you could say. Really that’s what we’re here to do and that’s win the championship and you want the best scenario for your team.”

A ‘Dega win would also confirm that Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team have indeed captured the form necessary to contend for a title.

Their victory in the second race of the season at Phoenix allowed the team to work on jelling together as a unit. As the litany of bad breaks for them throughout the summer will tell you, the process has been far from perfect.

But is everything coming together for them at just the right moment? Harvick hopes that’s the case.

“Hopefully, you’re getting to a refined point that you think is where you need to be to race for a championship,” Harvick said. “Last week was kind of the beginning of that and hopefully, we can close out the last several weeks at the same level we had then.

“We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. I think there is a huge sigh of relief in a way [by winning at Charlotte] but it’s also that this is what you want to do and expect to do at this time of year.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.