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Craig Murto: Harvick on championship pace

Kevin Harvick is a good bet to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup 2018 championship.

Following his victory Saturday night in Kansas, Harvick has driven his Ford to five wins in the first 12 races. The last driver to do that was Jeff Gordon, and he won the title that year.

Besides his personal performance, Harvick has the benefit of driving a Ford. Despite expectations before the season that the Ford Taurus body would be outdated in 2018, Ford proved to be the dominant car so far. The only Chevrolet team to show much strength is that of Kyle Larson, but he can’t seem to close the deal. The Toyota teams have run strong, but clearly are not on par with Ford so far this season.

Another plus for Harvick is that he’s matured in recent years. That maturity helps keep him out of trouble on the track.

Of course, his relationship with crew chief Rodney Childers bodes well. Childers, a former racer himself, knows what it’s like behind the wheel. And they’ve been together as a team long enough that he knows how to interpret the information Harvick provides about the way the car handles.

Given the nature of the NASCAR championship, nothing is guaranteed; Harvick could win every race from now until the season finale in Homestead, Florida, but have a mechanical issue in that championship round and walk away with nothing. But if I lived in Las Vegas, I’d place a wager on Harvick.

If you bet on good weather for racing last weekend, you certainly were correct if you headed down to South Boston for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East twin 100-lap features. The racing was entertaining, and well worth the trip. The features will be shown on the NBC Sports network soon, so I’ll not give anything away. But check your listings, it’s worth watching.

But as good as it is on TV, racing is always better in person. And most local and regional racing isn’t on TV anyway. Don’t forget about the Short Track U.S. Nationals this weekend at Bristol. Be sure to check the track’s website at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com for ticket information and race schedules. Last year, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup star Bubba Wallace took the Super Late Model win.

Lewis Hamilton took the Formula One win in Spain to start the European swing of the World Driving Championship. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finished second, and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen grabbed the final step on the podium. Hopefully the Liberty Media group that now owns F1 will eventually change the regulations to allow for better racing. All too often, F1 races are determined by the outcome of the first corner on the first lap.

Compared to F1, IndyCar is thrilling, especially on a road course. Will Power won the Indianapolis Grand Prix on the infield road course at the Indianapolis motor speedway, followed by Scott Dixon and Robert Wickens. The win was the 200th IndyCar victory for car owner Roger Penske.

Wickens, a rookie in IndyCar this season, is a 29-year-old Canadian driver with experience in German touring cars, among other series on the world stage. It’s been amazing to watch how quickly he’s adapted to IndyCars, and it won’t be a surprise if he wins a race soon.

The next race on the IndyCar calendar is the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Indy always has a certain intrigue and prestige, so it no doubt will entertain. But the current aero package wasn’t conducive to the best racing on the ovals so far this year. It is hoped that teams have it sorted out so that the 2018 Indy 500 is a competitive event.

Some of the best racing in 2018 has been American Flat Track (AFT) motorcycle racing. The format of the events with heat races, semi features, and then a feature is always entertaining. The only downside in 2018 is that the Indian factory team of Jared Mees is dominant in the featured twins class. Last year’s champion is in championship form again this year. In the singles, popular Shayna Texter is getting her Husqvarna factory ride dialed in better each week. AFT races can be seen at www.fanschoice.tv and on NBCSN, check your listings.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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