Pit Road Penalty Derails Strong Run for Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Driver
Date: Oct. 18, 2015
Event: Hollywood Casino 400 (Round 31 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 4th/16th (Running, completed 268 of 269 laps)
Point Standing: 5th with 3,071 points, 24 out of first in the Contender Round of the Chase
Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford) in a green-white-checkered finish
Kevin Harvick was poised for a top-five finish in the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. But rather than contending for the win in the closing laps, the driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was hit with a pit road penalty and finished a lap down in 16th place.
“We are lucky to come out of it as good as we did with our Budweiser/Jimmy John’s team,” said Harvick, whose 16th-place result marks just the seventh time he’s finished outside the top-10 in 2015. “We didn’t have a great weekend – a lot of things falling on and off – and now we’ve got to go to Talladega and have a good week. All in all it could have been a lot worse, and everybody kept digging.”
Harvick started the 400-miler strong, grabbing the second position within the opening laps and taking over the lead on lap 28. He gained positions despite a significant vibration that created concern over the engine. During the first caution, however, the team discovered that the weight in the right-rear tire had shifted, creating the problem. A quick change of right-side tires cured the vibration and allowed Harvick to retain the lead when green-flag racing resumed.
As Harvick led the field, a loose-handling condition that he had noted at the beginning of the race intensified. The matter became enough of a challenge that the reigning Sprint Cup Series champ was shuffled from both the lead and then second place on laps 50 and 52. Fortunately, wedge and air pressure adjustments during the second caution on lap 63 worked to shore up the handling, allowing Harvick to continue his drive to the front.
For the next several circuits Harvick raced in the fourth position. He reported around the halfway point that while the car was no longer handling on the loose side it had started getting tight at the exits of the turns. Even though it was enough of a problem to prevent the former Kansas winner from battling the top-three cars for the lead, Harvick continued to be a strong presence on the track in fourth place – a position he seemingly had a lock on as the laps continued to wind down.
What was turning out to be a solid day for the Budweiser/Jimmy John’s team took a drastic turn when, while making a green-flag stop on lap 213 for four tires, a round of chassis adjustments and fuel, the gasman was unable to remove the gas can before the No. 4 car left the designated pit area. The transgression earned Harvick a stop-and-go penalty as green-flag racing continued, and he found himself a lap down in 20th place after serving the penalty.
Making matters worse for the California native, the handle on the shifter broke, making it a challenge to come up through the gears during any subsequent restarts. Harvick battled through the setbacks to make his way to 16th place before the checkered flag waved.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, lead the four-car SHR contingent on Sunday by finishing sixth. It was his 17th top-10 this season and his sixth top-10 in 20 career Sprint Cup starts at Kansas.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 22nd.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Arctic Cat Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 35th after a lap-64 spin left him multiple laps down.
Joey Logano won the Hollywood Casino 400 to score his 13th career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his second at Kansas.
Denny Hamlin finished .491 of a second behind Logano in the runner-up spot, while Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 39 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the 269-lap race, which went two laps past its scheduled distance via a green-white-checkered finish.
As the fifth race in the 10-race Chase, Kansas served as the second race in the Contender Round. The original, 16-driver Chase field was whittled down to 12 following the Oct. 4 race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The next cutoff comes Oct. 25 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, whereupon the Chase field shrinks to eight for the Eliminator Round. Another three races will be run in that round, where after the Nov. 15 race at Phoenix International Raceway, only four drivers will advance to the final, winner-take-all Championship Round Nov. 22 in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch and Harvick continue to represent SHR in this year’s Chase. Busch leaves Kansas third in points, 18 behind Chase leader Logano. Harvick leaves Kansas in fifth, 24 points out of first.
The current Chase standings before next weekend’s race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway are as follows:
Joey Logano (3,095 points)
Denny Hamlin (3,082 points, -13) +2
Kurt Busch (3,077 points, -18) +2
Carl Edwards (3,076 points, -19) +2
Kevin Harvick (3,071 points, -24) -3
Jeff Gordon (3,071 points, -24) +1
Brad Keselowski (3,071 points, -24) +1
Martin Truex Jr. (3,070 points, -25) -5
Kyle Busch (3,064 points, -31) +1
Ryan Newman (3,062 points, -33) -1
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3,039 points, -56) +/-0
Matt Kenseth (3,035 points, -60) +/-0
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Oct. 25 CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN.