|Harvick wins wreck-filled race at Kansas Speedway|
|Monday, October 07, 2013 12:12 AM|
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kevin Harvick won a wreck-filled race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, keeping out of trouble all afternoon and making a big move in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Harvick pulled away from Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon on a restart with 19 laps to go for his third win of the year. It came after Harvick sat on the pole for the first time in 254 races.
The last time he qualified first, at New Hampshire in 2006, he also won the race.
“These guys just did a great job all weekend,” Harvick said. “To have a car fast enough for me to qualify on the pole says a lot about how fast this thing is.”
Harvick was chased across the line by Busch and Gordon. Joey Logano finished fourth, Carl Edwards was fifth and Jimmie Johnson finished sixth despite a slight hiccup with his engine on the final lap that cost him one spot on the track.
Matt Kenseth held onto his lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship with an 11th-place finish. Johnson narrowed the gap to just three points, while Harvick moved into third place, just 25 points out of first with six races left in the season.
Kyle Busch was the big loser after crashing for the third straight time at Kansas Speedway, dropping from third in points to fifth, 35 adrift of the lead.
There were 15 cautions in the race, breaking the record of 14 for a Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway. The first came when the race wasn’t even a lap old and Danica Patrick slammed into the wall; most of them occurred when cars got loose coming out of Turn 2.
Busch and Kenseth both called the race “treacherous,” pointing to the combination of a repave last year and Goodyear’s new “multi-zone” tires that made it seem as if they were skating across a smooth, glasslike surface most of the afternoon.
All of it was compounded by temperatures in the 50s at the start of the race, more than 30 degrees cooler than testing and practice earlier in the week.
“It’s all about restarts and making sure you can gain spots but it’s treacherous,” Busch said. “You had to have a lot of give and take.”
One of the major story lines coming into the race involved Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, who got together in the Nationwide race on Saturday.
Keselowski said that Busch intentionally dumped him and seemed to indicate that he would retaliate in the Sprint Cup race. Keselowski even asked NASCAR President Mike Helton in the prerace driver’s meeting about the line between hard racing and intentional wrecks.
It turned out that Busch kept going for spins without Keselowski’s help.
The first one came down the front stretch when he appeared to squeeze Juan Pablo Montoya, sending Busch sideways across the track. The second spin came after a restart a moment later, and this one sent his No. 18 Toyota head-first into the Turn 1 wall and ended his day.
“I have no idea what happened but it’s Kansas. It’s what we do here, we just crash,” Busch added. “The racetrack is the worst racetrack I’ve ever driven on. The tires are the worst tires I’ve ever driven on and track position is everything. You can’t do anything.”
Harvick didn’t seem to have a whole lot of trouble with track, or the tires.
He was fast from the moment he unloaded this weekend and then turned heads with his fast qualifying run. Harvick got off pit sequence early in the race and was shuffled to the back of the pack, but he was fast every time he got into clean air.
That was the case at the end, when he pulled away for an easy victory.
Power holds off new points leader Dixon in Houston
HOUSTON — Scott Dixon took control of the IndyCar championship race when Helio Castroneves suffered his second mechanical failure in two days at the Grand Prix of Houston, where the race ended when Dario Franchitti’s car went airborne into the fence on the final lap.
The accident in Turn 5 happened when the car of 4-time IndyCar champion Franchitti launched over Takuma Sato’s and sailed into the fence. Debris was showered into the grandstand from both the cars colliding and the impact with the fence; Franchitti’s badly damaged car bounced back onto the track. E.J. Viso then hit Sato’s car.
IndyCar said one series official was taken to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries and Houston Fire Department spokesman Ruy Lozano reported 13 fans suffered injuries, with two transported to hospitals. Franchitti has two fractured vertebra that will not require surgery, a fractured right ankle and a concussion. He will be held overnight at the hospital.
After the wreck, the caution came out to freeze the field, allowing Penske Racing’s Will Power to win the race while halting Dixon’s final attempt for a sweep of the doubleheader sweep.
Dixon settled for second. He entered the Houston doubleheader trailing Castroneves by 49 points but leaves with a 25-point lead going into Oct. 19 season finale.
There was no celebration, though, for Dixon or Power, who raced to his second victory of the season. Both had to drive through the wreckage from the three-car accident and past Franchitti, who sat inside his car waiting for medical attention.
Both drivers said the scene reminded them of the 2011 accident at Las Vegas that killed Dan Wheldon.
“I just saw Dario’s car and him sitting in it with a lot of damage and yes, that’s what it reminded me of,” added Power, who broke his back in the Las Vegas accident. “I hate seeing that. We try to keep these cars on the ground.”
Dixon waved to his teammate and got only a slight head nod back and team owner Chip Ganassi rode a scooter out to the scene. Franchitti was placed on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a hospital.
“Dario definitely got into the fence pretty hard,” Dixon added. “All in all I hope that he’s OK and obviously the fans. The fence took a pretty good hit there.”
Dixon needs to only finish fifth or better in California to win his third IndyCar title.
Castroneves, who also had a gearbox problem in Saturday’s race, finished 23rd. He had started on the pole, got a great jump on the standing start to get past Dixon for the lead but Dixon was screaming on his radio within minutes that Castroneves’ car was leaking oil everywhere and it was splashing onto Dixon’s tires and visor.
Castroneves spoke little to his Penske Racing team but detected a vibration in his car with every shift of the gears after just a handful of laps. The problem worsened and he came to a complete stop on the course at Reliant Park after just 11 laps.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing,” Castroneves added. “It hurts. It really hurts.”
His car was towed to the garage with a broken gearbox, Castroneves made the long walk back still wearing his helmet and team owner Roger Penske retreated without comment into a team transporter.
The team eventually replaced the gearbox and Castroneves returned to the track, 36 laps down and needing a miracle in Fontana, where the 3-time Indianapolis 500 winner was fastest during an open test last week.
Penske said Castroneves will likely have to change his engine before the finale, which will incur a 10-spot penalty on the starting grid at Fontana.
“It’s a long race and we’re going to go for it,” added Penske. “It doesn’t make sense, as far as I’m concerned” that reliability and durability failed twice in two days in a season in which Castroneves had been the only driver to complete every lap heading into Houston.
John Force wins again, pads Funny Car points lead
MOHNTON, Pa. — John Force raced to his second straight Funny Car victory Sunday to open a 65-point lead with two events left in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship.
The 64-year-old Force, a record 15-time season champion, won for the third time this year and the record 137th time in his unprecedented career. He beat rookie Chad Head in the final round with a 4.106-second run at 313.37 mph in a Ford Mustang.
“You give credit where it’s due and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and this team is just great,” Force said. “What I look at as most exciting is the teamwork with this group. To get this win meant a lot to me, but they all mean a lot. I’ve got a good hot rod right now.”
Matt Hagan is second in the standings.
Shawn Langdon won in Top Fuel to also extend his points lead, beating defending series champion Antron Brown in the final with a 3.779 at 323.81. Langdon, 83 points ahead of Doug Kalitta, has a series-high six victories this year.
“We have a good grasp on things but there’s two races left and anything can happen,” Langdon said. “The competition level is so tough right now so you can’t take anything for granted.”
Jeg Coughlin won in Pro Stock take the season lead and points leader Matt Smith topped the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.
Coughlin raced to his fourth victory of the season and 56th overall, edging defending series champion Allen Johnson with a 6.616 at 208.75 in a Dodge Avenger. Smith won for the second straight week and the third time this season, beating defending series champion Eddie Krawiec with a 6.936 at 193.32 on a Buell.