Tag: Chicagoland Speedway

Johnson Not Solely To Blame For Harvick’s Trouble

For Kevin Harvick, yesterday’s poor finish can be directly linked to the actions of Jimmie Johnson. That much was evident after Johnson tried to talk to him about the contact that led to a cut left rear tire. Harvick gave Johnson a shove (or punch depending on how you saw it) and many choice words. If you didn’t see the video, you will soon because NASCAR will be pushing this baby all over to promote their Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship battle.

Johnson took the jab in stride, let Harvick yap, and when it seemed nothing would be accomplished, walked away. Not all of this falls onto Johnson’s shoulders, sure it was his car that made the contact that put Harvick in that position, but there’s other factors involved.

If you watch the video, you can see Joey Logano push Johnson on the restart, leaving Johnson with nowhere to go but low below Harvick. The option there would have been to plow into Harvick and we could only guess where that would lead. A giant pile up? Harvick’s car getting trashed anyways? Or maybe nothing would have happened.

The option Johnson went with was going low next to Harvick, something Harvick was aware of. There was an opening next to Harvick, so the option was there for him to slide over without contact, but Harvick wanted to send the message he wasn’t giving an inch to Johnson.

“I saw those guys coming on the apron. They must have gotten together and had a good run up. But I just held my ground and he (Johnson) just slammed into the side of the door like I wasn’t even there. So, the spotter was telling me four-wide and I guess he just figured that he’d come up the race track,” said Harvick.

Johnson also had that mindset, as he came over whether Harvick was willing to move or not. “He (Harvick) didn’t leave me any space. He was pinning me down, and I had to get back up on the track. I wouldn’t say that what he did was any different than other situations I’ve been in like that. When you are in his position, you want to get the inside car in a bad angle so they have to lift. I was fine with lifting, but I had to get back on the race track, so I worked my way back up on the track,” commented Johnson after the race.

The contact took place, which is a common occurrence in the world of racing. What makes this unique, is Harvick and his crew ran the calculated risk that the damage inflicted would not lead to a cut tire. It is a coin flip situation, as you can try and run around hoping the tire and fender separate before the tire goes. That was not the case of Harvick, who shortly thereafter lost his left rear.

While it would have been costly to come down pit road, it paled in comparison to what transpired and the time lost repairing a fully wrecked vehicle. I understand it is the Chase, you are up front and want to do your best, but you have to error on the side of caution when something like that happens.

Right now Harvick doesn’t want to hear it or share the blame, but things could been done differently on both sides. The good thing for Harvick is he is fast enough each week, that winning at New Hampshire or Dover is a possibility, it just means he and his crew need to be flawless the next two races.

Kenseth Looks To Finish Where He Started

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Matt Kenseth was the big winner Sunday at the Chicagoland Speedway on and off the track. On the track he won the race and off the track he leads the driver’s standings after the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

While he seemed in control most of the race, which was not the case as Kenseth told media members after the race.

“It was awesome.  We had a really, really good car.  Obviously the first 30 laps did not go well.  That was at least 95% my fault.  I don’t know what I was doing out there, but it didn’t go well. Jason got us some track position so we could get up there with the leaders.  Held up there pretty good.  Got up to second.  Under green we got the lead when Jimmie had the problem, were able to adjust on the car some more, felt good about what we had when we got the rain delay. I was worried about the rain, the track conditions in the nighttime.  I thought we were going to be better in a hotter, slick condition.  But just shows I don’t know what I’m talking about. But, yeah, had a good car.  Had great pit stops, great strategy, had that restart at the end. That push from Kevin got us out in front where we really needed to be.”

Crew chief Jason Ratcliff credit the crew for staying sharp during the entire race, which spanned eight hours.

“The team obviously performed great.  The guys did a great job preparing the car this week.  Making adjustments throughout the night.  The racetrack had some rubber on it.  Had some rain earlier today.  Then we got that next rain shower, so the track went through a lot of different stages. The guys did a great job on pit road giving the adjustments we needed to get the car right, and again preparing the car for this weekend.  They’ve done an excellent job all season.  They’re doing what they need to do.  As a race team, they’re bringing fast cars to the racetrack, executing during the race, they’ll be back home tomorrow getting the Loudon car ready bright and early in the morning.”

