Kevin Harvick sidelined early at Kansas, faces near must-win at Bristol

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kevin Harvick needed a good run during Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. Early on, it looked like he was heading in that direction.

Entering Kansas, Harvick sat 13 points below the cutline after his No. 4 car caught ablaze in the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway. That dropped him to last on the playoff grid.

In practice on Saturday at Kansas, Harvick’s car looked average, ranking 10th on long-run speed. Harvick took the green flag from 14th starting position. But it didn’t take long for the No. 4 car to rocket up the leaderboard, getting as high as fifth.

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Shortly after a restart following the Lap 25 competition caution, Harvick was battling with Bubba Wallace and Ross Chastain in a close contest for third. When attempting to drop in behind the duo off Turn 4 on Lap 32, his car’s front end broke loose and it pounded the outside wall. Harvick regrouped and hit it again further down the frontstretch, further disabling his car.

Limping around the track, Harvick brought his car to pit road for the Rodney Childers-led crew to assess the damage. It wasn’t good. The crew chief said over the radio that every piece of suspension from front to back was broken.

Just 32 laps in, Harvick — who is tied with Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano as the all-time wins leader at Kansas — was done for the day. He earned just one point.

“When those two cars came up in front of me, I just got super tight,” Harvick said from outside the infield care center. “When I lifted, it grabbed and got loose. I just wasn’t expecting them to come up and my car getting that tight.”

Dating back to the regular season finale, Harvick has three consecutive DNFs for the first time in his career. Before this streak, he had consecutive DNFs just once before (2004) in 782 Cup Series starts.

Looking ahead to Bristol, Harvick lost 22 points to the cutline at Kansas and is now sitting 35 markers below the cutline, which is currently a tie between Tyler Reddick (who blew a tire while leading and finished 35th) and Austin Cindric. He’s likely going to need to win at Bristol in order to advance to the Round of 12, a track he’s won at three times in the past.

“Yeah, it is what it is,” he said. “We were racing to win anyway today, so that is what we will do again next week.”

Of his Bristol outlook, Harvick said simply, “Go win.”

Harvick has top-two finishes in each of the last two races at Bristol on the concrete. He has multiple walk-off wins in the past, including a Dover stomping, where he led 355 of 400 laps in the opening round of the playoffs in 2015.