Kevin Harvick facing long climb from 33rd on grid Sunday at Martinsville

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At this point of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, even the smallest setbacks can have major consequences.

On Friday, Kevin Harvick may have suffered a big setback.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was the slowest of the eight remaining Chasers in today’s lone Cup practice at Martinsville Speedway. Then later on in qualifying, he scraped the wall twice in the first round and wound up qualifying a dismal 33rd on the grid for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 – the opener for the Eliminator Round of the Chase.

Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press tweeted Harvick’s reaction afterwards:

On the bright side, a victory at Martinsville has been achieved from farther back. In the fall of 2002, Harvick’s current teammate Kurt Busch won from 36th.

But less than five percent of Martinsville victories – that’s six in 131 races – have come from outside the Top 20. All seven of his Chase rivals will be starting within the Top 13 on Sunday.

Tomorrow now becomes critical for Harvick, as he’ll have two practice sessions (9-9:50 a.m. ET, 12 Noon-12:50 p.m. ET) to find a strong race pace on the No. 4 Chevrolet.

With where he’ll be to start on Sunday, he cannot afford to struggle off the bat and be lapped early at the half-mile Virginia oval.

Harvick must also now avoid the fate of another big name that didn’t get a good start to the previous Contender Round. USA Today writer and NASCAR on NBC contributor Nate Ryan makes a note:

As you know, things seemed to snowball against Johnson following his poor qualifying run in the Heartland. Harvick can’t let that happen to him.

Supercross: Husqvarna’s Jalek Swoll and Malcolm Stewart out with injury

Swoll Stewart injury
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Jalek Swoll and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Malcolm Stewart sustained injury in separate crashes late last week. Stewart missed Anaheim 2 and Swoll will not mount up for the 250 East season opener in Houston on February 4.

“Spent all of yesterday in the ER and today getting surgery so haven’t been able to make an update post,” Swoll posted on Instagram. “Spiral fractured my humorous yesterday and was lucky enough to get into surgery today. Absolutely heartbroken that I couldn’t show all the hard work me, [Mike Brown], [Aldon Baker], and [Joel Perez] were working on truly felt like this year was going to a big one with massive improvements we made but I guess it just wasn’t my time.”

The team announced on Instagram that Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm, sustained in a practice crash on Friday. After missing the division opener, no further timeline has been given for his return.

Swoll made eight starts in the 250 West division last season with a best finish of fifth. In 2021, he scored his first SuperMotocross win in the outdoor Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania.

Stewart missed Anaheim 2 due to a practice injury. Likewise, the team did not announce a timetable for Stewart’s return.

He showed a lot of speed in the first two rounds before accidents eliminated him from contention in both rounds. He finished 16th at Anaheim 1 and 15th in San Diego, putting him in a points’ deficit that was already going to be difficult to overcome.

Stewart entered the 2023 season with a ton of confidence and believed all he needed was to stack his chips the right way to get this year’s championship.

Husqvarna is now represented by RJ Hampshire in the 250 West division and Christian Craig in 450s.

Hampshire had a rough weekend in Anaheim 2 and finished 11th in the overall standings after scoring a last place result in Race 2 with a bike sidelined by crash damage and a 13th in Race 3 after another fall.

Craig has not yet scored a top-10 on his 450 with a best of 11th at San Diego and Anaheim 2.

The news of these two injuries comes on the heels of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team losing three of their four 250 riders.

Last week, Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced Seth Hammaker would miss the season opener with a wrist injury. Almost immediately, it was announced Jo Shimoda would also miss the 250 East opener with a shoulder injury.

Chris Blose will serve as a replacement rider in the 250 East division with Carson Mumford scheduled to replace the injured Austin Forkner in the West.