Despite some Toyota drivers having engine woes, including teammate Denny Hamlin, Kenseth was happy with the engine he had from Toyota Racing Development (TRD). “Honestly, from the time we got here, I was real happy with my car, real excited with my engine.  I think TRD did a great job of giving us what we needed to qualify up front.”

For Kenseth a win is great, but the championship is the bigger picture in this Chase. “Every single point, every position is equally as important from here all the way until the last lap at Homestead.  So you want to get as many points as you can get each and every week.  We did a great job of that this weekend. You want to enjoy this, then go to work on New Hampshire tomorrow, try to go there and get as many points as you can.  Just kind of take it one week at a time.”

Kenseth and the rest of the Sprint Cup Series are back in action this Sunday when they run the Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Coverage begins about 1 PM EST on ESPN.

Harvick Off To Great Start For The Chase

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Kevin Harvick crossed the finish line in the third position, behind two other Chase drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, but it was a great start for a driver trying to win his Sprint Cup championship in his final year with the Richard Childress Racing team. When it all shook out, Harvick sits fourth in points behind Kenseth, Busch, and Jimmie Johnson.

“The first half of the race for us, we were really tight, struggled with the handling of our car to be able to get the car to turn through the center of the corner.  We sat down, the engineers and Gil sat down in between the rain delay there and came up with some good adjustments and we were able to make some good ground. Our car was really good on the restarts, so you could pick a bunch of them off pretty easy there going into turn one and two.  All in all, it was a good night, just too loose at the end to run with those guys up off the corner, but still a good night,” Harvick told media members after the completion of the GEICO 400 from the Chicagoland Speedway.

One of the challenges for the weekend was the new restart procedures NASCAR put in place for this race and beyond. Harvick seemed unaffected by the rules, although they helped him push Kenseth to victory. “I think everybody can be a little bit more aggressive as you saw at the end, not worrying about shoving the other guy in front.  I think when the green flag goes, you just start going and make a decision as to whether you want to go low or push the guy in front of you.”

While he was moving up fast during the middle of the race, Harvick conceded he might not have had anything for Kenseth even if he could have gotten to him.

“Looked like the run before, Kyle was a little bit better than the 20.  They were evenly matched.  I was hoping they would get side by side, you have one of them slide up, able to get three wide or something happen.  I figured that was better than going to the bottom and getting three wide and being pinned on the bottom and getting passed by two or three cars on the top. I figured that was my best option,” Harvick explained.

Harvick and the rest of the Sprint Cup Series are back in action this Sunday when they run the Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Coverage begins about 1 PM EST on ESPN.

Johnson Hoping To Overcome Pit Road Issue

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Jimmie Johnson came in for his second pit stop of the day on lap 77 and everything seemed like it a quick spot to make him some time in the race. As they dropped the jack to let him go an official pointed to the right rear to indicate that that not all the lugnuts were on the car.

As the tire changers scrambled to get back there, the official actually tried waving them off as he was mistaken. It was too late as the tire changers were back there working on it. The result was a just over 20 second pit stop that dropped Johnson from the lead to fifth place.

Johnson’s take was one of helplessness as he’s only does what he is told, and in that instant was to wait for what seemed like an eternity. “I was definitely waiting. And I could see confusion. I saw an official waving and I saw my rear changer done and at the wall, arguing with Chad (Knaus) and telling him that the lugs were on. In the end, I guess the official thought all the lugs weren’t on the right rear. And that’s where there was a conversation and an argument. Chad didn’t want me to leave the box without all the lugs on because that’s a penalty and on and on it went. So, long story short, I saw there on pit road while the clock was ticking and we proved our case that all five were on there. I took off. We certainly lost track position but I think we have a strong enough car to get back up there.”

Crew chief Chad Knaus was trying to argue that the tire had all it’s lugnuts, but the argument was being heard on deaf ears. “There was one hanging there. One had fallen off during the hand-in, so it was kind of hanging there; but the tire changer had taken the time. He did his job. He did a great job getting the other lugnut on there and making sure it was tight. The official thought there were only four on there. We all make mistakes. That happens from time to time. Hopefully we can get the Lowe’s Chevrolet back up towards the front and compete for the win.”

