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The First Reid: SHR doubters spoke too soon

The SportsXchange

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

Those who were writing the epitaph for Stewart-Haas Racing, even before the 2014 season began, can stop engraving the tombstone.

This was supposed to be a team fraught with conflict between owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, after Stewart was sidelined by a Sprint Car accident and Haas unilaterally hired Kurt Busch to drive a fourth SHR team.

This was supposed to be a team that wasn't big enough to house the egos of four star drivers-Stewart, Busch, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick.

At Phoenix, however, Harvick's team showed up with the most thorough preparation and a decisive edge in speed. Harvick dominated both practice sessions on Saturday and spanked the field in Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Yes, SHR had its share of trouble, too. Patrick wrecked, Busch blew an engine, and Stewart finished 16th with a car that appeared capable of a better result.

But in leading 224 of 312 laps and winning at Phoenix for the fifth time, Harvick proved that Stewart-Haas, at its best, could be the class of the field.

The performance elicited grudging admiration from pole winner and third-place finisher Brad Keselowski.

"They beat everybody before they came to the track," Keselowski said.

Admittedly, it's far too early to call the SHR experiment an unqualified success. But, to be fair, it's also far too early to predict its demise, as Harvick proved so emphatically at Phoenix.

@nascarcasm

---Phoenix did not disappoint, as drivers once took advantage of the track's wide apron. We firmly believe that one day, drivers will pull so far down on the apron that fans will be able to high-five their favorite drivers under green-flag conditions.

---Several drivers pitted with roughly 80 laps to go, just outside the window, which led to not only some anxiety-inducing fuel stretching, but also the "gambling" metaphors being busted out a week earlier than usual.

---Congratulations to the crew chief of the Team Penske #2 Ford, Paul Wolfe, and his wife on the birth of their son, Caden. We remind Paul that newborns are just like the rules of the Chase, in that they need to be changed pretty much every hour or so.

---Wildly divergent results for the Stewart-Haas Racing cars. Harvick victorious, Stewart 16th, Danica wrecks and Kurt blows an engine. When the cars return to the shop, they'll be designated into different categories: "The one that won, "The one with an OK run," "The one that spun" and "The one that's well-done."

(Follow @nascarcasm on Twitter. His unique views on NASCAR are his own -- but chances are you already knew that.)

NASCAR NUMBERS

2: The number of Coors Light Pole Awards won by Brad Keselowski this past weekend at Phoenix. On Friday, in the debut of knockout qualifying in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford claimed the top starting spot. A day later, Keselowski was first to the green flag in the Nationwide Series event at the one-mile track. Keselowski is 2-for-2 in knockout time trials that have run to conclusion.

3: The number of consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series races won by Kyle Busch at Phoenix, a series record at the one-mile track. Busch dominated Saturday's race, leading 155 of 168 laps in the rain-shortened race to triumph at PIR for the seventh time in 17 starts there.

4: The number of drivers who have won multiple NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Success seems to breed success at the 1.5-mile track. That could be why Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth have won three races each, and Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards have triumphed twice each. Kenseth is the defending winner of the Las Vegas Cup race.

7: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway won by Roush Fenway Racing Fords. From Mark Martin's victory in the 1998 inaugural event through Carl Edwards' win in 2011, the Roush drivers have thrived at the opulent speedway, which has hosted 16 Sprint Cup events.

1: The number of times NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying has been rained out in Las Vegas. That was last year, when a uncharacteristic bad weather hit. This year's time trials, the first at LVMS under the knockout qualifying format, aren't likely to experience a similar washout. The forecast calls for sunny skies, with zero percent chance of rain.

NASCAR ETC.

On Deck: On-track action will start a day earlier than usual, with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing the 2014 rules package on the cars on Thursday. Testing will run from noon until 4 p.m., local time. ... Assuming he qualifies for the race, Martin Truex Jr. will make his 300th NSCS start on Sunday. ... Plenty of hometown rooting interests pepper both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series entry lists for this weekend's races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Four drivers hail from Las Vegas: Kurt and Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; and Brendan Gaughan and Dylan Kwasniewski in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. ... Defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will drive the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in this Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide race at Las Vegas. In three starts in that car last year, Crafton finished third twice, and 10th once.

