Race 22 of 33: Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 0.533-mile oval / 300 laps
Weather: Clear; 66 deg.
Race Winner: Kyle Busch
Harvick’s finish: 8th
After battling a tight race car all night, Kevin Harvick fought hard to earn an eighth-place finish in the No. 88 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet in Saturday’s Food City 300 in Bristol Motor Speedway. The result gives Harvick his seventh top 10 in nine NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) starts in 2015, and the 243rd of his NXS career.
Harvick qualified third for the 300-lap scheduled event, which eventually went two laps into overtime, but the two-time NXS champion immediately reported that his Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet was too tight through the center of corners. Crew chief Dave Elenz called for track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments on the first pit stop, which came under caution on lap 55.
The major adjustments seemed to help the No. 88 Camaro for the following run, and after restarting fourth on lap 60, Harvick was able to work his way to the front of the field. He and Denny Hamlin, who was piloting the No. 20, put on a good battle for the lead over a 20-lap stretch, and Harvick was able to lead lap 125. However, Hamlin regained the lead on the following lap as the two drivers continued picking their way through lapped traffic, and a caution flag flew for a second time on lap 130 with Harvick running second.
Elenz called Harvick to pit road under the caution for four fresh tires and another round of changes. Unfortunately, these didn’t seem to help the Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevy and Harvick continued to report that the car was way too tight. It also didn’t help matters that he was stuck restarting on the bottom, which is definitely not the preferred line at the 0.533-mile oval. Harvick made his final pit stop under caution on lap 194, but again, the adjustments weren’t enough to help improve the tight condition on the No. 88 Chevy.
Harvick restarted eighth when the green waved again on lap 198, and was able to stay inside the top 11 throughout the remainder of the race. The yellow flag flew four more times, making for a total of eight caution periods, and of the final four restarts, Harvick was stuck on the inside lane for three of them. The final caution resulted in a green-white-checkered finish that put the race into overtime, and Harvick was able to fight his way to an eighth-place finish.
Kyle Busch won his third NXS race of 2015, and he was followed to the stripe by Kyle Larson, Hamlin, Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez.
Kevin Harvick, driver No. 88 Hunt Brothers Pizza team
“The car was just way too tight all night. We started off the race tight and our first set of adjustments helped some, but the track kept tightening up and we couldn’t keep up with it. When we had our Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevy near the front early in the race, I was able to maintain position, but once we got back a few spots, there wasn’t much I could do. With a tight race car, the last place you want to be is on the bottom, and that’s where we kept getting stuck for each of the last few restarts.”