McMurray steals fastest Happy Hour speed from Harvick

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Jamie McMurray would like nothing better than to play the role of spoiler in Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

McMurray knows the significance of Sunday’s race, which will cut the current field of eight drivers in the Chase down to just four, who will contend in a one-race battle for the championship next Sunday in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Although McMurray isn’t in the Chase, a good run would make his day – and potentially spoil the same day for other drivers, including several Chase contenders.

McMurray was fastest in the final Happy Hour practice Saturday afternoon with a field-best speed of 137.106 mph.

“Our car was significantly better, and if we work on it tonight, I think we should be able to race tomorrow and have a good finish,” McMurray said to Fox Sports 1.

McMurray likes PIR and is looking for as good, if not a better run, than his 10th-place finish in this year’s spring race there.

Kevin Harvick, who has been the fastest overall driver thus far this weekend in practice and qualifying, continued his fast ways by nailing down the second-fastest speed in the final practice of 137.065 mph.

Matt Kenseth was third-fastest (137.018 mph), followed by Joey Logano (137.002).

“We’re close,” Logano said. “You’re never perfect, but we feel our like our Shell Pennzoil Ford has good speed in it. “I feel like we’re in the ballpark. Just a couple adjustments, a couple of tweaks and we’ll be there.”

Fifth through 10th-fastest were Dale Earnhardt Jr. (136.830), Jeff Gordon (136.757), Martin Truex Jr. (136.477), Kurt Busch (136.405), Jimmie Johnson (136.395) and pole-sitter Denny Hamlin (136.369).

As for the other Chase drivers, Brad Keselowski was 12th-fastest (136.266 mph), Ryan Newman was 19th (135.890) and Carl Edwards continued to search for speed, clocking in 21st-fastest (135.660).

“Our Fastenal Ford is better than what it was, which is good, because it gives us something to work with,” Edwards said. “When we started practice, it was not good at all.

“Jimmy (crew chief Fennig) and the guys worked real hard, went through different setups, I tried some different stuff on the track, we put stickers on at the end.

“I felt like we had a pretty decent balance, just one little thing I want to work on still.”

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Report: Spencer Pigot out at Ed Carpenter Racing

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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Spencer Pigot will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020, according to a story Thursday by RACER.com.

The 26-year-old Floridian, who won the 2015 Indy Lights championship, is expected to be replaced in the No. 21 Chevrolet by 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay.

“I’m appreciative of the opportunity ECR gave me,” Pigot told RACER.com. “I understand the reasons they had to go in a different direction, and wish them all the best.”

In 56 NTT IndyCar Series starts, Pigot has 15 top 10 finishes, with a best finish of second at Iowa in 2018. He finished 14th in the 2019 point standings.

VeeKay, who tested in an Indy car twice for ECR in 2019, has six wins in 18 Indy Lights starts, including a weekend sweep of the final two rounds of the season at Laguna Seca in September.

A representative from ECR told NBC Sports Thursday that the team currently could not comment on any driver rumors as the team currently does not have any drivers under contract for the 2020 season, although it is presumed that owner/driver Carpenter will return to the No. 20 entry for the oval rounds.

NBC Sports will provide updates on the story once more information becomes available.