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Harvick: 'We finished second and that's it'

June 15, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Polesitter's record-setting speed spoiled by strategy

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kevin Harvick, driver of the fastest car in the west, took runner-up honors in Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Which wasn't exactly what the Stewart-Haas Racing driver had in mind for the 15th stop of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

"The car was fast," Harvick, 37, said afterward. "Just wound up on the wrong side of all the strategy. We finished second and that's it."

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Harvick, who set a track qualifying record on Friday, led nearly twice as often as any other driver in the 200-lap race, setting the pace six times for 63 laps. But for the third time in the last five races, the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet finished second.

"It really came down to I just made a bad call there at one point," crew chief Rodney Childers told Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio following the race. "When you're the leader, you've got a choice of pitting and a lot of guys staying out or you staying out and a lot of guys pitting behind you.

"A lot of guys pitted behind us and kind of put us on a strategy that wasn't really what we wanted. It ended up biting us in the end."

The decision not to pit came earlier in the race; based on how the cautions fell, it changed the team's pit strategy for the remainder of the event.

Late-race cycles of green-flag stops -- there were no cautions during the final 48 laps -- resulted in 10 lead changes during the final 50 laps as the opportunity to pit under yellow failed to materialize.

Jimmie Johnson, who gave up the lead to pit on Lap 165, eventually emerged back in front with just 10 laps remaining. Harvick was fourth and closing, getting as close as second place, but time ran out. He trailed the Hendrick Motorsports driver by 1.214 seconds when the checkered flag fell.

Where Harvick perhaps saw a black cloud, others saw a silver lining.

"I'd say the car that seems to be the best car off the truck to when the checkered falls is still the 4 car, week in and week out," said Johnson.

"Kevin Harvick, his team is probably the fastest week in and week out," said third-place finisher Brad Keselowski.

Harvick knows it. Childers knows it. Twice a winner this season, Harvick is now ninth in points. The team is one of 16 that will be in this year’s Chase field.

The missed opportunities are starting to pile up, but the opportunities are there just the same.

"There's a lot of people," Childers said, "that wish that they could do what we've been able to do every week."

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