Strong Effort in California Nearly Nets Win for Harvick FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 22, 2010) -- Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil team continued their strong start to the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season by battling with the four-time...
Strong Effort in California Nearly Nets Win for Harvick
FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 22, 2010) -- Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil team continued their strong start to the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season by battling with the four-time Series champion in the closing laps and nearly claiming victory at the Auto Club Speedway. They instead had to settle for second-place finish, marking their second top-10 finish in as many races.
With the runner-up finish, the Bakersfield, Calif., native jumps four positions to take over the top spot in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
The No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet was a fixture near the top of the scoring pylon from the beginning of the race weekend. Friday afternoon's practice session found the No. 29 Chevy listed seventh on the board and then 'Happy' Harvick found even more speed in the red and yellow machine by posting the sixth-quickest time during qualifying.
Saturday's practice session continued the positive trend for the Shell-Pennzoil race team as the Gil Martin-led crew worked on long runs for the Sunday afternoon showdown in Southern California and were happy with the set up they chose for the beginning of the event.
The 43-car field roared to life in front of the estimated 72,000 fans on a cool Sunday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway. Harvick and Company knew they had a strong horse and it didn't take long after the green flag dropped for the 500-mile event for them to prove it. The No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet Impala made its way up to the third position by lap four, then into second by lap 33 and finally took over the top spot on lap 50.
By lap 78, the bright red and yellow Chevy had raced out front of the 43-car field for 21 laps, then raced side-by-side and traded the lead back-and-forth with four-time Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
After trailing Johnson onto pit road for a routine four-tire stop on lap 94, NASCAR informed crew chief Gil Martin the No. 29 Chevy was too fast entering pit road. The result was a penalty of dropping to the tail-end of the longest line for the restart, which lined up the Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet in 26th position when they took the green flag again on lap 98. With more than half of the scheduled 250 laps complete, the 34-year old driver assured the team they were strong enough to come back from the set back.
Although handling was a bit of a different issue while running further back in the pack, both driver and crew were determined to get back to the front with one of the best cars on the track. Nearing the 200- lap mark, the 2007 Daytona 500 winner had maneuvered the No. 29 Chevy back into the top ten.
About that time, rain began to fall in the Inland Valley and NASCAR decided it was too heavy for green-flag racing. When green-flag racing resumed on lap 200, the Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet was listed in the fifth position but Harvick was hungry and wanted to retake what he had claimed earlier in the 500-mile event -- the lead.
This time around it was the No. 29 pit crew who helped their driver regain the lead, or so they thought. Harvick entered pit road on lap 226 running second, just behind RCR teammate Jeff Burton. The battle in the pits found the No. 29 crew triumphant, as the Shell-Pennzoil Chevy barely nosed past the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy at the exit to pit road. However, NASCAR ruled the No. 48 Chevy the leader on the restart since they had completed their scheduled pit stop just prior to the caution flag and beat then-leader Burton to the line upon their exit as the caution flag flew.
With just 20 circuits remaining, Harvick worked to pressure Johnson in the closing laps. The No. 48 Chevy pulled away but Harvick battled back and was able to trim his lead time down. While racing for the top spot with less than five laps remaining, Harvick scraped the wall and came up just short, settling for the second-place finish.
Johnson's triumph marks his 48th victory of his career. The balance of the top-five finishers who followed Harvick across the stripe was RCR teammate Jeff Burton, Mark Martin and Joey Logano. Clint Bowyer finished eighth to place all three RCR teams in top ten.
KEVIN HARVICK: "Everybody on our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet team did a great job. We were making up ground and Jimmie (Johnson) saw that. He moved up and I just got tight. I got my car in the fence and just didn't want....I should have just let off. I kept driving it in to the wall and got tight after that. We should have never been there in the first place. I got myself in the back there with the speeding penalty. All-in-all it was a good day and fast cars."
Next week, the Shell-Pennzoil team travels with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to Sin City for a round at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.