Resilient Harvick Finishes Second to Bowyer at Talladega Kevin Harvick and the No.29 Realtree team suffered damage from two separate incidents on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, but the resilient driver and team would not be denied a strong...
Resilient Harvick Finishes Second to Bowyer at Talladega
Kevin Harvick and the No.29 Realtree team suffered damage from two separate incidents on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, but the resilient driver and team would not be denied a strong result as the team finished second behind the No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet and driver Clint Bowyer. Harvick led eight times for a total of 12 laps, and shaved 24 points off his deficit to point leader Jimmie Johnson. The Bakersfield, Calif., driver now trails Johnson by 38 points with three races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The effort was the team's 23rd top-10 finish of the year, three more than any other NSCS competitor. Additionally, it was Harvick's fourth top-10 finish in as many restrictor-plate races this year. The 14-time NSCS winner scored a 2.75 average finish between the two Daytona and two Talladega races in 2010.
On Friday at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, the Gil Martin-led team worked solely on race trim. The team was so happy with their car that they elected not to practice in the second and final session of the weekend. In qualifying on Saturday, the No. 29 Realtree Chevrolet ran a lap of 183.375 mph, which would line up the white and camouflage machine on the outside of row seven for Sunday's 188-lap event.
A crowd of 110,000 NASCAR fans came to Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday to watch a breathtaking display of drafting and racing around the huge Alabama oval. Harvick took the green flag from his 14th-place starting slot, and it took just two laps for the other teams to take notice that the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing machine was one to be reckoned with as he charged to the lead and gained five valuable bonus points for leading a lap.
With the furious racing at the front of the pack, Harvick settled in the top 10 as a round of routine green-flag pit stops started on lap 38. Martin instructed Harvick to pit on lap 40 for four tires and fuel. Once the pit stops cycled through, Harvick was still scored inside the top 10.
The RCR driver powered his way back to the point on lap 63, and the race's first caution flag waved on lap 68, giving the teams a chance to catch their breath and make another stop for tires and fuel. Once the debris was cleared from the track, NASCAR officials displayed the green flag on lap 74.
The next 61 laps were run under green-flag conditions, but on lap 134, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got into RCR teammate Jeff Burton, triggering a wreck in turn three. Harvick was just behind the duo and took evasive action, swerving left onto the apron and missing the spinning Burton. But, as the No. 29 machine turned down on the apron, cosmetic damage was done to the side-skirts and splitter of the RCR Chevy.
Harvick brought his car to pit road to the attention of Martin and the crew, and the No. 29 made the necessary repairs and sent him back on the track. Harvick entered the track in 22nd.
The green flag was displayed on lap 139, and again, just three laps later, the No. 29 car found itself at the wrong place at the wrong time. Marcos Ambrose (No. 47) got turned around off of turn two directly in Harvick's path. With nowhere to go, Harvick plowed into the side of the No. 47 car, and the No. 29 suffered damage to the nose and right-front fender. Additionally, Harvick slid the tires and had two flats.
Harvick drove straight to pit road for an assessment of the damage and fresh tires. During the extended caution flag period, Harvick pitted a total of four times, and the RCR team did a phenomenal job of making repairs, and Harvick restarted on lap 145 in 31st.
With just 33 laps remaining and not knowing if his car would draft properly, Harvick silenced all the doubters and rallied inside the top five in just six laps.
As the laps wound down, drafting partners were made and David Reutimann in the No. 00 car was lined up directly behind Harvick on a restart with just four laps remaining. The duo worked extremely well together in the early stages of the race, and the plan was to form a two-car pack and drive to the front. Harvick took the green flag on lap 185 in 13th, and the plan was put into action.
As the teams raced back to the white flag, Harvick had taken over the lead from Bowyer. As the pair of RCR cars raced off into turn one and two, several cars in the middle of the pack wrecked, and the caution flag was displayed and the field was frozen. In what felt like an eternity, NASCAR officials reviewed the video to see which RCR car was in front at the time of the caution. While the No. 29 and No. 33 teams waited on the verdict, Bowyer and Harvick celebrated their one-two finish on the track and the RCR crew members embraced in their own celebration on pit road. After several minutes, Bowyer was deemed the victor, and Harvick was the runner-up.
The victory was RCR's 11th win at Talladega Superspeedway, the most among all car owners. Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, giving Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines a clean sweep of the top-three finishers. Reutimann was credited with fourth, while Joey Logano finished fifth. Burton was unable to get back on the track after his accident, and he finished 41st.
KEVIN HARVICK: "I knew it was close. We came to the start/finish line and I thought I beat him, but I didn't know if the caution had come out at that particular time. It was a great day at RCR. I just want to thank everybody on this Realtree Chevrolet. Our team made a ton of repairs, and they did a fantastic job. You just never know how it is all going to wind up here at Talladega, and today we were on the good end of it."
YOU HAD A COUPLE OF CLOSE CALLS, HOW DID YOU REMAIN PATIENT AND CALM? "I knew we had some damage on the front. With the side-skirt, I just saw the cars wrecking in front of me and we were able to just jerk left and try to stay out of the wreck. After we fixed the damage from the deal with the No. 47, I could see the tape start to fly off the front, and I knew we had a big dent up there. It looks worse than I thought. They did a good job fixing it."
CHAMPIONSHIP IMPLICATION, IS THIS THING WIDE OPEN NOW? "We are getting closer. That is all that matters."
DID YOU THINK YOU HAD IT WON? "I didn't know when the caution came out, but I thought we beat him to the line. It was really close. I just have to thank David Reutimann. He pushed me all day and he was really good behind us. Our car was kind of beat up in the front there, but it was just going to be a drag race there to the end. We did what we needed to do and we kept it one-two in the right house. It was just a great day for RCR, and a good day in the points. I have to thank everybody from Realtree and Chevrolet."