By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Despite being a member of the ‘Big Three,’ Kevin Harvick flew under the Radar after struggling to run inside the top-10 at Martinsville Speedway. The First Data 500 was an uncharacteristic struggle for the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion.
Harvick finished 10th after hovering just inside the top-15 in his No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion. The struggles for Harvick were evident as he was forced to take the free pass at the end of the second stage. Changing track conditions and lack of track position, a recurring theme of the weekend, left the Stewart-Haas Racing driver at the tail-end of the top-10 as the checkered flag waved.
The race was dominated by Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and eventual race winner Joey Logano. At the beginning of the race, Harvick was able to squeeze inside the top-10 to gain two points at the end of the first stage. However, as the laps ticked off, he slowly slid down the running order.
Harvick explained that although his team didn’t win, they accomplished their goal of not defeating themselves.
“As the sun started to go down our speed was definitely better. Everybody just kind of hung in there on our Busch Beer Ford. Our goal is always to come here and kind of just not defeat ourselves with a horrible finish. We had a good day. A decent day. Not a great day.
“Lost a few spots there at the end racing Newman. His car gets as wide as his neck there sometimes. You know, it is Martinsville, and everybody is racing hard and we wound up finishing 10th and we go to Texas and hopefully have a good day.”
After the events of Martinsville Speedway, Harvick is tied for second on the Playoff Grid with Martin Truex, Jr. He now sits 21-points behind Busch, the Championship Points Leader. Harvick and Truex hold the cutoff for the Championship Four, 25-Points ahead of Kurt Busch.
Looking ahead to next weekend’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick’s odds are among the best of those in the field. He even went as far to call Texas his best track of those in the Round of Eight on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show ‘Happy Hours.’ Among active drivers, he has the sixth best average finish, 11.06 in 31 career starts at the 1.5-Mile D-Shaped Oval.
Harvick is second among active drivers in the five most recent races at the track. Logano has the best average finish, 4.20. Harvick’s driver rating at Dover is 119.1. In his career, the veteran driver has led 318 laps in 31 starts at the No Limits, Texas track. Harvick also has one victory, this race last year, nine top-five and 19 top-10 finishes, along with one pole position.
Now Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers, and the entire No. 4 team will look to make lightning strike twice as they attempt to defend their Texas Playoff race victory and secure a spot in the Championship Four.