By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers played the strategy game to perfection en route to the win Saturday at Pocono Raceway and came into Sunday looking to make it a clean sweep, but came up one spot short of making that a reality
With 325 miles of experience from Saturday under his belt, Harvick started the day in 20th place due to the invert and the strategy game was once again afoot between him and Denny Hamlin, who finished runner-up in Saturday’s race.
Harvick led twice for 11 laps, taking over the lead with 45 laps to go when Brad Keselowski pitted. At lap 105, Harvick made his final pit stop for two tires and fuel, just as he had done on Saturday.
As pit stops cycled out, Harvick advanced back up to second-place, but this time around, Hamlin stayed out much longer before making his final stop, building an insurmountable advantage that Harvick couldn’t overcome with the laps winding down and daylight fading.
In the end, Harvick would cross the line 3.068 seconds back to score his eighth top-five and 12th top-10 finish of the season.
“The car was actually better today than it was yesterday,” Harvick said. “Just the way that the end worked out. We had to run in a lot of traffic there. Denny kept clicking off laps. They did what they had to do, did the opposite of what we did as far as when we pitted. We lost time going through that traffic, just came out behind him, wound up second today.
“Just really proud of my Busch Beer Ford Mustang guys. They did a great job all weekend of giving me fast cars and chances to win both races. In the end we were 50%. Just really proud of everybody.”
With 15 races complete, Harvick and Hamlin lead the way in the wins category, with Harvick scoring three wins to Hamlin’s four. Just as the two drivers had done in the first doubleheader of the season at Darlington, Harvick won the first race, with Hamlin taking the second.
Harvick noted in his post-race press conference that both he and Hamlin, as well as their crew chiefs, have been able to hit on something as of late to give them a leg up heading through the summer stretch of the season.
“I think as we go through these styles of racetracks with Pocono, and obviously he does really good at Homestead, Martinsville, we go to Michigan. There’s a lot of the racetracks that both of us and our teams do a really good job at,” Harvick said.
“As you look at last year and this year, I know Kyle hasn’t really put it all together yet, but those guys, the Gibbs guys, even Martin, do a really good job.
“Denny has been consistent over the last couple years with Chris. That’s what it takes. It takes that chemistry between crew chief and driver and team. You just never know when it’s going to be like that.
“Those guys are really good. I know Rodney and Gabehart, they’re good acquaintances, I guess you could say. Both of our crew chiefs are just really old school racers that do a good job in the engineering era of being able to look at the car, come at it from a driver’s perspective.”
Heading into next weekend’s running of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Harvick keeps his hold on the points lead, with a 52-point advantage over Ryan Blaney, boding well for the 2014 series champion to make another run at the title in 2020.
“We’re winning races, doing the things we need to do right now, running up front. I think obviously when you look at the win column, as long as you’re winning races, that’s what it takes to win championships.”