Home / Beth Lunkenheimer / Pace Laps: Kevin Harvick Preparing for Must-Win & Blake Koch V. Justin Allgaier
(Photo: John Harrelson / NKP)

Pace Laps: Kevin Harvick Preparing for Must-Win & Blake Koch V. Justin Allgaier

Sprint Cup: It’s Sure to Be a Desert Delight – Think about it… it couldn’t get much better with one race remaining before we set the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

We have Kevin Harvick, the greatest driver in the history of Phoenix International Raceway, in what could be a must-win situation [again] while four drivers are separated by three points around the cutoff zone.

Anyone else mind if we hurry to Phoenix, Arizona, and race tomorrow?

Though we’ll have to wait until Sunday, we are sure to be in for a thrilling show the very end. Texas did nothing but compress the six drivers who must perform in Phoenix.

With Carl Edwards grabbing the win in Texas, he joins Jimmie Johnson as half of the final-four drivers for the championship race in Homestead. With those spots secure, things couldn’t be closer from third on back.

Finishing second in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, Joey Logano is one point to the good along with Kyle Busch, who finished fifth. On the negative end of the grid are Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, top-10 finishers who sit a minor one and two points behind fourth spot.

That’s right, four drivers separated by three points for two spots. In other words, nobody is safe. Delicious.

Additionally, we’ll have another show to watch in Harvick, who has won five of the last six Phoenix races and has blossomed in the must-win air during this format of the Chase. He’ll also have to watch his back for Austin Dillon, as the two made late contact at Texas.

Don’t forget his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate of Kurt Busch, who will likely have to win Sunday to bid for his second Sprint Cup Series championship.

This is sure to be a delight in the desert. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: Blake Koch’s and Justin Allgaier’s Friendly Competition – The elimination-style Chase produced a lot of bad blood the first time NASCAR implemented it in the Sprint Cup Series in 2014. There has been no such ill-will in this year’s XFINITY Series championship battle. In fact, the two drivers closest to the cut line are trying to keep things friendly on and off the track.

With one race to go in the Round of 8, Blake Koch holds the final transfer spot by a single point over Justin Allgaier. Despite the pressure they will both face next week at Phoenix International Raceway, both Koch and Allgaier acknowledged their friendship after Saturday’s XFINITY race.

Along with praising his team and sponsor, Koch relished the opportunity to compete against Allgaier for the championship.

“Thanks to XFINITY for having this Chase format,” Koch said, “because I get to go race one of my really, really good buddies in Phoenix for that final spot.”

Allgaier echoed Koch’s comments.

“I get to race my buddy Blake Koch for that fourth place spot there,” Allgaier said. “And hopefully, something will happen and we can both get in.” – Bryan Gable

Camping World Truck Series: Johnny Sauter Making Case for First Championship – Last season, when Johnny Sauter announced he would be leaving ThorSport Racing, a proven championship contending team, for GMS Racing, there were questions all around about how wise the move was. But when the season opened at Daytona International Speedway, Sauter proved the naysayers wrong by winning and immediately locking himself into the inaugural Chase field.

Fast forward to the Round of 6, and he’s now showing the rest of the field that he’s a force to be reckoned with in this championship battle. Back-to-back wins at Martinsville and Texas have helped to leave three open slots to be filled next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, and the No. 21 team carries all kinds of momentum into the final two weeks of the year.

“The guys in the pits put me in position to win the race there at the end. Tab (Boyd, spotter) kept saying just keep up momentum and kept me calm and I just kept trying to do what I needed to do,” Sauter said after the race. “Our Allegiant Travel Chevrolet was so strong on long runs all night. Everyone was a little discouraged after qualifying but I knew we had a truck to win. We’re peaking at the right time but we need to peak in a few weeks when it really counts at Homestead.”

Obviously a single race to determine the champion means anything can happen, however Sauter’s numbers at Homestead-Miami Speedway bode well for GMS Racing’s first championship. In nine starts, he’s got a win and six top-10 finishes. It’s not yet time to start engraving Sauter’s name on the trophy, but if he’s not in the championship conversation, that’s not wise. Beth Lunkenheimer

Sports Cars: Porsche Asserts Dominance, Wraps Up WEC Manufacturer Title – In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Porsche Team spanked the rest of the FIA World Endurance Championship field to clinch the Manufacturers’ Championship. The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber dominated the race to take their fourth win of the year. The margin of victory was just shy of a minute for the Porsche trio over the No. 6 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Stephane Sarrazin. The No. 5 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima was another six seconds back in third.

Audi Sport Team Sport, fresh off the announcement that they will not return to the WEC in 2017, struggled in China. The No. 8 finished three laps down after refueling issues, while the No. 7 was 14 laps down after spending time in the garage.

The second Porsche (No. 2 for Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb) finished fourth, effectively on the tail end of the lead lap. However, the trio leaves Shanghai with a 17-point lead over Conway, Sarrazin and Kobayashi in the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship standings. The No. 2 has to finish sixth or better in Bahrain on Nov. 20 in order to claim both ends of the championship.

In LMP2, G-Drive Racing’s Alex Brundle, Roman Rusinov and Will Stevens won their second straight race in their ORECA 05-Nissan over Extreme Speed Motorsports’ JAGONYA ARAM-driven No. 30 Ligier JS P2-Nissan and the No. 43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2-Nissan. Signatech Alpine’s No. 36 shared by American Gustavo Menezes and Frenchmen Nicolas Lapierre and Stephane Richelmi finished fourth, good enough to clinch the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK dominated the GTE-Pro weekend. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell won in the No. 67 from pole over the No. 66 of Olivier Pla and Stefan Mücke. GTE-Am saw Aston Martin Racing’s No. 98 of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Matthias Lauda take the class victory over AF Corse’s No. 83 Ferrari 458 Italia. – Phil Allaway

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Frontstretch Staff
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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