Kevin Harvick Finishes Sixth at Darlington, Stretches Points Lead Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team finished sixth Saturday night in the SHOWTIME Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The finish increased Harvick's lead in...
Kevin Harvick Finishes Sixth at Darlington, Stretches Points Lead
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team finished sixth Saturday night in the SHOWTIME Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The finish increased Harvick's lead in the championship standings to 110 markers over second place, and marked his eighth top-10 finish in the season's first 11 races. The track commonly known as "Too Tough to Tame" made her presence felt on Friday during the two practice sessions. Many drivers earned their "Darlington stripe," but Harvick kept his Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet off the wall and turned in laps that were 11th and 36th, respectively, in each session. The Gil Martin-led team was very confident with their race setup, but looked for more speed in qualifying trim.
During qualifying on Friday evening, the team still continued to struggle with its qualifying setup, and Harvick was only able to qualify 35th fastest with a speed of 175.999 mph.
Even though the team was mired deep in the field at the start of the 500-mile event, they were still brimming with confidence. The team had qualified 33rd or worse this year on three separate occasions, and their worst finish in those three races was 11th.
The green flag waved before 67,000 fans at the historic 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval, and Harvick started his customary march forward from the onset. He was scored in 30th on lap seven, 25th on lap 23, and when the night's first of 11 caution flags waved on lap 44, the Bakersfield, Calif., native was 21st.
Several teams opted for just two tires under the caution flag period, but Martin and Company put on four fresh Goodyears, that included a minor air pressure adjustment, filled the No. 29 full of fuel, and sent him back on the track. The lightning-quick stop put Harvick in the 20th position, even with four tires.
A series of short runs ensued, and Harvick would advance a few positions with each restart. Amazingly, Harvick cracked the top 10 on lap 90 and kept pushing forward.
A round of green-flag pit stops started at lap 144, and Martin kept Harvick out just long enough to gain five valuable bonus points. The red and yellow machine led laps 146 and 147, and Harvick hit pit road one lap later for four more fresh tires and fuel.
Once the round of green-flag stops concluded, Harvick was scored ninth. As the race wore on, the handling on the chassis went loose, especially on entry in the corners. The team continued to play with a series of air pressure adjustments, trackbar and wedge adjustments throughout the evening.
A late caution flag on lap 343 for a spin involving the No. 20 car gave everyone one final opportunity for a round of adjustments. Harvick was running 10th, and he and Martin agreed that their car was best all night on just two tires. So, the Shell-Pennzoil team changed right-side tires only, added one can of fuel, and Harvick left pit road in sixth.
During the closing laps, Harvick was able to protect his track position and cross the finish line in sixth.
Denny Hamlin won the race, and he was chased to the checkered flag by Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya. RCR teammate Jeff Burton led on two separate occasions for a total of 31 laps and finished eighth, while Clint Bowyer suffered a brake line failure and finished 32nd.
Harvick leads the championship standings over Jimmie Johnson by 110 points, while Burton and Bowyer are ninth and 14th, respectively.
KEVIN HARVICK: "We were fighting a lack of rear grip from the beginning of the race, and Gil Martin made a good call to put two tires on at the end and we got another solid finish. Our car seemed to like two tires better than four. It was just so loose on new tires, it would take 20 laps or so before we could really take off. But, all in all, it was a good night for our Shell-Pennzoil team."