In this edition of The Sports Inquirer Show, we discuss:
-Major League Soccer’s plan for return to the 2020 season with the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando with audio from Atlanta United players Brad Guzan and Jake Mulraney in the Original Free Kick.
-The NBA’s intentions to resume its 2020 season in Orlando, players Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard expressing disapproval of the plan and audio of Atlanta Hawks player Trae Young discussing the conclusion of his team’s season in the Backdoor Cut.
-Sports and politics blending in an uneasy way in the United States, NASCAR banning the Confederate flag at race events, the return of the PGA Tour with Daniel Berger winning the Charles Schwab Challenge and the continued struggles of Major League Baseball labor negotiations in the Miscellaneous Department.
Kevin Harvickblew an engine in practice and went to the back of the field for the start of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
He said it was just a chance to put on a better show.
Harvick certainly did, charging from the 41st starting spot to fourth in less than 50 laps. But so did six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who was also at the back of the pack after failing to qualify due to an inspection kerfuffle.
The two dueled for the second half of the race, with parries from Dale Earnhardt Jr.and Joey Logano making things even more interesting, but it was Johnson pulling away at the end, taking the checkered flag in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 for his fourth victory at Atlanta.
“I’m just so excited that the guys — we have new guys — could understand what I was complaining about and the things I didn’t like about my race car,” said Johnson, who started 38th.
“This thing was just bad fast. I had a blast racing with the 4. He was awfully strong today. I think track position there at the end set things in place. We had the restart we needed to, cleared the 88 and off we went.”
Coming out of a caution with 14 laps to go, Earnhardt nosed ahead, only to be reeled in by Johnson. The No. 48 dropped the hammer and surged to an insurmountable lead.
Johnson led 92 laps, second only to Harvick’s 116, and clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff.
Harvick was runner-up and Earnhardt completed a 1-2-3 Chevy sweep.
“Today was a lot of fun racing with (Johnson),” Harvick said. “We had a good race as we got to the middle portion of the race. I just got behind on one restart there and just never really made it back up there.
“Jimmie had the clean air there and was able to get going on the restart. I struggled on the restarts all day.”
Harvick moved up 25 spots in the first 23 laps and quickly found himself near the front of the pack. Logano, who won the pole and was coming off an impressive victory at Daytona last week, led the majority of the first 86 laps, but then took a backseat to the battle between Johnson, Harvick and Earnhardt. He finished fourth.
“We raced hard,” Logano said. “We raced up toward the front all day, just those Hendrick cars are fast.
“I did everything I could to maintain on restarts and being aggressive. Overall we’re still having a good start to the season.”
Earnhardt might have had a better chance if not for some debris knocking the grille out of his car.
“It was pretty much over with when that happened,” Earnhardt said. “We had a great car today, just not enough to beat Jimmie.”
Two more former champs, Matt Kensethand Jeff Gordon, also were forced to the back of the starting field due to the inspection issues at Friday’s Cup qualifying. Kenseth fought his way to a fifth-place finish.
Gordon had made similar headway to get into the top-10, but was caught up in a field-thinning multi-car smash-up with 67 laps to go.
“I thought we had a shot at a top 5,” Gordon said. “Obviously this is not the way we wanted to start our season.”
Gordon was racing at Atlanta for the last time after making his Cup debut here in 1992.
Kasey Kahne, last year’s winner at Atlanta ran as high as fifth but couldn’t muster the speed to repeat in 2015.
Kevin Harvickregained the lead with 26 laps to go and held off red-hot Joey Loganoto win the Hisense 250 XFINITY Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for a third straight time.
Harvick led 101 of 163 laps en route to the victory Saturday.
“The first thing I want to do is thank all those fans today,” Harvick said. “To see that crowd out there, I’m really happy for Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“That pit stop is what won this race. Joey probably had a little bit better car the second half of the run, but it really played out there for us as we were able to have that short run and take off.”
Logano, who claimed poles for both the XFINITY Series and Sprint Cup Series races this weekend, wrestled the lead from Harvick with 37 laps to go, but couldn’t hold off the No. 88 Chevrolet.
“This is the closest anyone’s been to beating Kevin here in a long time,” Logano said. “We got beat off pit road. We had a decent restart, but the outside lane is so tough. At that point, I was trying to move around to different lanes. Trying to find something for some speed.
“We started to catch him and then I just had this huge vibration. The left rear was just loose. At that point, I was just trying to survive.”
Ty Dillon, one of six drivers in the lineup for both races at AMS on Saturday, was third and Chris Buescherwas fourth.
Dawsonville’s Chase Elliotran fourth for much of the race and got up to third with 23 laps left. Then the 19-year-old dropped to eighth when his car got loose in heavy traffic.
“I don’t know what it looked like, but I felt like I was about to wreck,” Elliott said. “So I guess it could have been a lot worse, but I hated to lose spots there. I felt like those were very, very valuable.
“Overall, I felt like there were a lot of positives. The pits stops were really good. I think the changes on the car, they made a difference throughout the day. I just didn’t fulfill my part there at the end to try to put ourselves in position to give Kevin a run. He would have been tough to beat, but we’ll try again next week.”
Elliott fought his way back to finish fifth for the second straight time at AMS.
“Everybody was going hard,” Elliott said. “That’s just part of a restart. It was more not being as aware of the people around me, guys behind me being really close. That takes air off the spoiler and you’ve got a guy on the outside taking all your downforce on your right-side door. It just makes it really hard to drive.
“I should have just tried to give a little bit right there and maybe just try to settle in at third and try to pass those guys later on.”
Only Harvick, Logano and Matt Kenseth led laps during the race. Logano was out front for the first 49 laps, but lost the lead to Harvick when he pitted. He didn’t get it back until lap 127 and Harvick jumped right back ahead on lap 136.
“We’re headed down a good road,” Harvick said. “Getting that taste of success and winning a race is something that gets everyone motivated and takes that edge off the nerves and newness that comes. I love to be in the race car and racing. I love racing here at Atlanta. Winning races is what it’s all about and that’s what keeps you coming back.”