Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet SS team finished 13th in the NRA 500 under the lights of Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday evening. Harvick qualified the red and black machine in the 29th position, but was forced to start the 334-lap affair from the back of the field after the team changed engines during the final practice Friday afternoon.
Throughout the course of the race, the Rheem pit crew made chassis and air pressure adjustments during multiple scheduled four-tire pit stops to remedy the handling issues their driver was battling.
Harvick continued to race in the top 10 until the caution flag was displayed on lap 282 in the midst of green-flag pit stops, just after the No. 29 team had visited pit road, placing Harvick one lap down to the leader.
Harvick took the wave around during the next caution placing the Rheem Chevrolet in the 13th-position for the ensuing restart. The Richard Childress Racing driver remained in the top 15 during the final laps, ultimately crossing the finish line 13th. The top-15 result allowed Harvick to gain two positions, to 12th, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
Kevin Harvick (Start - 29 / Finish - 13 / Laps Led - 0 / Points - 12th): "It seems like we just can't catch a break these days. All the odds were against us this weekend. We had engine issues that forced us to start from the back of the pack and then went a lap down when the caution came out during green-flag pit stops. Hopefully, our luck will change soon and we can start collecting the finishes this team deserves."
Paul Menard Finishes 17th in the Lone Star State
Paul Menard finished 17th at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday evening after having mechanical issues with two laps remaining in the 334-lap event. The Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet SS driver took the green flag from the 19th position and struggled with handling issues during the early and middle portions of the race.
The No. 27 pit crew made an array of chassis adjustments on the ensuing pit stops in an attempt to remedy the loose handing condition on entry and exit of the corners. After a lap-152 pit stop for four fresh tires, fuel, air pressure adjustments and removal of a right-side packer, the 32-year-old driver relayed to the crew that the No. 27 machine was the best it had been all night.
Steadily working his way toward the front of the field, Menard was scored 10th at lap 262. With just 19 laps remaining, the caution flag flew and the Eau Claire, Wis., native brought his car into the pits for four fresh tires and fuel.
A lightning-fast stop by the crew allowed him to gain two spots, restarting ninth. Looking as though he was going to have his fourth top-10 finish of the season, rear suspension failure with just two laps to go relegated Menard to a 17th-place result in the Lone Star State. Menard now sits 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings heading into Kansas Speedway.
Paul Menard (Start - 19 / Finish - 17 / Laps Led - 0 / Points - 10th): "We struggled with the handling of the Quaker State/Menards car early in the race, but the crew never gave up and we were able to work our way inside the top 10. We had a fast Chevrolet SS at the end of the race, and it's unfortunate we had mechanical issues with just a couple of laps to go. We'll keep our heads up and head to Kansas Speedway looking for better results."
Late-Race Incident Ends Solid Run for Burton, No. 31 Cat Racing Team at TMS
Jeff Burton was making gains on handling issues that plagued the No. 31 Caterpillar Hybrid Excavator Chevrolet SS throughout the first half of the NRA 500, when unexpected contact with another car ended any chance of a good finish.
Burton qualified 21st, lining up on the inside of the 11th row for Saturday evening's 334-lap race. The handling of the Chevy SS was loose from the drop of the green flag, but an early caution allowed crew chief Luke Lambert the opportunity to call for chassis adjustments.
Further adjustments during two more stops under caution, and a green-flag stop on lap 130, found Burton holding his ground in 20th but unable to move forward. That move began some 40 laps later with the No. 31 up to 17th place on lap 172, 15th on lap 180 and 13th on lap 197.
The Cat team continued to work on the car and, despite the handling still on loose side, Burton was running 13th on lap 275. Lambert kept his driver on the track until the end of a fuel cycle, with hopes of stretching the fuel mileage enough so the next stop would be the last.
Unfortunately, on lap 281, Burton was caught up in a wreck on the back straight, just two turns before coming onto pit road. Damage to the left-rear quarter panel was the most visible, but it was front-end chassis damage that caused the biggest problem.
Multiple pit stops under caution allowed the Cat crew to make enough repairs to allow Burton back onto the track to finish in the 23rd position; two laps down to eventual winner Kyle Busch.
Jeff Burton (Start - 21 / Finish - 23 / Laps Led - 0 / Points - 23rd (+1): "It was an unfortunate night for the Cat Racing team. We struggled with the handling through the first half of the race. The crew did a great job making adjustments but, for whatever reason, we'd run good for a few laps and then the handling would go back to real loose all of a sudden. We were actually running okay (in the 13th position) when we got caught up in that wreck late in the race."
Richard Childress Racing