Despite being the ultimate competitor he is, Kevin Harvick was very happy with his runner-up result in Sunday’s (Sept. 15) South Point 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It was good. We had two solid stages and with the way that practice went for us, that was a miracle,” he said. “To be in contention with a chance to win the race with 25 laps to go there says a lot about the guys working on this No. 4 car. Everybody did a great job of making something out of what wasn’t very bright for us on Friday.”
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Harvick was 18th in practice on Friday, struggling in every conceivable way. To correct that, crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team went to work.
“We’ve changed all four springs, all four shocks, bump stops, sway-bars, ride heights, you name it, we’ve changed it on this car this weekend,” he said. “After practice before the race, we did the exact same thing again. Maybe not all four springs, but we changed three of them for sure. We just kept grinding at it and trying to put ourself in position.”
Harvick led 47 of the 267 laps en route to his 10th top five and 18th top 10 finish of the season. Starting third, track position from the get go aided the 2014 champion in keeping his car up front.
“We qualified well, and that gives you a bit of a buffer at the beginning of these races,” he said. “We were able to get a solid first stage and gain some points and able to adjust on our car, keep our track position and keep ourselves in it all day.”
One of the biggest unknowns coming onto the race was the track changing from day to night as temperatures dropped. But Harvick said that didn’t affect things too much.
“It didn’t really change a whole lot,” he said. “It’s hard to tell whether it was the track—obviously the speeds got a little bit faster—but for us, we kept adjusting on our car and making it better. So it wasn’t drastic by any means.”
When eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. got by Harvick with under 20 laps to go, it seemed that his car working through lapped traffic was a major factor in the No. 19 catching him.
But Harvick quickly debunked that theory, saying Truex was going to pass him no matter what.
“It really wasn’t anything to do with lapped stuff. I was having trouble with the back turning and the front sliding,” he said. “We were just lacking overall grip, and Martin was able to catch us on that next to last run at the end of the run and I didn’t get out—I needed a restart. I needed rubber to be picked up and to be able to run flat out for 10 laps to build that lead and I just never was able to do that. I just did’t get far enough out there on that last pit stop […] I needed a whole straightaway buffer because I knew Martin would be coming a the end.”
Despite not having one final restart and opportunity to hold off Truex, he was just happy to even have a chance, looking back on Friday’s struggle.
“If you’d told me at the end of Friday night that we were going to be in contention to win the race with 25 laps to go, I would’ve laughed at you,” he said with a chuckle. “I’d have told you we were nowhere even close. The guys did a great job scrambling, doing everything they could to keep changing stuff and keep making the car better. We made our car better throughout the race.”
Harvick’s 2014 championship season came in his first year with SHR. Now in his sixth season, he understands making up ground from the start to end of the weekend is what title winning campaigns are built on.
“Today, we ground one out,” he said. “That’s what you have to do on the weekends when you’re not where you nee to be, you gotta figure out how to make something out of it and we did.”