Harvick Scores His First Top-Five Finish Ever at Martinsville
Location: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway
Start Position: 36th
Finish Position: Third
Points Position: Third (maintained position, 62 points behind the leader)
Kevin Harvick and the No.29 Shell-Pennzoil team led six times for a total of 97 laps and finished third on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. The team shaved 15 points off their deficit to points leader, Jimmie Johnson, and Harvick now trails Johnson by 62 points with four races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The effort was the team’s 22nd top-10 finish of the year, three more than any other NSCS competitor. Additionally, it was Harvick’s first top-five finish ever in 19 Martinsville starts.
On Friday at the paper-clip shaped facility, 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 happy with their red and yellow machine, and after switching over to qualifying trim, the No. 29 team was 28th on the sheet. In qualifying later that afternoon, the Shell-Pennzoil Chevy was extremely loose, and Harvick’s lap was only fast enough to place him 36th for Sunday’s 500-lap affair.
Saturday’s dual practice sessions gave the No. 29 team the opportunity to fine tune their Chevrolet, and the Shell-Pennzoil ride came to life. Harvick was third and fifth, respectively, in the two sessions, and the team was confident they were prepared for race number six in the Chase.
A crowd of 56,000 NASCAR fans came to Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, and Harvick took the green flag from his 36th-place starting slot. The Bakersfield, Calif., native said very little on the radio in the opening stages of the grueling event, and he steadily marched up the leaderboard. The 14-time NSCS winner was 30th on lap 15, 25th on lap 24, 20th on lap 37, and 17th on lap 48 when the day’s first caution flag was displayed.
Harvick and the rest of the lead lap machines pitted, and the No. 29 crew made an amazingly quick stop to gain five positions. Harvick left pit road with fresh tires and fuel in 12th place.
Harvick’s progress continued and he cracked the top five on lap 89. Slowly, the grip on his car faded, but Harvick maintained his spot inside the top five for most of the remainder of the day.
A series of short green-flag runs in the middle of the race jumbled everyone’s pit strategy, and after Harvick pitted on lap 229, he took the green shortly after in 15th.
The racing was furious at the front of the field, and the red and yellow Chevrolet Impala sliced through the pack to seize the lead on lap 377. For the remainder of the race, Denny Hamlin, Harvick and RCR teammate Jeff Burton put on an amazing show as the competitors battled it out for the win. Harvick’s car just lost too much grip in the closing laps, and he took the checkered flag in third. Hamlin scored the victory, while Mark Martin, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Johnson rounded out the top five.
RCR stablemate Burton led five times for 134 laps, but faded at the end and finished ninth. Clint Bowyer was caught in an accident just prior to the halfway mark and finished 38th.
Johnson remains the NSCS point-leader, while Hamlin remains second, six points behind. Harvick is third, trailing the leader by 62 points.
NASCAR's premier division returns to Talladega, Ala., next weekend for the final restrictor plate race of the 2010 season, where Harvick will look to repeat after scoring the victory at Talladega in April of this year.
Live coverage of the 500 miler from Talladega Superspeedway begins Sunday, October 31 at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and will be telecast live on ESPN. The event will also be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Qualifying for the 33rd points-paying race on the 36-race tour will be broadcast live on SPEED Saturday, October 30, beginning at 12 noon EDT and can be heard worldwide on MRN and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE:
“I just have to thank everybody on this Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet. Those guys on pit road were just awesome today and really kept us up front and in the race. That’s what we have to do. We kept the No. 48 (Johnson) behind us and the No. 11 (Hamlin) in sight. Everybody said this was going to be a two-horse race, and we were right there in the middle of it. So, today was a lot of fun. We came here and finished third at a track that we never had a top-five finish. Right now, we have four more weeks. I'm really looking forward to Talladega and just racing hard."