Harvick Coasts to Top-Five Finish in Texas FT. WORTH, Texas -- Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet team utilized a great Impala SS, determined driver and excellent pit road strategy to literally coast to a fifth-place finish at...
Harvick Coasts to Top-Five Finish in Texas
FT. WORTH, Texas -- Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet team utilized a great Impala SS, determined driver and excellent pit road strategy to literally coast to a fifth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
After posting the 10th quickest time in Friday's afternoon practice session, Gil Martin and team readied the car for qualifying later in the day. When that ended, Harvick and Co. knew they would be lining up 24th for the 334-lap race on Sunday.
Saturday morning's first practice was pretty routine with the Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet team posting the 17th-fastest time. However, the Happy Hour practice right after was anything but uneventful.
About 15 minutes into the practice, the red and yellow No. 29 Impala SS got loose coming out of Turn 2 and brushed the outside wall. With scrapes along the whole right side of the Richard Childress Racing entry, and minor body damage to the front and rear fenders, Martin led his crew on a fast-paced repair session.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in practice, Harvick went back out on the 1.5-mile TMS oval to give the car a quick shakedown and make sure all was well. After calling into the crew saying it didn't lose any grip, the team was satisfied with their repair work.
When the initial-initial green flag flew under partly sunny skies on Sunday, Harvick began a methodical and strategic climb forward through the running order. Caution-free racing forced several green-flag pit stops throughout the event.
For the Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet team, their first one took place on lap 58 with a call for fuel, four tires and air pressure adjustments. They were running 20th when they came down pit road and were shown 17th when the cycle ended.
A caution pit stop for fuel, tires and air pressure adjustments on lap 88 moved them from 16th to 15th for the restart. Another green-flag stop on lap 147, while running 18th, netted Harvick three more positions on pit road moving him to 15th.
From there, it was all top-15 racing as Harvick bided his time and kept picking off positions. On lap 202, he cracked the top 10 for the first time and was running 10th for a lap 207-caution pit stop.
After pitting for fuel, tires, air pressure and, for the first time, a chassis adjustment to the Impala SS, Harvick restarted eighth. That was another gain of two positions on pit road by Gil and The Gang.
Knowing they needed to stop again for fuel, Martin started to coach Harvick on conserving fuel when and where he could throughout the remaining laps.
Green-flag stops started again on lap 265 with Martin calling Harvick down pit road two circuits later. After packing the car with fuel, bolting on four fresh Goodyears, making a chassis and air pressure adjustment, Harvick was shown eighth in the running order.
By lap 305, Martin was telling Harvick to keep saving fuel wherever he could by not slowing too much, but don't overuse the fuel supply, either. By lap 315, several leaders in front of Harvick came down pit road for fuel under green.
After a conversation with team engineers and the gasman with Harvick now running sixth with 10 laps remaining, Martin made the decision to race until the end; as long as the green flag was out.
On lap 327, the fifth-place car ran out of fuel and coasted down pit road. On lap 329, the fourth-place car ran out. Three laps later, the leader was out and heading for pit road with Harvick now in third place.
When the white flag flew, Harvick was shown in second place needing only the leader to run out of fuel so the Shell-Pennzoil team could capture the checkered flag. However, after taking the white, Harvick exited Turn 2 and radioed in that he was now out of fuel.
Coasting down the backstretch, through Turns 3 and 4 and just making it to the checkered flag, only three cars got by Harvick as he registered a solid fifth-place finish. The No. 29 Impala SS only made it to the Turn 1-end of pit road where Harvick climbed out to walk down pit road for post-race interviews, as the crew ran down to push the car back into the garage.
Rounding out the top-five finishers were Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin. RCR had a respectable showing with Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton also finishing seventh and ninth, respectively, with Casey Mears in 21st place.
On a side note, the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil crew was so good in servicing the car they won the Tissot Pit Road Precision Award and the O'Reilly Auto Parts People, Service and Performance Award, as well.
KEVIN HARVICK: "The Shell-Pennzoil Chevy was a good car all day. We had a solid top-10 car the second half of the race. I think we were running seventh or eighth there and just decided to go for it at the end (on fuel). So, we just kind of went into fuel-conservation mode because we had a big gap with our Shell-Pennzoil Chevy. We gave up a couple of spots and those guys ran out of gas and we kept going and we ran out with one to go. It was still a good day and those are the chances we're supposed to take right now. Came up about a lap short there, but a great call by Gil (Martin, crew chief) to just give it a whirl and see what happened in the end."
RCR has made a lot of changes in the past few weeks, it looks like you had everything together for this race. "Yeah, speed in the cars is coming back, now we're just looking for that consistency that we've always had before. We got speed back in the cars and that was the first step we needed. Now, we need to get that top-10, top-five mode back and that's when you start winning races again."
This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads west to Phoenix International Raceway for the second-to-last race on their 2009 schedule.