Harvick may be in best position of all Chase drivers at PIR

1 Comment

Even though he’s last in the Chase standings, Kevin Harvick may very well be in the catbird’s seat heading into this weekend’s Quicken Loans For Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Harvick is 18 points behind series leader Joey Logano. But with five career wins at what is arguably his favorite track on the Sprint Cup circuit, Harvick’s hopes to advance to the final round of the Chase may be in the right place at the right time at PIR.

Harvick certainly got a good start in the right direction, setting a new track record in Friday’s practice session, putting him at the top of the heap of the 44 drivers entered.

“We couldn’t pick a better race track for us to come to next and need to try and win a race,” Harvick said during Friday morning’s media availability at PIR. “We are really excited. The team is in good spirits, and we are looking forward to this weekend’s challenges.”

Harvick knows the easiest way for him to advance to the four-driver, winner-take-all battle for the championship next week at Homestead is by reaching victory lane this Sunday in Phoenix.

“I think you need to win this weekend,” Harvick said. ‘I think it would leave a lot less in everybody else’s hands. I think we are very capable of winning this race and we have been fortunate to have a lot of success here in the past from my driving side and the first race this year. That would be the easiest way to do it.”

When asked which drivers he envisions advancing to Homestead, Harvick quipped, “I never even thought about it.”

Not surprisingly, the majority of Friday’s session with the media wasn’t about Harvick’s championship hopes, but more his involvement – or lack thereof – in last Sunday’s brawl between Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski.

On the one hand, Harvick hopes the drama has ended and we can get back to serious racing Sunday.

“The competitor in me loves the controversy and loves the situations that it puts the competitors in,” Harvick said. “… But, live and learn, and you move on. That is the one thing about this sport is you have to get over things quickly.

“I think as you move forward you just have to do the best that you can to try to handle things different. All in all it was a good weekend for us (at Texas), but obviously afterwards it’s not the way you wanted it to end for us.”

Harvick was asked if he tried to incite Keselowski into fighting Gordon when he (Harvick) pushed Keselowski towards Gordon last Sunday on pit road after the race at Texas.

“Honestly, I was leaning on the back of the car just kind of taking it all in and seeing what was going on,” Harvick said. “I have been in that situation with him (Keselowski) before. For me it is like the week of two totally opposite situations.

“I have no problem with the way Brad races. I think he races hard. I think that is what we are all supposed to do and in those positions you would probably do the same thing yourself.

“But, I think that the problem that I have with it, I have been in that situation with him before and have him turn his back on me and just walk off. I don’t think that is the appropriate way to handle those types of situations.”

In other words, Harvick pushed Keselowski to man up and take care of business, rather than walk away from conflict.

“It just kind of rubbed me the wrong way and I reacted and obviously didn’t really realize that it was going to ignite that,” Harvick said. “All in all it just kind of rubs me the wrong way when you have to just turn your back on situations and walk off and mumble your way off into no man’s land and not just handle the situation.

“I think in those situations you at least deserve, even if you are going to get yelled at or whatever the case may be, you at least need to handle it like it needs to be handled.”

Having had several days to reflect upon his decision to push Keselowski, does Harvick regret essentially sparking the Texas brawl?

“I never look back on something as a regret,” Harvick said. “I think you look back on them as lessons. Things happen and you have to react.

“I think as you look at the situation you probably could have handled it differently. But all in all, you just take it as a life lesson and move on.”

Surprisingly, Harvick may be the only driver on the racetrack who stood up for the way Keselowski raced Gordon at Texas.

“I have no problem with the move,” Harvick said of the moment when Keselowski hit Gordon’s car, leading to a flat tire that knocked Gordon from having a chance at victory. ” I have no problem with the way that he raced.

“I just have a problem with the way that you know in those situations that there is going to be controversy when all that stuff happens.  In the end you can’t just turn your back and walk away and just act like it didn’t happen and blame it on somebody else.  It’s just not how it works.”

Will Harvick feel that way if the only thing between him and advancing to the championship-deciding finale at Homestead winds up being Keselowski?

Now that could be a whole different story.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”


James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”