NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Kevin Harvick Comes Up Just Short of First Pocono Victory

For Kevin Harvick, coming to Pocono Raceway is an opportunity to stamp his name as a first-time winner at the Tricky Triangle. In Sunday’s Overton’s 400, he came oh so close, yet again.

After qualifying the No. 4 car sixth in Sunday mornings qualifying session, Harvick spent almost the entire race inside the top 10. At the end of the first stage, he jumped to third, only behind Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., both whom were the top two in the running order from flag-to-flag.

During the second stage, Harvick ran in the top five for the entire 50-lap stage, but gave up stage points for a shot at the victory by pitting before the end of the stage. With three laps to go, Rodney Childers called the 2014 champion to pit road for service, while Truex, Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Daniel Suarez, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Chase Elliott all coming with him.

The 60-lap sprint to the finish set up good for Harvick as the No. 4 car lined up third in the running order behind Truex and Hamlin. However, during the final round of pit stops, Childres’ crew gained a ton of time on the front two.

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In 34 career races at Pocono, Harvick has 10 top five and 15 top-10 finishes. (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

With roughly 35 laps to go, Hamlin was the first of the leaders to pit before Truex came in the following lap and Harvick coming in the lap after that. When Truex came back out on track the No. 78 car got stuck behind a few lap cars, allowing for the No. 4 team to overtake the Furniture Row Racing team, for what would be second position after Busch pitted.

When Busch finally pitted, he gained more than six seconds on the front three in a handful of laps, passing Truex with ease. When Harvick finally got around Hamlin for the lead, the No. 18 car bumped the No. 4 Ford out of the way off Turn 4.

“The only chance that I had [to keep the 18 behind me] was to get into the corner correctly,” Harvick said. “I got in there and was loose all the way through the corner on entry and just kept holding the brake down, holding the brake down, holding the brake down and finally, I’m sure he thought I was going to go and I didn’t accelerate. I was trying to stay on the bottom to park the thing to get going and he had a good run.”

Over the final 15 laps, Busch pulled out to a 6,1-second lead when the race ended. Harvick was able to hold off Truex for second, coming home as the bridesmaid for the fourth time in the past seven Cup Series races at the Tricky Triangle.

“There was no battle,” he said of Busch getting by. “He was way faster than we were.  In the lap he happened to catch me, in my head I was thinking, All right, we just need to stay on the bottom.  I got sideways going into three.  Tried to park it.  He was going to the throttle about the same time.  Got in the back of me a little bit.  That was just me trying to keep it on the bottom. There was no battle. I mean, he was in a league of his own there at the end.  Just got through traffic good.  Got to us, got around us, gone.”

With a pair of second-place finishes in 2017 at Pocono, Harvick has no complaints about finishing runner-up.

“It’s fun to win races,” he said. “It’s fun to be competitive.  I’m never going to sit up here and complain about finishing second because, you know, it’s a good accomplishment.  The team has been through a lot, switching over to Ford, doing all the things they’ve done.  As competitive as we have been, I think it’s a huge credit to great people.”

Through the first 21 races of the season, Harvick has one victory, coming at Sonoma Raceway, his first checkered flag at the road course. He has seven other top-five finishes, while having 14 top 10s. It all comes in the 17-year veterans first year in the Ford camp.

“I wish I could explain to everybody how big the workload has been switching to Ford and doing all the things we’ve done and trying to race and progress at the same time,” Harvick said. “They’ve [Stewart-Haas Racing] done a really good job. Luckily we have great people to help that progression. It covers up a lot of things that is going on. We keep getting better. I know we’ll get better as we go into the playoffs.”

 

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