Harvick Secures Chase Berth with Emphatic Win at Michigan The Richard Childress Racing resurgence continues. It has been well documented how RCR has made huge improvements in its performance in 2010, but Kevin Harvick and the No. 29...
Harvick Secures Chase Berth with Emphatic Win at Michigan
The Richard Childress Racing resurgence continues. It has been well documented how RCR has made huge improvements in its performance in 2010, but Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil team went a step further and ended a 20-year victory drought at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday by winning the CARFAX 400. The effort secured a berth in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup for Harvick, as he led 60 laps and scored 10 more crucial bonus points for the Chase format, giving him a total of 30 points based on his three points-paying wins this season.
The Bakersfield, Calif. driver extended his lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series overall standings to 293 points ahead of Jeff Gordon, with just three events remaining before the 2010 Chase field is set.
On Friday afternoon at Michigan, Harvick qualified his red and yellow machine eighth, a huge improvement on their previous trip to Michigan in June, when Harvick toured the two-mile facility as the 31st-fastest car.
Beautiful weather greeted the 43 teams and 105,000 fans at Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's affair. Harvick took the green flag, and used his starting position to his advantage by maintaining track position throughout the 200-lap race.
The 14-time NSCS winner cracked the top five on lap 10, and started running lap times faster than every other car on the track. Just 11 laps later, Harvick moved up to second, and informed crew chief Gil Martin that his car was a little tight in the center of the corners, but it lost rear grip over the course of the run.
A caution flag on lap 31 gave the teams their first opportunity to make adjustments, but Martin elected to just make a minor air pressure adjustment with four fresh tires, and add fuel. Harvick left pit road in third.
For the remainder of the race, Harvick was never scored worse than sixth. A small rain shower delayed the action on lap 61 with Harvick running second. The team pitted again, and Martin called for no changes, just fresh tires and fuel. Quick work by the Shell-Pennzoil crew put Harvick back on the track in second place.
A long green-flag run ensued, and Harvick seized the lead on lap 102, and again on lap 111. He maintained the lead for the next 44 laps and built a sizeable six-second lead.
A caution on lap 141 bunched the field, and Harvick hit pit road with the rest of the lead-lap machines. Four tires and fuel was the call from Martin, and Harvick left pit road as the leader.
In the closing stages, strategy by Martin kept Harvick in contention for the win. A two-tire pit stop under the caution on lap 149 sacrificed track position momentarily, and a fuel-only pit stop on lap 156 gave Harvick the tires and the fuel to make it to the end.
Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin emerged as contenders for the win, but Harvick disposed of Stewart on lap 179 for second place, and chased down Hamlin. Harvick ran the high line around Hamlin on lap 190, and pulled away over the final 10 laps.
The effort was Harvick's sixth top-five finish in his last eight starts this year, and was his first victory at Michigan International Speedway in 20 tries.
Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five, while Stewart faded to sixth. Harvick's RCR teammates, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton, finished 13th and 24th, respectively.
Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will make their second trip to Bristol Motor Speedway for Saturday night's running of the IRWIN Tools Night Race.
KEVIN HARVICK: "It was, obviously, a great day for our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet. It's really been a great weekend all around and a great year so far. It's a lot of fun to come to the race track right now. Everybody is doing a great job of not only continuing to press, but to put better things on the race track and put things together correctly. Everyone at the shop is just doing a great job. That's really all you can ask for right now. We were able to take advantage of a really fast racecar, and put it where it was supposed to be, and that's in Victory Lane."
GIL MARTIN: "It was a great day for us for more than one reason. The season has gone so well from last year, but to come to Michigan and be able to run the way we did today, that shows how far the organization has come as a whole. Kevin (Harvick) did a great job today running the high line all day long. It takes a lot to do that here, to make that happen. Everything in the pits today, the engines, the cars, everyone just did a fantastic job. I can't say enough about the whole organization."
"A lot of people get credit. Kevin has been so rock-solid. He is into it this year. The whole team is. I can't say enough and the sponsors and the fans. What would we be without our fans? Yesterday, I knew he was good up high, and today he just stayed solid all day long. You have to be solid to win championships. We contended in 2007 with Clint (Bowyer) and 2008 with Kevin. We are going to give it our all this year."