By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
Before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 went green at Chicagoland Speedway, Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team were already facing adversity. NASCAR didn’t approve of adjustments made to the body work on the left side of Harvick’s car before Sunday’s race. As a result, the sanctioning body ruled that Harvick would start at the rear of the field, while the majority of the other Chase combatants started in the front after rain washed out qualifying earlier in the week.
Harvick, who tweeted that he would be a raging bull throughout the Chase weeks ago, proved to be a man of his word.
Within the first 30 laps of the race, Harvick charged through the field like a bull coming out of the gates at a rodeo. Harvick had worked his way from 38th to the top-10 in the opening circuits and it looked like he would find a way to work his way to a win out of the gates in the first round of the 2016 Chase.
Then a set of unfortunate circumstances occurred for Harvick.
While running seventh, Harvick opted to hit pit road at lap 49. As his crew was changing tires and adding fuel to the No. 4 Chevrolet SS, the caution flag waved. Harvick’s team dropped the jack, and the driver attempted to get out of pit road quickly to avoid losing a lap to the field. Unfortunately, Harvick would not beat race leader, Martin Truex Jr. to the start finish line and he would be trapped a lap down.
For the final 221 laps of the event, Harvick kept trying to put himself in a position to get his lap back, but the planets never quite aligned for the driver from Bakersfield, California. At the end of the race, Harvick crossed the finish line in 20th, one lap down — which was not indicative of how fast his car was on Sunday.
But that was little consolation to Harvick, and he was understandably frustrated by his day, so much that he refused to talk to the press after the race. Harvick, who was one of the championship favorites heading into the day, finds himself in a precarious position with two races remaining until the first set of cuts from the playoffs.
Luckily for Harvick, he was able to minimize the damage of a bad day at Chicago, and he sits just one point out of the 12th spot in the point standings. If he can leap frog past Austin Dillon (who is tied with him in the standings) and Tony Stewart (who is one point ahead of him), Harvick will have a shot to continue Chasing his second Sprint Cup Series championship.
CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP STANDINGS (After Chicago — Round 1 of 10)
- Martin Truex Jr. *
- Brad Keselowski, -1 pt
- Kyle Busch, -4 pts
- Denny Hamlin, -5 pts
- Joey Logano, -7 pts
- Chase Elliott, -11 pts
- Matt Kenseth, -12 pts
- Jimmie Johnson, -13 pts
- Carl Edwards, -18 pts
- Kurt Busch, -19 pts
- Jamie McMurray, -20 pts
- Tony Stewart, -22 pts
— Cut Line (two races remaining) —
- Austin Dillon, -23 pts
- Kevin Harvick, -23 pts
- Kyle Larson, -24 pts
- Chris Buescher, -34 pts