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Hamlin tops chart, spins in final Michigan practice
RELATED: Full practice results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Denny Hamlin set the pace in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday at Michigan International Speedway , but damaged his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota in a spin midway through the session. Hamlin, who qualified third in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, clocked a lap of 197.878 mph in Saturday's final practice. The session, originally scheduled for 50 minutes, was halted with approximately 27 minutes left because of lightning in the area of the 2-mile track. Hamlin told NBCSN that the car got loose "out of the blue" as he navigated Turn 4. He avoided contact with the wall, but did slight damage when the nose of his car dug into the grass bordering the frontstretch. Hamlin indicated the team did not expect to deploy the reserve car. RELATED: All the cars at Michigan as they'll line up Rookie Chase Elliott was second-fastest at 197.786 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. He was followed by two Hendrick teammates on the leaderboard -- third-fastest Jimmie Johnson (197.694 mph) and fourth-best Kasey Kahne (197.455 mph). Michigan native Brad Keselowski completed the top five in the final prep for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Team Penske teammate Joey Logano , who secured the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was seventh-fastest. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, was 10th-fastest at 196.969 mph. Stewart atop Saturday's early practice Tony Stewart topped the speed chart in Saturday's morning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Michigan International Speedway ahead of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Stewart circled the 2-mile track in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with a fast time of 202.122 mph to pace the 55-minute practice session. "Smoke" has one win in the Irish Hills in 33 starts there. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, 201.427 mph) and Chase Elliott (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 201.196 mph) came in second and third, respectively. Both drivers are in search of their first win in the sport's top series. Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, 201.089 mph) and Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, 200.932 mph) completed the top five. Alex Bowman , who will pilot the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend, placed eighth in practice. All told, 12 drivers crossed the 200 mph mark on their laps Saturday morning. Polesitter Joey Logano placed 16th in the session. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Logano leaps to Coors Light Pole Award at Michigan
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car, team rosters BROOKLYN, Mich. – If Joey Logano was looking for a good omen for Sunday, he found it on Friday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway . Touring the two-mile track in 35.697 seconds (201.698 mph) during the final round of knockout qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Logano edged Jimmie Johnson (201.523 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. The Coors Light Pole Award was Logano's third at MIS. On the previous two occasions the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford started first on the grid—in August 2013 and June 2016—he won the subsequent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Should Logano win form the pole on Sunday, he would be the third driver to win three or more Michigan races from the top starting spot, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson and Bill Elliott . "Any time you put your name with a Hall of Famer of any sort, it would be really special for me," said Logano, who has collected three poles this season and 16 in his career. "That's crazy—that's a really, really neat stat. "We've got to do it though. But, obviously, starting up front here is an advantage, for sure. We talk about track position. We talk about safety on restart, being how crazy it is with the low-downforce package. And the first pit stall—probably the most important thing of all is keeping the track position through the race." And, of course, when Logano is fast in qualifying trim at MIS, he usually races well, too. "I'm excited about it," he said. "I thought our car was really fast in race trim earlier (in practice). ... I didn't think we were going to make it happen today (in qualifying), but (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments, and he gave me a little pep talk, and I was ready to go. I was going to drive the heck out of that thing." Denny Hamlin (201.406 mph) qualified third, followed by Kevin Harvick (201.382 mph) and Chase Elliott (201.303 mph). Johnson's second-place start led a resurgence by Hendrick Motorsports , which placed all four cars in the top 12 during qualifying for only the second time this season, the first coming in May at Talladega, a restrictor-plate track. "It was just an awesome day for this Lowe's race car and this Lowe's race team," Johnson said. "We keep stacking pennies and making this car better and better. "My hat's off to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and all the hard work they're putting into things. Great practice and great qualifying. We need some more practice sessions (Saturday) and roll them into a good race." Johnson participated in a NASCAR organization test (one car per team) on Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway and found the session helpful in finding speed. Indeed, the Hendrick cars more than held their own against the four entries from Joe Gibbs Racing , which have been the dominant force in Cup qualifying this season. Hamlin and Carl Edwards (ninth), were the only two JGR drivers to make the top 12, with Matt Kenseth qualifying 13th and Kyle Busch 16th. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Kevin Harvick signs long-term deal with Stewart-Haas Racing
