Kevin Harvick headed to Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday in search of win number three in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the 1.5-track but walked away with a 13th-place finish after right-side tire wear caused the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet team to make an unscheduled stop late in the race. The Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) co-owner started from the 18th position after qualifying was cancelled earlier in the day. Harvick battled a loose-handling Chevrolet Impala and climbed through the field, all the way to the lead on lap 129, before the ending the night in the top 15.
Harvick made the trip from Kansas Speedway where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competes on Sunday, June 5 and was preparing to climb behind the wheel of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet when the skies opened and rain poured down. As a result of the inclement weather, NASCAR cancelled qualifying and set the field per the rule book, lining up the cars according to practice speeds. The two-time Nationwide Series champion took the green flag from the 18th position and immediately relayed to crew chief David Hyder that his Chevrolet was loose.
By the lap 25 competition caution, Harvick had powered his way to the ninth position. With the caution, Hyder called the driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments to help resolve the handling issues. The KHI team returned Harvick to the track in the 11th position for the lap 30 restart.
Back under green Harvick raced with lap times as fast as the leader. On lap 62, the yellow flag waved for the second time with the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet in fifth. Hyder used the caution period as an opportunity to bring Harvick to pit road for further chassis adjustments as the car was still loose racing around the D-shaped oval. The Rheem team bolted on four tires and added fuel in addition to the adjustments. As Harvick went to exit his pit stall, the way the vehicle in front of him had pulled into pit road forced the No. 33 to maneuver around the vehicle resulting in a slower stop. The team lost three positions during the trip to pit road. Harvick lined up eighth for the lap 67 restart.
As the field returned to full speed, Harvick returned to his march towards the front. By the night’s halfway point, the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet was among the top five running lap times quicker than the leader. Harvick felt his car was better on the long run but was still fighting loose-handling conditions. On lap 111, green-flag pit stops began and on lap 116 the No. 33 team made their scheduled green-flag stop. Harvick wheeled the Rheem Chevrolet down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. A solid stop by the team quickly returned the No. 33 on track.
The third caution of the night came on lap 120. With no need to come to pit road, Harvick stayed on track and gained track position, taking the lap 127 restart from the second position.
Harvick shot to the lead on lap 129 and engaged in a tight door-to-door battle to keep the top position. Just as the driver was shuffled to third, the yellow flag waved for the fourth time during the 200-lap event. With less than 70 laps to go, the team opted for a fuel-only stop during the caution period. On lap 144, green-flag racing resumed with Harvick in the third position.
Harvick fought to hang on to the third position but No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet was still loose and started to slide out of the top five. The driver relayed to his crew as the race closed in on the final 10 laps that not only was the car loose but there as something amiss with the right-side tires. On lap 188, Harvick pulled his vehicle to pit road for four tires.
Harvick returned to the track one lap down and when the checkered flag waved came across the finish line in the 13th position.
“This Rheem Chevrolet was loose all night but it was fast,” said Harvick. “We struggled a little bit on pit road and just had some tires cord there at the end. We had a better car than where we finished.”
The No. 33 Rheem team will head to Michigan International Speedway on June 18 with driver Paul Menard behind the wheel. Watch the NASCAR Nationwide Series action live on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET.