Motorsports Insider: With Hendrick engine, Harvick need not feel sad

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Series updates

Sprint Cup

Nine and seven: The road course at Sonoma is next for the Sprint Cup drivers. Nine different drivers have won the last nine races there. And for the last seven, it’s been their first road-course win.

Road king: Jeff Gordon is the series’ all-time leader in road wins, including five at Sonoma. But the last was in 2006, although he’s got a streak of eight top-10s going at Sonoma.

Nationwide

Hornish 54: At Road America this week, Sam Hornish Jr. is making his fourth start this year in the No. 54 normally driven by Kyle Busch. In Busch’s place, Hornish has a fifth, a win and a second. His driver rating is 119.2, compared with Busch’s 128.6.

New sponsor: Sports Business Journal reports that Comcast and the series are in talks about name sponsorship for the series. Nationwide Insurance’s name deal ends this year.

IndyCar

Royal note: Dario Franchitti of Scotland was put on the Order of the British Empire for services to motor racing, the IndyCar series said.

NHRA

Drought over: Tommy Johnson Jr. ended a seven-year victory drought when he won in Funny Car at Bristol. But it was his eighth career Funny Car win and the third time he had won on Father’s Day.

Other wins: Top Fuel defending champion Shawn Langdon won for the first time this year. It was his ninth career victory. ... Erica-Enders Stevens won for the third time this year, a week after her records for speed and elapsed time in Pro Stock.

 

4 Tracks remaining where Jimmie Johnson has not won: Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland, Homestead.

They said it

“To have everything so fast and so good, you want it to last forever.” — Jimmie Johnson, after winning for the third time in four races

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It took zero effort to tell Kevin Harvick wasn’t happy after his runner-up finish at Michigan last week.

It was his third runner-up finish in five weeks, the second time from the pole, yet another missed chance to add to a victory total that has stood at two for two months in a season that seems to give him a chance to win just about every week.

He took two questions in his post-race media session: how did things go out there, and how strong are the Hendrick engines right now.

The answers were brief: “I mean, the car was fast, just wound up on the wrong side of all the strategy. We finished second, and that’s it.”

And more brief: “I think it’s pretty obvious. Self-explanatory. Good question.”

But he needn’t feel too bad.

It’s not hard to tell Hendrick Motorsports has the best cars in the series right now, and Harvick, who drives a car with a Hendrick-supplied engine, and Jimmie Johnson — Sunday’s winner — are the main beneficiaries. They look like the best two bets, judging by engine strength alone, Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski said.

“You might see some small gains from some teams, but I don’t see anything significant coming,” he said. “I think right now, the Penske cars are probably the best when it comes to balanced track to track. The Hendrick cars are probably the best where it takes power to run ... and Kevin Harvick, his team is probably the fastest week in and week out. I don’t really see that changing for the duration of the season.

“I think what you’re going to find in the development cycle has been kind of found by this time in the year, and maybe there’s a little bit more left on the table, but not enough to take a team that’s not there to be there.

“We all have got a little bit of work to do because it’s pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else.”

Hendrick drivers have won five races in a row, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win at Pocono two weeks ago and Jeff Gordon’s win at Kansas in May.

But you can almost consider Harvick, driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, a part of the Hendrick family.

Minor accomplishment

Weatherford driver Ted Minor qualified for his first race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last week and finished 25th at Gateway Park.

It was the series debut for the one-truck team, which is working out of a garage in Oklahoma City. The team failed to qualify at Martinsville in March in its only other attempt to get on the track.

“Essentially we had a very good run at Gateway and couldn’t have asked for things to have turned out better,” Minor said. “Our team performed very well, getting faster and faster in each of the three practice sessions and ended up out-qualifying several teams for a 25th-place starting spot.”

The team hopes to race in a handful of other races this year, including TMS in November.

Carlos Mendez 817-390-7760 Twitter: @calexmendez

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