Before the red flag came out Johnson had driven back up through the field to the fourth position, only about four seconds behind leader Matt Kenseth. With only 109 of the 267 laps completed, race officials are hopeful to go back green a little later tonight. When racing does resume it will be on ESPN2, rather than ESPN where it started.

Edwards: Menard Spun His Tires

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Lost in all the shuffle of Spingate has been the last restart where it looked like Carl Edwards jumped before second place running Paul Menard had a chance to hit the gas. Restarts have been a big source of controversy throughout the 2013 season and this was another example of where it appeared the leader got a big jump.

Not so fast as Edwards explained to media members gather in Chicago Thursday afternoon, in preparation for this weekend’s Chase kick off. “Paul (Menard) spun the tires, he actually ran into my door a little trying to get his car straightened out. I thought, ‘Man, what am I supposed to do here.’ I didn’t know if I was supposed to lift of how much I would have to lift. Fortunately NASCAR saw that he spun his tires and Paul said he spun the tires.”

Overall restarts are just an issue because of what can happen when a driver, leader or not, spins their tires trying to take off. “What if he had 100 laps on the tires and not grip and the whole field had four. Are we all supposed to go at his pace? I don’t know the answer to that. I think that either, not just as the second place guy, but as the leader it puts everyone in a tough position.”

Like anything in racing, drivers are given seconds to make decisions. “About a tenth of a second. It is tough and it all depends on how it looks too. No one is in that car with me…It is tough man. This thing, NASCAR has to make a lot of judgment calls and I don’t envy that position.”

What Edwards does have on his side is actually Menard, the driver who helped create this. Fans and media have been going after the fact Edwards jumped the start, but the drivers involved agree that he didn’t. “At least Paul and I agreed on what happened. I thought that was very respectful of him. He texted me after hoping that I didn’t catch too much grief because of him spinning his tires. That meant a lot. A lot of guys take advantage of a situation like that and fight you in the media over it and stuff like that. I thought that was pretty cool of Paul.”

Edwards will look to get an edge up on the competition going into the start of the Chase and hopefully not be in Menard’s spot the next time. The action this weekend gets underway on Sunday when the GEICO 400 is run at the Chicagoland Speedway. It can be seen on ESPN starting at 2 PM EST.

Logano Looking Past Controversy

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While the NASCAR world was still recovering from the allegations of influencing the Richmond race and then heavy penalties handed down to Michael Waltrip Racing after Saturday’s race they didn’t get a break Wednesday. That is when Fox Sports broke the news that they had audio of what appears to be a deal being brokered between Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports to gain Joey Logano a position and breathing room to get into the Chase.

Logano, who was in Chicago a day early from this weekend’s race at the Chicagoland Speedway, responded to the allegations raised now against his team. “That is stuff that happens week in and week out with spotters. They are up there communicating back and forth trying to work deals out. ‘Hey, help me out here, I will help you out here, let’s work together.’ That happens all the time. What I look at it and say is that if we didn’t pass the 38 car we were still 10th in points and still got our bonus point so it has no change in the outcome of where we are right now. I don’t look at it as being a big deal at all to be honest with you.”

After the hammer was dropped on MWR this week with points lost, probation, and even a suspension, Logano didn’t seem fazed about the prospects of penalties. “I am not concerned about it. I am focused on trying to win Chicago right now. It is not a distraction to me at all to be honest with you. I am just here to race.”

In the end the talk doesn’t bother Logano, he feels like he earned his way into the Chase regardless of the actions of others on the track in Richmond. “We got one win and eight top-fives and 14 top-10 finishes. If you look at those numbers that is every bit of the top-three or four that have happened this season. I don’t feel bad about being in the Chase at all. We deserve to be in it if you look at those numbers.”

The action this weekend gets underway on Sunday when the GEICO 400 is run at the Chicagoland Speedway. It can be seen on ESPN starting at 2 PM EST.