Harvick Flexes Muscles to Finish Fourth in Pocono After being a fixture in the lead pack throughout the majority of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono Raceway, Kevin Harvick and the Shell-Pennzoil race team overcame various pit...
Harvick Flexes Muscles to Finish Fourth in Pocono
After being a fixture in the lead pack throughout the majority of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono Raceway, Kevin Harvick and the Shell-Pennzoil race team overcame various pit strategies near the close of the race to battle back to a fourth-place finish.
The fifth top-five finish of the 2010 season for the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team enabled Harvick to maintain the top spot in the championship point standings. The Bakersfield, Calif., native now holds a 19 point lead over second place Kyle Busch.
During the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series opening practice on Friday the Shell-Pennzoil team found the speed they were looking for while in race trim and finished the session 14th on the speed charts. Later that afternoon in qualifying, the 34-year-old driver lapped the 2.5-mile track in 53.722 seconds, lining up the No. 29 Chevy in the 22nd position for Sunday's main event.
Saturday's dual practice sessions provided the Gil Martin-led team with the opportunity to tweak the handling on the red and yellow machine even further to Harvick's liking. The efforts paid off as the No. 29 Chevy was listed sixth and fifth quickest, respectively, in the two sessions.
Severe thunderstorms in the area early Sunday afternoon delayed the start of the 200-lap event for nearly two hours, with the 43-car field eventually taking the green flag around 3 p.m. local time. Once the flag dropped, Harvick wasted little time making his way through the field. By the time NASCAR waved the caution flag for the mandatory competition caution on lap 15, the No. 29 machine was listed in the 12th position.
Once the race returned to green, it remained under those conditions for nearly 80 laps, with the bright red and yellow entry gaining positions throughout and moving into the fourth spot when the caution was waved for debris on lap 97. After a quick pit stop by the No. 29 crew, Harvick took the green on lap 100 in the fourth position but didn't stay there long. A bold move by the RCR driver found the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevy leading the field back to the stripe on lap 101. It was Harvick's first ever lap led at Pocono, and by leading that lap, he has now led a lap at every active track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour.
Another lengthy caution-free run ensued and Harvick maintained his presence in the top five until the yellow was again displayed for debris on lap 153. With just minor adjustments needed during the pit stop to assist with the handling on the Shell-Pennzoil Chevy, Harvick restarted the race on lap 158 in the fifth position.
A two-car spin on the restart brought out another caution and, with it, a decision for all of the teams: should they pit for fuel or stay on track? Now, just outside the fuel window to make it to the finish with only one more pit stop, Martin decided to maintain track position for Harvick and instructed him to stay out. More than two dozen cars running further back decided to take the gamble and made their way to pit road to top off their fuel tanks before the field took the green on lap 165.
As luck would have it, another quick caution on the restart once again provided the opportunity to pit. With another few laps in their favor, Martin summoned Harvick to bring the No. 29 machine to pit road for a quick fuel-only stop. The No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevy lined up 16th for the restart on lap 171 and had a handful of laps to make up the difference.
The 12-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner gradually made his way back up through the field and into the top-five again with just a few laps remaining in the scheduled 200-lap event. While racing the No. 20 entry for the fourth position on lap 199, the two competitors made contact, moving Harvick and the No. 29 Chevy into the fourth position.
Following a green-white-checker finish, Denny Hamlin claimed victory in the Gillette ProGlide 500. Rounding out the top five were Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.
Harvick's RCR teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer finished seventh and ninth, respectively.
Next weekend, NASCAR's premier division heads to the Irish Hills, for the first of two stops in Brooklyn, Mich. this season.
"We had a great day, today. I just got into turn three and we just wound up getting together (with the 20). It was just two cars going for the same space at one time. I just need to thank everybody on my Shell-Pennzoil Chevy, they did a great job today and we had a solid car. I kind of got stuck back there in the middle of the pack with the pit strategy but, all-in-all, our car was good all day and worked out for a top five."