National Series Standings

This year, wins matter more than in any season in the 65-year history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Essentially, a win locks a driver into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

2014 Winners

Pos Driver Wins

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1

2. Kevin Harvick 1

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Pos Driver Points

1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 90

2 Brad Keselowski 84

3 Jeff Gordon 80

4 Kevin Harvick 79

5 Jimmie Johnson 78

6 Joey Logano 75

7 Matt Kenseth 70

8 Denny Hamlin 68

9 Carl Edwards 65

10 Greg Biffle 64

11 Casey Mears 64

12 Jamie McMurray 64

13 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.63

14 Kyle Busch 61

15 Ryan Newman 60

16 Austin Dillon # 56

NASCAR Nationwide Series

Pos Driver Points

1 Regan Smith 83

2 Trevor Bayne 78

3 Elliott Sadler 77

4 Ty Dillon # 71

5 Dylan Kwasniewski # 67

6 Brendan Gaughan 66

7 Chase Elliott # 64

8 Brian Scott 60

9 James Buescher 60

10 Mike Wallace 55

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Pos Driver Points

1 Timothy Peters 43

2 Johnny Sauter 41

3 Ron Hornaday Jr. 39

4 Ryan Blaney 38

5 Jeb Burton 37

6 Jimmy Weller III 35

7 German Quiroga 34

8 Ryan Sieg 33

9 Tyler Reddick 32

10 Matt Crafton 31

Tweets Of The Week - @DaleJr's First Week

Last week was huge for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He won the Daytona - and immediately joined Twitter. Appropriately, he got off to a fast start with 184 tweets in his first week. This installment of "Tweets of the Week" is all Junior, all the time.

Monday, Feb. 24

---Look who I ran into at the Daytona Experience. Dad's Happy!

Tuesday, Feb. 25

---Tweet 88 goes out to #JRNation Hope y'all enjoyed this week as much as I have. WE won the Daytona 500! Phoenix is next, let's grind em out!

---Listening to my sister @EarnhardtKelley first podcast on @DirtyMoRadio SO proud of her! #2XDaytona500Champ

Wednesday, Feb. 26

---Bout to do a call in with my good buddy @jimrome #2XDaytona500Champ

Thursday, Feb. 27

---Equally proud of the man you've become dude. "@KerryDEarnhardt: Great week for our family. #proudbrother"

Friday, Feb. 28

---Every race Stevie Waltrip gives me a verse to put in my car as I buckle up. The Daytona 500 verse was ISAIAH 40:28-31

---Nite All. Gonna be a fun day tom. Fans should see a great race. That apron in turn 3-4 better be prepared for a lot of action.

Saturday, March 1

---Looks like 9am pract is on schedule. Good, cause we need it.

---My sister @EarnhardtKelley outran me at my own track Myrtle Beach Speedway once. I'm reminded constantly.

Sunday, March 2

---Hope for good luck and a solid run today in our @NationalGuard @TeamChevy here at @PhoenixRaceway

---Congrats to @KevinHarvick on the W. We worked damn hard today. Proud of @SteveLetarte and the whole @NationalGuard team.

---Go Cats! @bobcats @BobcatsPR

Tune-In: NASCAR On Television, Week of March 3-9 (all time EST)

Monday, March 3

1 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

Tuesday, March 4

2 a.m., NASCAR Now, ESPN2

1 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

Wednesday, March 5

2 a.m., NASCAR Now, ESPN2

4 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

Thursday, March 6

2 a.m., NASCAR Now, ESPN2

4 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

8 p.m., NSCS Phoenix Race (re-air), FOX Sports 2

Friday, March 7

2:30 a.m., NASCAR Now, ESPN2

1 p.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Phoenix (tape delay), FOX Sports 1

2 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice, FOX Sports 1

3:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice, FOX Sports 1

4:30 p.m., NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 1

4:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

5 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice, FOX Sports 1

6:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Qualifying, FOX Sports 1

8 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 2

9:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Qualifying (re-air), FOX Sports 2

Saturday, Mar. 8

11:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Practice, FOX Sports 2

12:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Qualifying, FOX Sports 2

2 p.m., NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 2

2:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Final Practice, FOX Sports 2

4 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Countdown, ESPN2

4:15 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Las Vegas, ESPN2

Sunday, Mar. 9

3 a.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Las Vegas (re-air), ESPN2

4 a.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Las Vegas (tape delay), ESPN Deportes

1:30 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FOX Sports 1

2:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Pre-Race Show, FOX

3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Las Vegas, FOX

3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Las Vegas, FOX Deportes

8 p.m., NASCAR Victory Lane, FOX Sports 1
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