RELATED: Harvick through the years Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday that it has signed Kevin Harvick to a long-term contract extension, scuttling any outlying speculation about his future with the team. Details of the deal were not released. Harvick, 40, is in his third year with the SHR No. 4 Chevrolet team and crew chief Rodney Childers. Harvick won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2014, his first year with the operation co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas. "It was a big decision to join Stewart-Haas Racing and it has turned out to be my best decision," Harvick said in a release provided by the team. "I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to win championships. We have one, but that only made us hungry for more. I'm very happy to have my future secure with a team so dedicated to winning." Thursday's news quashes speculation that Harvick might leave the team, which is moving from Chevrolet to Ford for the 2017 season. Harvick has made 550 starts in NASCAR's top division, all in Chevrolets. "Kevin's results speak for themselves, and in addition to those numbers, he brings a presence to our team that makes everyone want to work harder," Stewart said in the release. " Kevin Harvick has made Stewart-Haas Racing a better team and he will continue to be an integral part of our future." Childers signed a multi-year contract with the No. 4 team last June. Thursday's announcement promises to keep one of the series' most successful driver-crew chiefs pairings together for the indefinite future. Harvick has notched nine of his 32 career Sprint Cup wins in Stewart-Haas equipment. Since making the transition to SHR, he has finished first (2014) and second (2015) in the driver standings, and ranks as the top point-earner so far this season. Harvick will address the media Friday at 1:15 p.m. ET in the media center at Charlotte Motor Speedway , site of Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (9 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). Video of the news conference will be live-streamed on NASCAR.com.
Five to Watch: Potential XFINITY drivers for Stewart-Haas Racing
Who might Stewart-Haas Racing turn to drive its XFINITY Series car in 2017? NASCAR.com has a few ideas.
Teams beat the weather to test at Chicagoland
Weather concerns forced NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams to cram two days of testing into a single day Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway as they prepare for the upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 's opening race next month. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The organizational test, which permits one team per organization to participate, was originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick , the 2014 series champion, recorded the top lap time during Tuesday's day-long test with the No. 4 Chevrolet circling the 1.5-mile track in 29.147 seconds (185 mph). Defending series champion Kyle Busch had the second best lap in No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 29.24 seconds (184.6 mph) while Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford) and Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet) had the third and fourth quickest times, respectively. Fourteen teams took part in the test. Harvick completed 222 laps, most among those taking part in the test, while Busch logged 214 according to NASCAR timing and scoring data. "We haven't won here in a few years but I think the performance has been fine over the past two or three years," Harvick, winner of the first two Sprint Cup races hosted by the track," said Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to coming back; it's a fun race track just for the fact that you can move around and run all around the race track. That's really the hardest part about today, it's hard to gather a lot of … confirmed information (because) you have to get enough rubber from the bottom to the top of the track to see where everything actually is." Joey Logano finished sixth in last year's Chase opener at Chicago. It's a race that sets the tone for the 10-race playoff, the driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford said. "A lot on the line here and you always want to start off the Chase on a good note and have a lot of momentum leaving Chicago," Logano said. "So far so good. … "This is a great track; to me it almost acts like a small Fontana for us. You can run anywhere you want on the race track, its got a lot of speed and it's bumpy. Its got a ton of character." One more organizational test remains for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, scheduled for Oct. 18-19 at Homestead Miami Speedway. While Sprint Cup teams were testing at Chicagoland, several Camping World Truck Series teams were busy at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Monday and Tuesday. Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates William Byron, Christopher Bell and Cody Coughlin , along with Kaz Grala (GMS Racing ) and Stewart Friesen (Halmar Racing ) were on hand to test in preparation for the Truck Series' opening Chase race, the UNOH 175 (Sept. 24, 1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "This is one of my favorite race tracks," Byron, the series' points leader and winner of five races this season, said. "I won here in the K&N Series last year so think I have a lot of confidence here. "It's good to come back with a truck; it handles totally different but it's the same race track. I'm trying to use some of the things I learned last year and hopefully make that apply for when we come back in the Chase." The inaugural Chase in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series begins at New Hampshire and will feature a field of eight drivers competing for the 2016 championship.
