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Pit-road mistake costly for Harvick

June 03, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Kevin Harvick passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. for second place on Lap 352 but could never take the lead. (Getty Images)

DOVER, Del. -- Driver able to recover after overshooting pit box to finish second

Kevin Harvick found out firsthand how treacherous Dover International Speedway can be. Although to be honest, going 35 mph on pit road isn't usually where most drivers get into trouble on the Monster Mile.

But the No. 36 pit stall at Dover -- located in a slight curve coming out of Turn 4 -- gave Harvick fits all race. It finally caught up with him as he attempted to pit following a debris caution on Lap 228.

"I was having trouble picking up my mark. I tried to get too much [acceleration] in between the timing lines there and just overshot the pit."

--KEVIN HARVICK

Harvick was running a strong third at the time, trailing Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

"I was having trouble picking up my mark," Harvick said. "I tried to get too much [acceleration] in between the timing lines there and just overshot the pit."

By the time Harvick saw the pit sign, he already was past the point where he could turn in at the correct angle to make it into the box.

He slammed on the brakes and was able to bring his No. 29 Chevrolet to a stop, but in the time it took Harvick to put the car in reverse, back up and correct the mistake, the damage had been done.

He came out in 19th -- the last car on the lead lap -- and from that point on, the game plan changed significantly.

Harvick didn't panic. He still had 170 laps in which to regain the lost ground if he stayed patient, and he knew his ride was unusually stout. After all, this was Dover, where Harvick had just three top-five finishes in 22 previous visits.

It took more than 100 green-flag laps, but Harvick worked his way back to sixth when the caution came out for debris on Lap 341.

"To be able to make up that much track position says a lot about the distance that we have made up on the cars," Harvick said.

"The car was good enough to be able to drive back through the pack. For whatever reason, we were able to adjust our car well [Sunday] when we needed to, and we were able to keep up with the race track and keep our car better through the day. And I think that was a big key to getting through the traffic and putting ourselves back in position to at least have a chance."

Did he ever. After getting the benefit of the outside lane on two restarts, Harvick passed everyone but Johnson. And when Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton's engine went up in smoke on Lap 364, Harvick had his opportunity.

Like he had all race, Johnson chose the outside lane, but Harvick was almost equal to the task. For the first time all day, Johnson wasn't able to grab a commanding advantage.

"Kevin stayed with me up through the gear box, and I was able to rally around the outside through [Turns] 1 and 2," Johnson said.

But Johnson's Chevrolet proved to be too strong in the closing laps, with Harvick eventually settling for a satisfying second.

"This never has been a really strong track for us," Harvick said. "I feel like this is the best race we have ever run here. To come here and do that and be able to be solid all day and not fluke into something is what we needed."

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