By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The nighttime was definitely not the right time for Kevin Harvick in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
As one of the favorites coming into the season finale, Harvick, who struggled to find speed in practice, was back to his dominant self in the early stages of the race, but as the sun disappeared behind the horizon, so did his chances at a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.
“We had a daytime race car,” Harvick said. “When it got dark, we just lost the rear grip and couldn’t get off the corner and was having trouble turning in the corner. Just the balance was really good until it was dark outside, and we just never could get the rear grip back to where we needed to, and I couldn’t take off.”
Harvick started the day in 12th, worst of the championship drivers, but by lap 43, the 2014 series champion was back in a familiar spot at the front of the field, taking over the lead during the first cycle of green flag pit stops.
As the race played out, Harvick would lead a handful of other times, accumulating 58 laps led on the evening and found himself in position to capitalize if the race ran green to the finish. Unfortunately for the No. 4 team, a caution came out at lap 248 and changed everything.
A slow pit stop at the time he least needed one relegated Harvick to the last of the championship drivers coming off pit road. With an ill-handling race car, he could do nothing more than watch them drive away out of his windshield, eventually coming home with a third-place finish, several seconds back of race winner and champion Joey Logano.
“We came out last of the four on the pit stop there and then the restart was not our strongsuit all night, and just got beat there on a short run. We didn’t have track position and they just drove off,” Harvick added.
Despite the disappointing end to the season, Harvick still had one of the best years of his career, accumulating eight wins, 23 top-five finishes, 29 top-10 finishes, four poles, 1990 laps led and an season-long average finish of 8.8.
“You would be happy with it, wouldn’t you? It’s been a great year and we just got beat tonight.”