Harvick continues fast pace

Kevin Harvick continues to go fast.

He came to Las Vegas after winning at Phoenix on Sunday, and if Thursday’s testing session was any indication, he’ll be a strong contender this Sunday in the Kobalt 400.

Harvick posted the fastest lap at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, running a speed of 190.148 mph. He was the only one to top 190.

His 184.134-mph average in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was second among 10-lap averages to the 184.371 by the Paul Menard-Matt Crafton combination.

“I think the best thing that happened today is the car didn’t run very fast at the beginning of the practice,” Harvick said. “We were three- or four-tenths off and had to kind of abort what we were doing and go a different route. The next route was not as good, and the third route finally wound up being good. I think those are good things that are, for us, important because it gives us direction when we go to other 1½-mile racetracks so we don’t have to do like we did today.

“We ran really well last week and coming here and running really well right out of the box probably wouldn’t have been the best thing in the world just for the fact that it’s good for those guys to know that sometimes you’ve got to keep working at it. It’s good for all of us to have to work at it and communicate and do things that you are going to have to do throughout the year to overcome things.”

NASCAR made some rules and setup changes that teams are still trying to work through, and that made the testing session important.

“Right now, I think guys are just looking for single-car speed, looking for trends,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development. “Everything that Kevin said, most garages are going through the same thing. I think Kevin said it best, it took three different versions, and they finally got direction.”

■ STILL SOME MYSTERY — Three-segment qualifying takes place for the first time at 3:35 p.m. today since NASCAR instituted the new format.

Rather than single-car qualifying, 48 drivers will take the track at the same time in the first of three segments to winnow the field to 24. Then the next segment drops it to 12, and those remaining drivers compete to set the field. Tracks at least 1¼ miles use three segments.

A two-segment qualifying session took place at mile-long Phoenix.

Greg Biffle, who drives the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, said some information can be gleaned from last week, but drivers still have plenty to learn about how to approach the longer track with the extra segment.

“The temperature of the engine is a big deal, and this being a mile and a half is significantly different than a one-mile (for) throttle time and run time on the engine,” he said. “So you have to make three runs at a minimum with having to cool the engine down enough to be able to do that with just a fan.

“It’s probably going to be a mystery tomorrow on how all that works out.”

■ ON STANDBY — Menard and Crafton shared testing because both need to be ready for the weekend.

Menard is the lead driver, but will give the seat to Crafton in his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet if his wife goes into labor this weekend.

“It’s tough, because you just don’t know when or even if it will happen, but kind of like that backup quarterback, you have to be ready at any time,” Crafton said. “Paul and I have been good friends going back to 2001. We’ve raced together, and I actually spotted for him early in his career. For him to have the confidence in me to get the job done if he has to head back home, that’s awesome.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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