Harvick dominating PIR at halfway, Logano and Hamlin have struggles

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At the halfway point of Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Kevin Harvick is dominating the lead.

Harvick, who came into the race last of the eight drivers still remaining in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, has been virtually flawless through the first 156 laps, taking the lead on Lap 44 and pacing the field for 108 laps at the halfway point.

Harvick is not only looking to advance to the Chase finale next week at Homestead, he’s also going for his sixth career Cup win at PIR.

The top 10 at Lap 156 were Harvick, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman.

Joey Logano suffered a very costly penalty on Lap 123 that dropped him from running second to 29th on the ensuing restart. Logano left the pit box before his gasman had removed the gas can.

The can fell off the car as Logano pulled away, but landed in the pit stall of the team in front, forcing Logano to have to come back onto pit road for the penalty.

Brad Keselowski has run a fairly uneventful race thus far. He’s had no apparent on-track conflicts with fellow drivers and has not taken any overly-aggressive chances up to this point.

After running fourth, Gordon dropped back several spots around a third of the way through the race when the jack slipped on a pit stop, costing him precious seconds when his team elected to go with just two right side tires. Gordon had to come back in on the following stop to take four tires and fell back further to 20th.

However, by the halfway point, Gordon had climbed back to 8th.

Carl Edwards, who struggled to find speed throughout Friday’s and Saturday’s practices, as well as in qualifying, appears to be on the right track, running 11th at the midpoint.

Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin led the first 24 laps, dropped back to third and then suffered a right rear flat tire on Lap 34, apparently due to a broken valve stem.

Hamlin has been unable to recover and is sitting in 26th place at the halfway point, his Chase chances slowly slipping away.

If the race were to stop now, Logano, Keselowski, Hamlin and Edwards would not advance to the Homestead race.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.