New champ Kevin Harvick hails family, team in NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards

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When the time finally came for the guest of honor to speak at tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards in Las Vegas, he didn’t quite look ready.

Then again, handling a rambunctious young son can be rather challenging.

“If I look like a wreck, it’s not because I have a severe hangover or anything,” new Cup champion Kevin Harvick said to open his champion’s speech.

“It’s because I wrestled a two-year-old down the red carpet and on the stage up here, so I have no buttons, torn pants, scuffed-up shoes, and my tie – Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. sent me a text telling me to straighten my tie.

“It’s crooked. But it’s all good though.”

It was all good, and rather fitting, too, that Harvick would celebrate his first Cup title with his family that has been with him every step of the way – wife DeLana and their young boy, Keelan.

“I’m able to enjoy moments like this more than ever because of her and Keelan,” he said of the woman he called “his rock” and their son, who both joined him at the head table this evening at the Wynn.

While Harvick may not have looked perfect up on the podium, his speech certainly was perfect. He thanked all the important people on his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team that guided him to the championship, including his team owners, Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, and his crew chief, Rodney Childers.

But he also made sure to acknowledge his former boss, Richard Childress, who brought Harvick to the Cup Series in 2001 following the death of NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt and worked with him through the 2013 season.

“He believed in a punk kid from California enough to give me a ride, and then he had the faith to bring me to Cup during an incredibly emotional time for him, [Richard Childress Racing], and our sport,” he said of Childress. “We did a lot together, and I’m not up here tonight without you, Richard. Thank you.”

He then turned his thoughts to Childers, who led the creation of the 4 team through the previous off-season and helped seal the title-clinching win for Harvick in last month’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a late pit call.

“He built new race cars and assembled a whole new group of guys between the end of the 2013 season right up to the Daytona 500,” said Harvick. “Under his direction, we accomplished a lot and became great friends in the process.”

Harvick then went into a long list of thank you’s to his sponsors, acknowledged outgoing NASCAR broadcasters ESPN and Turner Sports for their contributions to the sport’s growth, and praised the sport’s fans: “You guys are the most passionate in all of sports. You make this amazing sport what it is. Whether it’s a 600-mile race at Charlotte or a six-hour rain delay, you’re always there.”

In closing, Harvick referenced the now-famous “I Believe…” soccer chant, mentioning that it was he and his team’s mantra going into the Chase race at Charlotte that he ultimately won.

“I would yell ‘I believe’ and those crazy guys in the back would yell ‘that we will win,’ and believe it or not, it worked,” he said. “I sincerely hope everyone here has the chance to experience that same sense of support and belief of being part of a team.

“If it can happen to a kid from Bakersfield, it can happen to anyone – you just have to have the support of a team that believes in you.”

And with that, the new champ finished by speaking “I believe…,” which was indeed met from the back of the ballroom with “…that we will win.”

A fitting ending to a memorable season.

Penske won’t discuss if Castroneves returns to Indy in 2020

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – NBC Sports.com asked Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske if three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves would return to the team in 2020?

Penske immediately brushed off the question.

“We’re not going to talk about that right now,” Penske told NBC Sports.com. “I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re going to have a meeting about it before we decide, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

“Simon won the race and that is what I’m focused on right now.”

Simon Pagenaud, gave Penske a record-extending 18thIndy 500 win on Sunday. Penske confirmed that Pagenaud will be back with the team in 2020 after he scored his first win in Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.

Castroneves was an NTT IndyCar Series regular at Team Penske from 2000 until the 2017 season. After that, Castroneves was shifted over to the team’s Acura IMSA Sports Car program, but the three-time Indy 500 winner was given a ride at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years.

The popular driver from Brazil is trying to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners.

But the whispers in Gasoline Alley indicate his future with Team Penske at Indy remain uncertain.

“I’ve heard the rumors, too,” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com on pit lane after his disappointing finish in the Indy 500. “I will definitely give it a good, hard think about coming back in 2020. I want to be the rest of the season, here.”

But, will Castroneves run the Indy 500 again?

“Who knows?” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com. “Let’s see what happens.”

Castroneves’s bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 was derailed in a pit road incident after his first pit stop when he ran into James Davison’s Chevrolet on the team’s first pit stop on Lap 30.

The front wing of Castroneves’s Chevrolet was damaged and INDYCAR officials gave him a “Drive Through” penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Castroneves would ultimate drop three laps down but finished one lap down in 18thplace.

Castroneves explained what happened to him earlier in the race and how it affected the rest of his Indy 500.

“The accident that happened in the pits hurt us for sure,” Castroneves explained. “We had a problem with the fuel mapping, and I couldn’t go over 200 miles an hour for four or five laps. We lost 35 seconds. There was a bug in the system.

“Then, we went back out and that was it. I wasn’t able to recoup after that. I was excited. The car was very, very good entering the race.”

Castroneves spoke with second-place finisher Alexander Rossi, who was furious with the driver from Brazil earlier in the race for not moving out of the way, even though he was three laps down at the time.

The two drivers hugged, and Castroneves walked back up pit lane.

“I did what the team told me to do, and they told me to go as fast as I could,” Castroneves explained after talking to Rossi. “It’s racing and everybody is upset they didn’t win.”

Castroneves hopes his walk up pit lane is not the final time as an Indy 500 competitor.

But it could be.

“I hope I can come back next year,” Castroneves said. “I’m really upset as a competitor, but extremely happy for Team Penske and for Simon Pagenaud for winning the race.

“The good news is I go back to the Acura sports car, but I will be dreaming about coming back here again.”