Race 24 of 33: VFW Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway
Track Specs: 1.366-mile oval / 147 laps
Weather: Mostly sunny; 86 deg.
Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
Harvick’s finish: 4th
With his No. 88 Armour Sandwich Creations Chevrolet driving great on long runs, Kevin Harvick traded the lead back and forth with Denny Hamlin’s No. 20 machine for the majority of Saturday’s VFW Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway. Harvick led 16 of 147 circuits of the 1.366-mile oval before ultimately finishing fourth in his 10thNASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) start this season, scoring his fourth top-five finish and bringing his career total to 175.
Harvick qualified ninth, but didn’t stay there for long. By the lap-25 competition caution, he had driven the Armour Sandwich Creations Chevy up to third. He reported that the No. 88 machine was lacking a bit of rear grip, so crew chief Dave Elenz called for track bar and air pressure adjustments during the four-tire stop. The Armour crew gained Harvick a spot on pit road and after restarting second, the two-time NXS champion took the lead for the first time within a lap of receiving the green flag. He held onto the lead for five laps before surrendering it to Hamlin, whose No. 20 was extremely quick on short runs.
It wasn’t long before Harvick was able to mount another challenge for Hamlin, and the driver of the No. 88 resumed the lead on lap 49. Harvick was only able to hang on for two laps, reporting that his Chevrolet Camaro still lacked rear grip on corner exit. The second and final caution flag flew on lap 71, and Harvick came to pit road on the following lap for four fresh Goodyear tires, fuel and another round of adjustments.
Harvick restarted second on lap 75, and took the lead for the third and final time on lap 122 after Hamlin came to pit road to make his final stop. Harvick gave up the lead when he brought the No. 88 to pit road nine laps later. He rejoined the field in the ninth position as pit stops continued cycling through, but the shortened final run to the checkered didn’t give Harvick enough time to mount a forward charge on those that stopped before him, so he settled for a fourth-place result.
Hamlin went on to win the race, earning his third NXS victory of the season, and Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, Harvick and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five.
Kevin Harvick, driver No. 88 Armour Sandwich Creations team
“Our Armour Chevrolet was really good today, just not quite as strong as the 20, especially at the beginning of a run. We could chase him (Hamlin) back down on the long run, but the short run there at the end didn’t line up for us. I didn’t get onto pit road good on the last run, we stayed out a couple extra laps thinking there might be a caution, and just didn’t catch traffic right. It just didn’t line up there at the end and we would’ve needed it all to go right to beat the 20. All in all, I’m proud of everybody at JRM for the effort they put into making the cars better. They did a good job and we were competitive today with a shot at the win. I’m having a lot of fun here at Darlington this weekend with the cars sliding around – I love this race being during the day.”