Stewart-Haas , Joe Gibbs Racing secure fourth Charters
RELATED: Who has the 36 Charters? " Fast facts about charters DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing have each obtained an additional Charter for their respective teams, a move that will guarantee NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kurt Busch (SHR) and Carl Edwards (JGR) a starting spot in all 36 points races each week. Officials with both teams made the announcements separately via social media (Twitter) Saturday afternoon. Securing the Charters was expected. Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman said earlier this week that Charters awarded to his organization, which ceased operations at the conclusion of the 2015 season, would likely be purchased by the Stewart-Haas and Joe Gibbs organizations. No purchase price was announced. NASCAR unveiled the new system Feb. 9, announcing a nine-year arrangement that not only will assure Charter teams a starting spot in the field but there will also be financial benefits generated by the move. Based on criteria developed by NASCAR and with input from the industry, Charters were awarded to 36 teams, each of which had attempted to qualify for all races since the start of the 2013 season. It was also announced that beginning this season Sprint Cup Series fields would feature 40 cars rather than 43 as had previously been the case. As a result, there will be four remaining positions in the field each week to be filled by Open (non-Charter) teams. Those will be determined as they have been in previous years, based on qualifying speeds. SHR was awarded three Charters for its Nos. 4, 10 and 14 teams; the No. 41 team did not debut until 2014. Likewise JGR was awarded three Charters for its Nos. 11, 18 and 20 teams, and sought a fourth for the No. 19, which debuted with Edwards last season. Charters may be sold or leased (a one-time transfer), with NASCAR approval, and HScott Motorsports owner Harry Scott opted for the latter in order to obtain a Charter for his No. 46 team with driver Michael Annett . Scott announced Friday that he had reached an agreement with Premium Motorsports owner Jay Robinson for use of that team's Charter for the 2016 season. HScott, a two-team organization, was awarded one Charter, assigned to the No. 15 team of Clint Bowyer , meaning Annett would have to qualify for all races this season. Premium Motorsports will continue to field a Sprint Cup entry. Cole Whitt will attempt to qualify the team's No. 98 Toyota in the field for next week’s season-opening Daytona 500
Stewart-Haas Racing zeroes in on digital dash
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will adjust to a new innovation wrinkle this season, making use of a digital dashboard display that will replace long-used analog gauges. True to the competitive spirit in the NASCAR garage, one team might have a leg up on the rest. Stewart-Haas Racing was the first to apply the technology in actual race conditions, deploying the digital display in Kurt Busch 's No. 41 Chevrolet last September at Darlington Raceway . For the No. 41 team to blaze the trail created an interesting juxtaposition at the South Carolina track. Here was one of NASCAR's most tech-savvy teams making an early embrace of one of the sport's newest technological leaps, but hosting the coming-out party at stock-car racing's oldest superspeedway with one of the most old-school crew chiefs in Tony Gibson leading the charge. "We got on it," Gibson said last week during NASCAR's annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "… We didn't want to go to Daytona and have, 'What have we got? How does the layout want to be in this dash?' So we worked out all the bugs in ours before the end of the year. Kurt had his own layout and what he wanted to see, and he knows how to run it. We had to move some things around, work some bugs out like everybody else." Other teams followed suit, taking advantage of last season's breaking-in phase as an audition for a NASCAR-mandated rules change in 2016. A quick canvass of drivers and crew chiefs during last week's media tour revealed that some teams still have some fine-tuning to do before cars hit the track for opening Sprint Unlimited practice Feb. 12 at Daytona International Speedway . If the pattern of Stewart-Haas being ahead of the game in the offseason sounds familiar, it should. In a pivotal December 2013 test session with the new driver/crew chief pairing of Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers, SHR's No. 4 team was the class of the field in quickly adapting to the next season's rules package -- a transition that