Issues Prevent Jimmy John's Driver From Contending for Win
Date: June 6, 2016
Event: Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 (Round 14 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (2.5-mile triangle)
Start/Finish: 4th/9th (Running, completed 160 of 160 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (490 points, 25 points ahead of second)
Winner: Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished ninth in Monday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. A pit-road penalty and varying strategies hindered Harvick from contending for the win in the closing laps of the 400-mile event.
Rain covered the track and surrounding areas throughout the day on Sunday, forcing NASCAR to postpone the race to Monday afternoon. A solid practice on Saturday had Harvick and company looking forward to racing on Monday – a day in which the racing conditions would closely mirror those that existed during the lone practice on Saturday.
It was during the competition caution on lap 15 that the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion experienced his first setback of the race when he was served a speeding penalty while coming down pit road for service. After stopping for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments, Harvick restarted in 35th place and quickly started making his way back to the front of the field, taking over 15th place on lap 36 and then joining the top-10 by lap 48.
The Bakersfield, California, native even took a turn at the top spot beginning on lap 54 when green-flag pit stops began. The team had hoped to be able to make its own stop during green-flag conditions and cycle through amongst the leaders, but an ill-timed caution on lap 59 worked to the detriment of that plan. Instead of being firmly planted in the top-five after a trip to pit road, Harvick was in 12th for the restart on lap 65. His quick racecar negated the setback, however, and by lap 80 Harvick was running comfortably in fourth place.
While the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevy was fast, it was not without issue, as Harvick noted at different points of the race the car seemed to trend toward the tight side, particularly when buried in traffic. Crew chief Rodney Childers called for various chassis and air pressure adjustments throughout the race, and the car continued to show speed.
During what wound up being the last pit stop of the race, the team was dealt the blow that would ultimately prevent Harvick from finally crossing the 2.5-mile triangle from the list of tracks at which he has yet to win in Sprint Cup Series competition.
Harvick brought the No. 4 Chevy to the attention of the team during the ninth caution for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. A number of teams, however, elected to either make fuel-only or two-tire stops. Those varying strategies resulted in Harvick going from sixth place prior to the stop to 23rd for the restart on lap 122. With 38 laps to go in the race, the team had Harvick bring the No. 4 car back to pit road to top off the fuel should the event go into NASCAR’s version of “overtime.” Despite the setback, Harvick made the most of those final laps, racing his way back into the top-10 and finally to ninth place by the time the checkered flag waved.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS, led the way for SHR on Monday by winning the 400-mile race. Busch took over the top spot on lap 129 and never looked back en route to the victory. The win moves him to a tie for 25th on the all-time series wins list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery/FOX Sports GO Chevrolet SS for SHR, and Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 32nd and 34th, respectively, as both were caught up in the same accident on lap 94. The teammates both were running at the end of the 160-lap race after spending time in the garage to make repairs to their damaged racecars and returning to the race multiple laps down.
Busch’s win was the 28th of his career, his first of the season and his third at Pocono.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 1.126 seconds behind Busch, with Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano rounding out the top-five. Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Harvick and Ryan Blaney comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 40 laps, with five drivers failing to finish.
With round 14 of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship standings with 490 points. Harvick and SHR teammate Kurt Busch sit 1-2 in the series standings, with Harvick 25 markers ahead of second-place Busch. Patrick is 26th in the standings with 245 points, 65 ahead of 31st-place Regan Smith. Stewart is 36th with 118 points, 71 out of the top-30. If Patrick or Stewart win a race and finish among the top-30 in points following the 26th race of the season Sept. 10 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, each will earn a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick has already earned a Chase spot via his win March 13 at Phoenix International Raceway, while Busch added his name to the win list on Monday and is now also among the nine drivers who have earned a Chase berth thus far.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday, June 12, at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Coverage by FS1 begins with NASCAR RaceDay at 11:30 a.m. EDT, and the race broadcast begins at 1 p.m.
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