Pocono effort showed 'scramble' Harvick sought
August 05, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
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Kevin Harvick would probably tell you he hasn't been gone, so proclamations that the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team is "back" would be descriptive but incorrect.
Harvick, once deemed hands down the hottest driver with the fastest car this season, finished second for the fourth time this year in Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway. Coming on the heels of an eighth-place run at Indianapolis, it was the second consecutive top-10 finish for a team that had done no better than 20th in three of the previous four races.
But it's been that kind of season for Harvick -- nearly always fast, but not always fortunate.
He and his SHR outfit, run by crew chief Rodney Childers, have a pair of wins but have also run the table on "what can go wrong next" scenarios this season. From pit-road problems to mechanical issues to getting caught up in a mess created by someone else, it's been difficult for the group to find its rhythm.
On the surface, Sunday's race didn't appear to be any different. A fast car had the 38-year-old in sight of the front during the early going, until a pit-road speeding penalty just past the halfway point in the race dropped Harvick from inside the top 10 to outside the top 25.
He was back inside the top 20 by Lap 117 when a 13-car pileup sent his No. 4 Chevrolet into the inside wall, bouncing across a drainage grate on the apron and eventually to pit road for repairs.
Yet unlike other times this season when trouble found Harvick, this time the team was able to battle back. And that ability, he said, will be crucial later this year when the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup gets underway.
"I think today was very important," Harvick said after clinching a spot in this year's Chase field. "I think last week (at Indy) was kind of the same way. We didn't have the car that we wanted; I felt like we had a top-three car today … we were going to need track position and things were not really going well. They were able to fix the car after we wrecked it. That's what we talked about as we came back from the (off week) … just scrambling, being able to scramble and get a good finish of some sort to get something out of the day.
"That's what you're going to have to do the last 10 weeks and … we were able to accomplish that. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come."
Because he pitted to repair his damaged car, Harvick eventually gained track position as others had to come to pit road for their final stops. By the time the field lined up for a final three-lap charge to the finish, Harvick's scarred Chevrolet was second, and seemingly just as fast as that of race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I timed the last (restart) pretty good and was able to get into Turn 1, but I just couldn't turn into the corner like I needed to," he said. "He was able to carry (that) momentum."
Harvick became the seventh driver to clinch a spot in the 16-team Chase, as long as he attempts to qualify for the remaining five regular-season races. He joins Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano.
Kicking off the final five races leading up to the Chase is this week's stop at Watkins Glen International, the final road course event of the season for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.
Clinching a berth won't change how he and his SHR team approach the remaining races.
"I think it's just trying to get yourself ready for the last 10 weeks," he said, "to know that you're not going to win every race, you're going to have days … where you have to scramble, you're going to have practices where your car is off, you're going to have things that are going to go wrong.