eventually netted the 2014 Sprint Cup championship. "Anything new, you have to put time into it and understand it, and I'm thankful to have that opportunity with Stewart-Haas to have the engineering department, to have a dedicated guy who's working with McLaren on the software and to be able to find new things," Busch said. "Even with us running it last year at Darlington and then the next time I tested it in January, so many new chapters, categories and things were opened up for us to look at. "I'm just glad that I feel like we've done our homework and put our time invested into it to where we won't have problems with it and we're going to succeed with it and not have it be an issue or a distraction on race weekends." The next step for teams beyond making sure the system works: Getting the most out of the information. The existing settings -- tachometer; voltage; water and oil temperatures; oil, water and fuel pressures -- will all be accessible, but delivered on one of 16 different preset displays. Teams will be able to drill down and customize each preset based on driver preferences. The first full-field implementation of the digital display is just weeks away, but NASCAR competition officials say the new system has room to grow. Tire-pressure sensors have been tested ahead of a 2017 rollout, with the potential to help teams make educated decisions about air pressure and other adjustments during pit stops. Tire sensors aren't yet approved for competition, but Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck says he's hopeful for other advancements in distributing the dashboard data beyond drivers and teams. "The exciting part about it is the possibilities of the future," Buck said. "... Integrating it with the fans, integrating it with (the media), the data that we have on race cars available to us and be able to tailor that and get it out to the fans. That's what makes it exciting to me."
Tony Stewart injury update from Stewart-Haas Racing
RELATED: Stewart hospitalized with injury " Stewart to miss start of Cup season KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 4, 2016) -- Tony Stewart , driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, sustained a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident Sunday while vacationing on the West Coast. Stewart was transported to a local hospital following the non- racing accident and promptly evaluated. He was awake and alert throughout the process and able to move all of his extremities. Stewart flew to North Carolina Tuesday evening and was admitted to a Charlotte-area hospital for further evaluation. On Wednesday, he underwent surgery. The subsequent recovery period means Stewart will miss the beginning of the Sprint Cup season. A timetable for Stewart's return has not been determined, but he is expected to make a full recovery and return to the No. 14 Chevrolet in 2016. Plans for an interim driver have not been finalized. MORE: Stewart: Full coverage of ATV accident
Stewart-Haas reveals Harvick's Darlington paint scheme
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes SHOP: Harvick gear Stewart-Haas Racing unveiled Kevin Harvick 's retro paint scheme on Thursday for Darlington Raceway 's annual Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sunday, Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). . @KevinHarvick will pilot this No. 4 @BuschBeer Chevrolet for the #Southern500 at @TooToughToTame . #NASCARThrowback pic.twitter.com/SjwNSAHPZh — Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) April 14, 2016 Aligning with the Southern 500's 1975-1984 era throwback theme, the No. 4 Busch Beer Chevrolet SS pays homage to NASCAR champion and Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough's 1979 Daytona 500 car. This particular "Great American Race" was also significant because it marked the first 500-mile event NASCAR broadcast entirely on television. Yarborough, a three-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, drove the No. 11 Busch Beer ride from 1979 through 1980, earning 10 wins, 38 top-fives and 15 poles during the two-season stretch. He also won five Southern 500 races during his decorated career -- 1968, 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1982. Harvick's scheme is one of several throwback schemes to be unveiled this week. Stewart-Haas Racing also recently revealed Danica Patrick 's retro No. 10 scheme via the team's Twitter account Wednesday. RELATED: SHR unveils Danica's Darlington look
Stewart-Haas Racing to switch to Ford in 2017
