Harvick Enjoys Solid Day in Kansas, Finishes Third
Location: Kansas Speedway / Kansas City, Kan.
Start Position: 24th
Finish Position: 3rd
Points Position: Third (gained two positions, 30 points behind the leader)
Kevin Harvick and the No.29 Shell-Pennzoil team scored a third-place finish on Sunday at Kansas Speedway, catapulting the Richard Childress Racing team up two positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings to third. Harvick now trails the leader, Jimmie Johnson, by 30 points with seven races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The effort was the team’s 13th top-five and 19th top-10 finish of the year, both NSCS highs.
On Friday, the Gil Martin-led team worked on race trim for the first half of the day’s 90-minute practice session before switching over to qualifying trim. The team was very happy with their car in race trim, and after switching over to qualifying trim, the No. 29 team was 17th on the sheet. In qualifying later Friday afternoon, Harvick ran a lap of 172.960 mph, good enough for 24th for Sunday’s 267-lap affair.
Saturday’s duel practice sessions gave the No. 29 team the opportunity to fine-tune their Chevrolet, and Harvick was 22nd and 24th, respectively, in the two sessions. The car was extremely fast over the course of a run, thus Martin and Harvick elected to finish their work in the final practice session with 40 minutes remaining.
A crowd of 100,000 NASCAR fans packed the Kansas Speedway grandstands on Sunday, and Harvick took the green flag from his 24th-starting slot. He was extremely quiet on the radio throughout the first green-flag run, as he and spotter, Billy O’Dea, worked through traffic and moved up the leaderboard. The Bakersfield, Calif., native was scored 20th on lap 10, and cracked the top 15 on lap 28. Moments later, the 14-time NSCS winner reported that his Shell-Pennzoil entry was too tight off the corner.
The race’s first caution flag waved on lap 44 with Harvick running 12th. He brought his red and yellow machine to pit road, where the RCR team changed all four tires, made a minor chassis adjustment, and added fuel. Harvick left the pits in 13th.
Once the green flag waved on lap 46, Harvick was on a mission to make his way to the front of the field. Reporting that his car was perfect, he powered his way inside the top 10 and set his sights on the top five. On lap 86, Harvick passed the No. 2 machine for fifth, consistently posting the fastest laps of anyone on the 1.5-mile track.
Routine green-flag pit stops started on lap 96, and Martin instructed Harvick to pit for tires and fuel with no adjustments. Once the pit stops had cycled through, the No. 29 was listed in the fourth position. The long green-flag run continued, and Harvick sliced the deficit to the leader in half over the next 40 laps.
While running third on lap 145, another round of green-flag pit stops began. This time, Martin instructed Harvick to stay out just long enough to lead a lap prior to pitting. After leading lap 147 and earning five precious bonus points, Harvick entered the pits for fresh tires and fuel. After the sequence of pit stops, Harvick was scored in fourth.
Six laps later, the caution flag waved for an incident on the backstretch. After watching the top three cars come to pit lane, Martin instructed Harvick to stay out and assume the lead. Several cars took fuel only, and Harvick took the green flag on lap 170 as the leader.
The Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet paced the field for the next 14 circuits, but then fell back to third as he battled a loose condition. The day’s final caution flag waved on lap 187, and the Martin-led team changed four tires and made an air pressure adjustment. A few teams elected to take just right-side tires, and Harvick was scored sixth for the restart on lap 189.
Over the final laps of the 400-mile event, Harvick was able to rally to third, and was closing in on Jimmie Johnson for second, but ran out of time and took the checkered flag right behind the No. 48 machine. Greg Biffle scored the victory, while Johnson, Harvick, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five.
Fellow RCR teammates Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton finished 15th and 18th, respectively.
Johnson is now the leader in NSCS points, with Denny Hamlin in second, eight points back, while Harvick is third, 30 points in arrears to Johnson. Burton is ninth, 101 points back, while Bowyer is 12th, 252 points behind the leader.
Next week is the fourth race of the 10-week Chase, and the teams will battle it out in the Fontana 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, October 10th. The race will be televised live on ESPN at 3 pm EDT, and will be broadcast worldwide on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius-XM Satellite Radio. Qualifying for the 30th race on the NSCS tour will be Friday at 6:30 pm EDT, and will be televised live on ESPN2.
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE:
“Our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet was good from the drop of the green flag today. I have to thank everyone that worked on this car. It ran awesome, and the ECR engine had great power. Track position was important today, and it took a little longer than we needed to get through traffic after our pit stops. It was a great day, though. The car was fast all weekend, and we are looking forward to Fontana next week.”