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Saturday Charlotte Notebook

KEVIN HARVICK ELATED AT RON HORNADAY'S NASCAR HALL OF FAME ELECTION

CONCORD, N.C. - Turn-about is fair play.

When Ron Hornaday Jr. was voted into the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday, he had glowing words for Kevin and DeLana Harvick, who gave Hornaday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career a major boost by hiring him to drive their trucks.

Kevin Harvick and Hornaday have a long history. When Harvick first ventured to North Carolina to try his hand at the highest levels of stock car racing, Hornaday provided a couch for his fellow Californian to sleep on, as he also did for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and more than a handful of other drivers.

Needless to say, when Harvick learned Hornaday had been elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, he was elated.

"I've been pulling for Ron the whole time, but you look at all the other names and you're like, 'Oh, man, how is he going to beat Bobby Labonte or Alan Kulwicki or Roger Penske or this guy or that guy,'" Harvick told the NASCAR Wire Service on Thursday night after putting his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford on the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (at 6 p.m. ET on FOX).

Harvick recalled a conversation he had with one of the veterans of the sport on the subject of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Though Harvick wasn't sure who the particular old-timer was, the subject matter was crystal clear.

"I remember the conversation like it was yesterday because I remember him saying, 'This is not a NASCAR Premier Series Hall of Fame, this is the NASCAR Hall of Fame," Harvick said. "And when you think about it that way, and a guy's got four championships and came along with the start of the series, and changed the complexion of the sport, and drove for one of the icons in our sport in Dale Earnhardt, and started the Truck Series and had his own chassis shop, and raced in all the regional and late model series at every short track across the country...

"And then to have him drive for me and the history that Ron and I have together from a personal standpoint, it's just neat to see. When you see all that come together-and I saw it this morning-I was like, 'Man.' That is just the ultimate compliment to a guy who has given his whole life to building and racing and being a part of it and sacrificed everything that he's had, been in debt, been upside-down and just helped half the garage get to where they are with giving them cars or letting them sleep on his couch or whatever the case may be.

"And it's just great to see that happen for him and I'm just proud to be a small part of it, because he's earned everything that he's ever gotten his whole life. It's been neat to see."

FORDS ARE FAST IN SATURDAY MORNING'S FIRST MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP PRACTICE

Ryan Blaney topped the speed chart in Saturday morning's first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a best lap at 188.055 mph, but Blaney's No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford wasn't the only fast Fusion in the session.

The Fords from the much-improved Roush Fenway Racing stable appear poised to mount a challenge in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR's longest race. Trevor Bayne (186.239 mph) was fifth fastest on Saturday morning, with teammate and recent Talladega winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. close behind at 186.207 mph.

"We unloaded pretty good today, but we know that off-the-truck speed isn't what matters," Bayne said. "It's being able to go on the long runs as the day gets hotter and the track slicks up. I actually felt like we held onto our speed pretty well at the end of practice, so I think both of us have made huge gains.

"I need to give a big shout out to these guys for working their butts off this last week after (last Saturday's) All-Star Race, when we didn't have the performance that we wanted. They've dialed our cars in a lot."

SHORT STROKES

There's one guarantee for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway: there will be tremendous speed coming from the back of the field. Kyle Larson, who will start next-to-last in 39th after his car failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection on Thursday, paced final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice on Saturday with a lap at 186.400 mph. Larson's No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was damaged when the car bounced off the Turn 2 wall during Thursday's opening practice, thereby impeding its progress through the inspection stations...

Led by Larson's chart-topping performance, Chevrolets appeared to make gains during Happy Hour after lagging behind in earlier practices. Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were sixth, seventh and eighth fastest, respectively, during final practice. That was particularly good news for Earnhardt, who suffered through a miserable Monster Energy All-Star Race last Saturday and fought an ill-handling car during practice and qualifying on Thursday.

-- NASCAR Wire Service --