MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil team led 57 of the first 58 laps and appeared to have a winning car on Monday at Martinsville Speedway, but a brake failure took them out of contention, and they suffered a...
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil team led 57 of the first 58 laps and appeared to have a winning car on Monday at Martinsville Speedway, but a brake failure took them out of contention, and they suffered a 35th-place finish. The result dropped Harvick to fourth from the overall points lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, 61 points behind the leader.
Threatening rain clouds loomed in the sky above Martinsville on Friday, and Harvick turned a practice lap good enough for 16th quick among 46 cars during practice. Crew chief Gil Martin was confident the team had a car capable of qualifying near the front, but heavy showers cancelled qualifying, thereby handing the pole to No. 29 team based on their lead in owner points. In addition to their pole starting position, the team also had their choice of a pit stall, and the team selected the first stall on pit road.
During Saturday's two practice sessions, Martin was focused on finding a good balance for the Chevrolet Impala. Harvick turned the 13th-fastest lap in each of the two practice sessions, and after consulting with fellow RCR crew chiefs Todd Berrier and Shane Wilson, Martin was confident that Harvick would be a mainstay at or near the front of the field throughout the race.
Intermittent showers plagued the Martinsville area on Sunday, and NASCAR was ultimately forced to postpone the race to Monday.
On Monday, approximately one hour prior to the start of the 500-lap show, the sun finally broke through the clouds, much to the satisfaction of the passionate Martinsville Speedway race fans. The green flag waved just after noon local time, and Harvick immediately scampered out in front of the 43-car field.
With his fellow competitors jockeying for position around the 0.526 paper clip-shaped facility, the Bakersfield, Calif., native was enjoying a smooth, clean ride at the head of the field. Harvick squirted out to a full straightaway advantage over second place when the caution flag was displayed at lap 43.
Harvick brought his red and yellow machine to pit road, and the Shell-Pennzoil crew turned a fantastic stop, putting Harvick out first on the race track. Travis Kvapil stayed out during the caution flag period to lead a lap, but he relinquished the lead back to Harvick for the restart on lap 50.
The car's handling started to get a little too tight in the center of the corners for Harvick, and Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch passed the No. 29 on lap 59, relegating him to third. But, Harvick battled back and passed Busch for second on lap 102.
Three laps later, Harvick informed Martin that he lost all brake control, and took his machine behind the wall. The team diagnosed the issue as a brake failure in the right rear, made the necessary repairs, and sent Harvick back on the track. With their hopes of a solid finish dashed, the team treated the remainder of the race as a test session for their return to Martinsville in October.
Harvick's teammate Jeff Burton led 140 laps and had a spirited battle for the lead with Denny Hamlin, before a cut right-front tire with just 15 laps remaining ended his chance for the win. Burton finished 20th. Harvick's other RCR stablemate, Clint Bowyer, was a mainstay inside the top ten all afternoon, and finished seventh.
Harvick relinquished the overall lead in points to Jimmie Johnson, and is currently fourth, 61 markers back. Burton and Bowyer are fifth and ninth, respectively, in the standings after Martinsville.
After taking a weekend off, NASCAR's senior circuit will head west to make its first of two stops at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., for the division's first Saturday night race of the season.
KEVIN HARVICK: "We suffered a brake failure in the right rear, and that basically ruined our day. The good news is that our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet had speed. We led some laps early, and we definitely had a race-contending car. Unfortunately, we lost a ton of points today when we should have battled for the win. I am confident our team will find the source of the failure and have it remedied before Phoenix."