RELATED: Key moments in SHR history Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday that its four-car operation will switch from Chevrolet to Ford-powered cars in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2017 -- the news catching most of the national media and racing insiders off-guard. Co-team owner and driver Tony Stewart considers it a coup that they were even able to keep the past six months of negotiations with Ford under wraps before Wednesday's big announcement -- only two weeks into the 2016 season. "I don't think the timing was a big issue, we just wanted to make sure we were in control of it," Stewart said. "It's very hard to keep secrets in this sport. "In figuring things were going to get out, we wanted to be proactive in announcing this. "We're going to get it out there, and then we're going to get back to business.” Both Stewart and co-owner Gene Haas opened their remarks on a national conference call Wednesday morning by thanking Chevrolet and committing to the 2016 season driving the GM brand before sharing their optimism about the Ford future. Stewart said he spoke with Hendrick Motorsports founder Rick Hendrick last month about the possibility of SHR switching engine makes -- SHR has a technical alliance with Hendrick -- and informed him of the team's final decision before Wednesday's announcement. Both Stewart and Haas were thankful to Chevy, Haas calling it a "long, awesome run” with the company. Stewart stressing, "we weren't disappointed with Chevy" and said he felt this announcement and impending move would not seriously harm the current Chevy alliance with Hendrick Motorsports . "I don't think Rick looks at this as a betrayal," Haas said of Hendrick. "I think he (Hendrick) respects the decision we have made. It's a bottom line, business decision that enhances Stewart-Haas Racing in the future and an opportunity we couldn't pass up." As the SHR announcement was ongoing Wednesday morning, Chevrolet released a statement from its Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, Jim Campbell saying, "We are disappointed with Stewart-Haas Racing 's decision, but our focus for 2016 has not changed." Stewart was in complete agreement about the focus. He reiterated the group's plans to win a 2016 Cup championship with Chevy this year and spoke about the move as a difficult, much-contemplated process. "None of this was done on a coin toss," Stewart said. "We've put six months of thought into it." SHR fields cars for 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick , 2004 series champion Kurt Busch , Danica Patrick and next year Clint Bowyer will take over for the retiring Stewart behind the wheel of the No. 14. NASCAR released the following statement after the news broke: " Stewart-Haas Racing has been a top-tier team in our sport for many years, and we wish them well in their future endeavor with Ford Performance. Our sport is rooted in healthy competition, and NASCAR is fortunate to have three strong auto manufacturer partners all committed to the common goals of winning and growing the sport. We know that SHR and Chevrolet will work together as hard as ever this season to win races and pursue their third Sprint Cup Championship together." Ford executives were clearly optimistic and eager about increasing their Cup tally, which also currently includes spotlight partners such as Penske Racing and Roush-Fenway Racing , Wood Brothers Racing , Richard Petty Motorsports and Front Row Motorsports . "We believe the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 will give our program a major boost in terms of being in contention for both drivers' and manufacturers' championships every year," said Ford's global Director of Performance Dave Pericak, who also noted, "This is just another addition; we're not eliminating or reducing support to other teams." Stewart, who is currently sidelined in his final year of Cup competition while recovering from an L1 vertebrae fracture, admitted he had been monitoring social media such as Twitter after the initial announcement was made Wednesday morning. He was curious to reaction. "I understand some people are upset and I've also read comments from people who are ecstatic about it," he said, adding, "You can't overlook great opportunities.” He also said after a nearly 20-year personal tenure under the Chevy banner, "It was a big decision; it's what's best for our company going forward." In the hours after the decision was made, Ford drivers also reached out via Twitter to congratulate the SHR contingent. "Welcome to the @FordPerformance family @StewartHaasRcng. Excited to have another team join the blue ovals," tweeted Penske Racing driver Joey Logano . MORE: Smith analyzes SHR move