So close, yet so far for Kevin Harvick.
Still looking for his first win of the 2017 season, Harvick entered Pocono looking to not only score his first win at the 2.5 mile triangle-shaped track, but to finally get in the winner’s column this year. Unfortunately for the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, his visit to victory lane will have to wait after coming up just short on Sunday afternoon, as he finished second on the day behind winner Ryan Blaney.
Starting the day in 12th place, Harvick made his presence felt by the end of the first stage, coming in second when the green-checkered flag flew at lap 50. He would have another strong result in Stage 2 as he crossed the line in fourth place at lap 100.
However, his strong finishes in the first two stages were almost for naught as Harvick had the same issue that befell Dale Earnhardt, Jr. earlier in the day by shifting from third to second instead of fourth heading down the frontstretch , causing the engine to over-rev. But unlike Earnhardt, Harvick was able to keep going despite losing several positions in the process.
“The guys did a great job,” said Harvick. “Really proud of the engine shop. I don’t know how the engine didn’t blow up with the third-to-second shift. Obviously the durability is good enough in the engines to do that.”
Though the team was worried about the engine holding together over the remaining laps in the race, Harvick drove his No. 4 Ford right back toward the front, breaking back into the top-five with a little more than 20 laps to go.
After Kasey Kahne’s crash on lap 142 brought out the final caution of the day, Harvick came down pit road with the majority of the leaders for service, returning to the track in sixth place for the ensuing restart. On the restart, he would move up to third place as he had his sights set on the top-two drivers just ahead of him.
As Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney were battling for the race lead with nine laps to go, Harvick closed in right behind them and followed Blaney right past Busch, slotting into second place as the veteran and the young gun would pull away from the rest of the field to settle the race amongst themselves.
Harvick tried every trick in the book to try and get past Blaney over the closing laps, but in the end, just didn’t have enough to get past him, finishing second by a margin of 0.139 seconds.
“We had a really fast car,” Harvick added. “I had a tough time driving in the corner all day. We never could stop like we needed to all weekend, so you just had to be really careful with the brakes. If I’d over-drive it for a lap or two the pedal would start going down, and then I was really at a deficit. So I had to be very aware of where I let off every lap.”
“21 could charge the corner a little bit harder than I could, and my best bet, the way I passed people all day was waiting for him to slip up off the bottom, and he never slipped up off the bottom, so just didn’t have enough laps to finish that last pass off, and Ryan did a good job of not slipping a wheel with the amount of laps that he had left and was able to hold on.”
Even though it wasn’t the win he was hoping for, Sunday’s runner-up finish still marked his best finish of the season as he sits third in points, the highest of the drivers without a win yet this year.