Har­vick has some­thing to prove af­ter rough week

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page -

AVONDALE, Ariz. — The mood in the desert is tense headed into the fi­nal elim­i­na­tion race be­fore NASCAR’s cham­pi­onship, a ti­tle Kevin Har­vick is de­ter­mined to win.

The 2014 cham­pion is on a mis­sion to lead his Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing team into the ti­tle race, prove they hon­estly are the best group in the garage and that a wave of ad­ver­sity can­not un­ravel their suc­cess. NASCAR said the No. 4 team cheated in last week­end’s vic­tory at Texas by build­ing its own spoiler and pass­ing it off as one supplied by the re­quired ven­dor. The pun­ish­ment was se­vere and put Har­vick in dan­ger of not qual­i­fy­ing for the cham­pi­onship.

But the road to the fi­nal four goes through ISM Race­way out­side of Phoenix. It’s a track where Har­vick has won pre­vi­ously, in­clud­ing this year — a week af­ter a dif­fer­ent No. 4 Ford was found to be il­le­gal fol­low­ing a vic­tory. This track was crit­i­cal in Har­vick’s run to his first ti­tle four years ago. It will be again Sun­day when he needs to avoid any on-track is­sues to se­cure his ticket at Home­stead-Mi­ami Speed­way.

Only a quiet Sun­day drive is not Har­vick’s style.

He ar­rived in Phoenix with­out his crew chief and car chief, both sus­pended for the fi­nal two races of the sea­son. The berth he’d earned into the fi­nal four by win­ning last week at Texas had been stripped away as pun­ish­ment by NASCAR. His team has been branded a cheat.

So Har­vick went out and won the pole .

Then he was fastest in both of Satur­day’s prac­tices.

Bell keeps Xfin­ity hopes alive

Christo­pher Bell saved his sea­son by win­ning Satur­day at ISM Race­way to snag a spot in the Xfin­ity Se­ries cham­pi­onship.

The vic­tory was the se­ries-high sev­enth Kevin Har­vick was the fastest in both prac­tices Satur­day in prepa­ra­tion for to­day’s NASCAR race in Avondale, Ariz.

AUTO RAC­ING of the sea­son for Bell, last year’s Truck Se­ries cham­pion. De­spite his dom­i­nance through­out the year, Bell crashed in the pre­vi­ous two races and started Satur­day sev­enth in the stand­ings. His only shot to make it to the fi­nale was via a vic­tory, and Bell came through to earn a shot at a sec­ond NASCAR na­tional ti­tle.

Bell will race for the crown against Cole Custer, Daniel Hem­ric and Tyler Red­dick.

Justin All­gaier, the reg­u­lar-sea­son cham­pion, was elim­i­nated af­ter fin­ish­ing 24th. El­liott Sadler, who is re­tir­ing, also was elim­i­nated.

[RICK SCUTERI/ THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS]

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