Harvick/Pennzoil Ultra Team Finish Second in Vegas LAS VEGAS-- Kevin Harvick and his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team continued to show their early-season prominence by scoring a second-place finish on Sunday in the Shelby American at Las...
Harvick/Pennzoil Ultra Team Finish Second in Vegas
LAS VEGAS-- Kevin Harvick and his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team continued to show their early-season prominence by scoring a second-place finish on Sunday in the Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The effort was Harvick's second consecutive runner-up finish, and the outing extended his lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings to 47 points over RCR teammate, Clint Bowyer.
The No. 29 team unloaded a bright yellow paint scheme on Friday at Las Vegas featuring an exciting new product, Pennzoil Ultra. But on Harvick's very first run in practice, the Bakersfield, Calif. native brushed the Turn 2 wall. The damage forced the team to lose valuable practice time, and Harvick was never able to make a mock-qualifying run during the 90-minute practice session.
Friday afternoon during Sprint Cup Series qualifying, Harvick was only able turn a lap good enough for 34th fastest.
The team knew they would need a great setup to overcome their poor starting position. The group showed tremendous resolve throughout the weekend, taking every opportunity to work on the car until they found the right balance for their Pennzoil Ultra Chevrolet Impala. During Saturday's two practice sessions, Harvick turned the 25th and 20th fastest laps, respectively.
Clear skies greeted the sold out crowd on Sunday, and Harvick wasted little time at the back of the pack. Once the green flag was displayed to the 43-car field, Harvick started his forward march through the field.
After just 10 laps of racing, the No. 29 machine was scored 25th. Harvick reported that the track felt very slick. Eight laps later Harvick cracked the top 20, and his lap times were consistently as fast or faster than the leader, Jeff Gordon.
The handling on the No. 29 progressively got loose during the first stint, and a caution at Lap 45 gave the team its first opportunity to make some adjustments to their car. Four fresh Goodyear tires with an air pressure adjustment, a full load of fuel, and a trackbar adjustment were ordered from crew chief Gil Martin. Excellent work in the pits got Harvick back on the track in 17th.
The changes tightened up the chassis considerably, and Harvick's forward progress stalled momentarily. Another caution at Lap 88 gave the team another chance to come to pit road for more service. Several teams opted for just two tires, but Gil Martin ordered four tires and fuel. That call would pay major dividends later.
Harvick left pit road in 19th. The race resumed on Lap 92, but the action was slowed on Lap 107 when the caution lights were illuminated unexpectedly.
All of the lead lap cars came to pit road, and those that took two tires on Lap 92 were forced to take at least two this time. But the Pennzoil Ultra team took no tires and just topped off with fuel. Harvick left pit road in eighth.
On the restart on Lap 113, the No. 29 RCR entry came to life. One lap later Harvick passed Carl Edwards for seventh, and then got by Scott Speed for sixth on Lap 116.
Harvick radioed to the crew that the car felt really good, and it showed. On Lap 129 he entered the top five by passing Kyle Busch. For several consecutive circuits, Harvick turned the fastest laps on the track.
Green-flag pit stops began on Lap 160 with Harvick in fourth. The team left Harvick on the track just long enough to lead a lap and gain five bonus points. As soon as he led his lap, Harvick pitted on Lap 163 for four fresh tires and fuel. The team made a minor air pressure adjustment.
Once the green-flag stops cycled through, the top five was Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, and Harvick. There were only 16 cars on the lead lap.
Harvick was able to motor around his RCR teammate, Burton, for fourth on Lap 175. Kenseth pitted out of sequence on Lap 200, relinquishing the third position to Harvick.
Once again Harvick was consistently the fastest car on the track. He radioed to the team, "If I could hit Turn 1 and 2 like I can hit Turn 3 and 4, then I would be on it."
Crew chief Gil Martin responded, "You are three tenths of a second faster than the rest of the field. You are already on it."
Another round of green-flag pit stops started on Lap 213, and Harvick pitted two laps later for four more tires and fuel and no adjustments. Once the pits stops cycled through, the top five was Gordon, Johnson, Kenseth, Harvick and Burton. There were just 11 cars on the lead lap.
A quick caution for debris slowed the field one final time on Lap 228 of the 267-lap event. Bowyer elected to stay out, but the rest of the lead-lap cars came to pit road. Gordon and Harvick took two tires, while Johnson took four.
Once the race restarted on Lap 233, the top five was Bowyer, Gordon, Harvick, Johnson and Kenseth.
Bowyer quickly surrendered the lead to Gordon, while Johnson was able to slide by Harvick on the restart, pushing the No. 29 machine to fourth.
Harvick passed Bowyer for third on Lap 237, and he took aim to chase down the Chevrolet Impalas of Gordon and Johnson. Harvick caught Gordon on Lap 258 and four laps later he was able to complete the pass for second place.
The RCR team ran out of time in its pursuit of Johnson, forcing the team to finish second to the No. 48 car for the second week in a row.
Rounding out the top five were Gordon, Mark Martin and Kenseth. Richard Childress Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton finished eighth and eleventh, respectively.
"I just have to thank all my Pennzoil Ultra guys, they did a great job this weekend after I got into the wall there at the beginning of practice and put us behind for the start of the weekend. We had a good enough car to come through the field. Just came up a little bit short again this week. But just a good day for us. Led a lap and did what we had to do.
"Gil (Martin, crew chief) made a great call in the middle of the race to get us track position. Once we got track position, our car was really fast. Those guys got away from us a little bit on the restart there, kind of like they did last week. We just needed a complete run. All-in-all, to come from where we started and to rebound from our tough day on Friday, those are things we couldn't do over the past couple of years. So, just proud of all my guys and looking forward to keep going to Atlanta."
Next week Harvick and his RCR teammates travel to Hampton, Ga. to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the running of the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday, March 7th. will take place Friday at 6 p.m. EST on SPEED.