For a good chunk of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, Kevin Harvick was sitting in title contention. While the 2014 Cup champion never led the race, he ran as high as second. The No. 4 Ford didn’t have the speed to challenge Kyle Larson early on but was every bit of a match for Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.
However, right as the sun set, trouble hit. On lap 181, David Starr blew a left front tire on his Eureka Vacuum Cleaners Chevrolet. Debris from that blown tire hit Harvick’s nose. While no caution was thrown at the time, the Jimmy John’s car was never the same afterwards.
“We just got a hole in the nose and had a tire equalize and all kinds of stuff happen right about dark,” Harvick said during his post-race press conference. “Never got [the car] back 100 percent right to really do what we needed to do. We were just kind of treading water there.”
Even before the debris incident, Harvick couldn’t run the fastest line on worn tires.
“Up in turns 1 and 2 in the third lane at the top seam, I couldn’t make that work all day,” Harvick said on pit road after the race. “I was just too loose up off the corner. Just one of those days where we just couldn’t quite get it right, but [my team] did a heck of a job. A lot of effort [went into it].”
The loose condition meant that he was not in the same league as Truex, Busch, or Larson when it counted. As a result, Harvick lost eight seconds to Truex over the final 34 laps.
But despite the handling woes, Harvick was still good enough to put himself in the top five late in the race. He wound up fourth on Sunday and claimed third in the final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point standings. It was a decent year for a team who was in its first year of switching manufacturers from Chevy to Ford.
But in the end, Harvick and fellow Ford driver Brad Keselowski couldn’t hold a candle to the Toyota driven by Truex.
“They’ve had the fastest car all year,” Harvick said of the 2017 champ. “It was good to see him win.”