No. 29 Team Turns In Gritty Performance in Texas With the aide of some fantastic work on pit road by the Richard Childress Racing team and over-the-wall crew, Kevin Harvick and the No.29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet overcame engine heating issues...
No. 29 Team Turns In Gritty Performance in Texas
With the aide of some fantastic work on pit road by the Richard Childress Racing team and over-the-wall crew, Kevin Harvick and the No.29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet overcame engine heating issues and a late scrape with the wall to turn in a gritty sixth-place finish in the Lone Star State on Sunday. The Bakersfield, Calif., driver now trails the point leader, Denny Hamlin, by 59 points with two races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The effort was the team's 24th top-10 finish of the year, three more than any other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor.
On Friday at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, the Gil Martin-led team started the day's lone practice in race trim before switching over to qualifying trim in the second half of the session. Harvick posted the 27th-fastest lap among 49 competitors, and he followed that up by qualifying 26th for Sunday's 500 miler.
A crowd of 156,000 NASCAR fans came to TMS on Sunday to watch the 334-lap event, and Harvick took the green flag from the outside of row 13. In the opening stages of the race, the 14-time NSCS winner fought a loose-handling Chevy. A caution flag on lap 13 gave the teams their first opportunity to pit under yellow-flag conditions, and Martin instructed Harvick to pit for four tires and fuel. Harvick entered the pits in 25th, and even though several cars elected to take on just right-side tires, the team entered the track 23rd after the round of pit stops were completed.
Green-flag racing resumed on lap 16, and Harvick embarked on his customary march through the field from mid pack. He was scored 20th on lap 23, 15th on lap 36, and when the caution flag waved on lap 42 for debris, Harvick was 13th.
Again, Martin called for a four-tire stop with an air pressure and a chassis adjustment, and another superb pit stop placed the red and yellow machine in 11th as the cars entered the racing surface.
Harvick maintained his track position until another round of pit stops under caution resumed on lap 58, and again, while many cars took on two tires, Martin asked the Shell-Pennzoil team to change all four and add fuel. Once the pit stops were complete, Harvick was scored 17th.
The green flag waved on lap 63, and Harvick cracked the top 15 on lap 70, and raced his way back inside the top 10 on lap 95. A round of routine green-flag pit stops started around lap 104, and Harvick came down pit lane on lap 108 for tires and fuel. Once the series of green-flag stops was completed, Harvick gained two positions to eighth.
The long green-flag run continued until an accident on the track slowed the action on lap 131. Once again, the pit crew turned in a phenomenal stop, gaining two more positions, to sixth.
A couple of short-green flag runs followed, and Harvick maintained his position solidly inside the top 10, and spent most of the next 100 laps running fifth. After passing the No. 11 car for fourth on lap 220, Harvick noticed that his water temperature in his Earnhardt-Childress Racing engine was climbing, and after further inspection by the RCR team, a piece of trash had placed itself on the nose of the No. 29 Chevy. Harvick stayed out just long enough to lead lap 245, and one lap later he brought his car to pit road for tires and fuel and to remove the trash from the grill.
Once the round of green-flag stops was completed, Harvick was scored second. Unfortunately, while battling for position inside the top three, another piece of debris lodged itself in the grill, and with just 48 laps remaining, Harvick pitted early to remove the debris and take on fresh tires and fuel.
As the laps ticked away, the handling on the Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet went extremely loose, and Harvick slid back to seventh. Harvick fought the car valiantly, and with just 14 laps to go, he hit the outside wall in turn four, and hurt the right-rear corner of the chassis.
A timely caution flag with just six laps remaining gave the team a break to pit for two tires and give Harvick the opportunity to be aggressive in the last few laps, even though the car had damage on the right rear.
The green flag was displayed with three laps to go, and Harvick took the green flag in ninth. Swift driving by Harvick and some assistance from spotter, Billy O'Dea, gave the team a hard-earned sixth-place finish at the checkered flag.
Hamlin scored the victory, and was chased to the stripe by Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Joey Logano and Greg Biffle. RCR teammate Clint Bowyer finished seventh, while fellow RCR stablemate, Jeff Burton, suffered an accident and finished 36th.
KEVIN HARVICK: "We had a good car. To tell you the truth, I didn't think we'd be anywhere in the hunt after practice, and Gil (Martin) and all the guys did a great job getting the car ready. When it got dark, our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet just went really loose, and we hit the wall. The pit crew was awesome today. We gained a ton of positions on pit road. We are still in this thing, and we are definitely looking forward to Phoenix."