Kevin Harvick fastest in 2nd Sprint Cup practice at Homestead

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Kevin Harvick is still living up to favorite status on Championship Eve at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick’s early flyer of 175.069 mph in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was enough to give him top honors in this afternoon’s second Sprint Cup practice session. He was second in yesterday’s opening practice and then qualified fifth – highest among the Championship 4 – for Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400.

Second-fastest in this session was Sunday’s pole sitter, Jeff Gordon, who topped out at 175.029 mph. Brad Keselowski popped a lap of 174.498 mph to go P3, but also sustained right-side damage on his No. 2 Team Penske Ford thanks to a late run-in with the wall.

Jimmie Johnson was fourth-fastest with a lap of 174.222 mph, followed by two more title contenders in Denny Hamlin (173.969) and Joey Logano (173.589). Ryan Newman was the slowest of the Champ 4 at 172.712 mph, good for 12th on the time sheets.

Newman spent some time in the garage due to repairs for a broken right-front tire bead blower on his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

He also sustained front splitter damage in the session; Newman later confirmed that was due to hitting a piece of debris (see the tweet below from the AP’s Jenna Fryer).

It’s presumed that he’ll have a new splitter on his car by today’s final practice session at 3 p.m. ET.

The session was slowed for one red flag. Five minutes into the 50-minute run, Brian Scott suffered an apparent engine failure down the backstretch.

Scott quickly took his heavily smoking No. 33 RCR Chevy to the garage, and after a red flag for clean-up, the practice resumed green conditions with 30 minutes left.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”