Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser team started 10th and persevered through some late-race adversity to finish fifth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Saturday night.
The Richard Childress Racing driver used his admirable starting position to methodically move forward in the early stages of the 367-lap race.
Under each of those stops, the Budweiser Chevrolet SS team changed four tires, made track bar and/or air pressure adjustments.
With the first caution not waving until lap 125, and for only the second time on lap 303, the pit stops under green were paramount to remaining in the top 10.
The only time Harvick didn't retain that level of track position was when he got caught a lap down under the second caution, which was four laps after a green-flag pit stop.
However, they were able to take the wave around and return to lead lap status in 12th place. Three more cautions and the leader receiving a "Darlington Stripe" dropping him back all played into Harvick and the team's favor.
They overcame and pushed on to finish fifth which, in turn, moved them up two spots to 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship points standings.
Kevin Harvick (Start - 10 / Finish - 5 / Laps Led - 0 / Points - 10th): "That was a pretty good run for this whole Budweiser Chevrolet team tonight. We were loose for most of the race and those long green-flag stops didn't help us any, either.
When we got caught a lap down there, I thought it was going to ruin our night. But, we overcame that, had great stops on pit road and took advantage of things out of our control to finish fifth. It was a good night for this team."
Menard Finishes 19th at the Track Too Tough to Tame
Starting from the 15th position, Paul Menard and the No. 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet faced handling issues throughout the 367-lap event, earning a 19th-place finish at Darlington Raceway.
Shortly after the green flag flew, Menard began to struggle with a loose-handling condition and crew chief "Slugger" Labbe called for a variety of chassis adjustments during the ensuing pit stops.
By lap 185 the series of track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments provided some relief to Menard and he was running in the 12th position.
Though running inside the top 15, long green flag runs, coupled with a loose race car, caused the Wisconsin native to fall a lap down to the leader on lap 271.
Shortly after losing a lap, Menard came into the pits for four tires, fuel and a spring rubber adjustment. Upon entry to pit road, Menard struck the commitment cone and was assessed a pass though penalty causing him to fall to 22nd, three laps down to the leader.
A series of caution flags followed in the closing laps of the 501-mile event, allowing Menard to take the "wave around" on two separate occasions. Gaining two of his laps back, Menard and crew never gave up and he was able to fight his way back inside the top-20 to finish 19th when the checkered flag flew. Menard now sits in 11thin the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
Paul Menard (Start - 15 / Finish - 19 / Laps Led - 0 / Points - 11th): "It was a tough night for the No. 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards crew. We struggled with handling issues for the majority of the day, and I put us behind late with a pit road penalty.
Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) made adjustments all night and we were able to catch a break at the end with those caution flags to get a couple of our laps back.
We'll learn from tonight and move on to Charlotte next weekend, try to have some fun and race our way into the big show (All-Star Race) on Saturday night."
Jeff Burton Finishes in 21st-Place at Darlington Raceway
Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team posted a 21 st-place finish in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner started the 367-lap event in the 11th position and maintained a top-15 running position in the early stages of the race, despite wrestling with a tight-handling Chevrolet.
As day turned into night, Burton battled an ill-handling condition throughout uncharacteristically long green-flag runs at the historic 1.366-mile race track which spread out the 43-car field, relegating the South Boston, Va., native multiple laps down to the leader while running in the top 20.
In the final stages of the race, Burton wasn't able to recover from the tight-in and loose-off condition on the slick asphalt surface, but the veteran Sprint Cup Series driver stayed out of trouble during multiple incidents and picked up a position over the final 30 laps to bring home a 21st-place finish. Burton now sits 20th in Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
Jeff Burton (Start-11 / Finish-21 / Laps Led-0 / Points-20th): "That was a rough night for No. 31 Caterpillar team. We definitely didn't get the rotation we wanted to in the middle of the turns which pretty much set the tone for the evening.
These guys never gave up and we were able to play strategy and gain some positions in the end. I'm proud of their effort. I'm confident our team will bounce back at Charlotte Motor Speedway these next two weekends."
Richard Childress Racing