Perseverance by the Shell-Pennzoil Team Nets a Ninth-Place Finish in Atlanta HAMPTON, Ga. -- Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing's No. 29 team persevered and made the most of an ill-handling chassis to score a ninth-place finish in the ...
Perseverance by the Shell-Pennzoil Team Nets a Ninth-Place Finish in Atlanta
HAMPTON, Ga. -- Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing's No. 29 team persevered and made the most of an ill-handling chassis to score a ninth-place finish in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The effort was Harvick's fourth consecutive top-10 finish in as many races this year, and he remains the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point leader, owning a 26-point lead over Matt Kenseth.
When the team unloaded its familiar red and yellow No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet on Friday morning, their hopes were understandably high. The team scored top-five finishes in both events in Atlanta last season. But their weekend got off to an inauspicious start when Harvick was only able to muster the 35th-fastest qualifying lap on Friday evening.
The team spent all day Saturday searching for speed during the two practice sessions. In the first session, Harvick posted the 19th-fastest lap, but fell to 40th fastest in the final happy hour practice.
Race fans were greeted with sunny skies on Sunday, and Harvick started the scheduled 325-lap race from his 35th starting slot. During the early going, he radioed to crew chief Gil Martin that his No. 29 was extremely tight. As the run continued, the chassis started to go dead loose on the exit of the corner.
That theme would become the norm throughout the day. Martin and the Shell-Pennzoil team would make a series of air pressure adjustments, including numerous chassis adjustments, but nothing ever seemed to bring their Chevrolet Impala to life.
Harvick was mired mid-pack throughout the majority of the event, and he eventually lost a lap to the leader, Kasey Kahne, on lap 221.
Just four laps later a caution was displayed for debris, and Harvick just narrowly missed out on being the "free pass" car. The team used the opportunity to take another shot at more chassis adjustments, and Harvick left pit road, one lap down, in 23rd.
But those changes were no help for the Bakersfield, Calif., native and he fell back several spots until another caution slowed the racing action at lap 287. Knowing they needed a break, Martin gambled and elected to keep Harvick on the track. By doing so, the No. 29 machine was a beneficiary of the wave around rule, and Harvick earned a spot on the lead lap.
In order for Martin's gamble to pay off, the team needed a quick caution. Just one lap later, the team got their wish. This time the crew took extra time in the pits, made several major chassis adjustments, and gave Harvick enough fuel to make it to the end.
On the lap-298 restart, Harvick took off from the 19th position. He immediately informed Martin that the car was finally manageable, and he started picking off cars one by one.
He cracked the top 15 on lap 302, and when a late caution was displayed on lap 322, Harvick was scored in the top 10. All of the lead lap cars came to pit road for tires. Martin and company put four fresh Goodyear Eagles on the No. 29 machine and Harvick left pit road in the 12th position.
The field's first attempt at a green-white-checkered flag finish saw Harvick pass two cars to move back to 10th, but the caution flag was displayed again, this time for a multi-car incident in turn three. With the help of his spotter, Bill O'Dea, Harvick just narrowly missed the wreckage.
After several laps under the caution flag, the race was restarted and the competitors raced back to the checkered flag without another incident. When the action concluded, Harvick scored a ninth-place finish.
Kurt Busch won the event, and Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard rounded out the top five. Harvick's RCR teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer finished 20th and 23rd, respectively.
Next week Harvick and his RCR team will enjoy a week off before they tackle the "World's Fastest Half-Mile," Bristol Motor Speedway.
KEVIN HARVICK: "If a ninth-place effort ever felt like a win, then that was it. We just weren't very good all weekend. Gil made a great call late in the race to not pit and take the wave around. We got a quick caution, which enabled us to get tires, and take a big swing at the chassis. Today was the kind of day that we just couldn't manufacture last year. I am awfully proud of everyone on this Shell-Pennzoil team."