Author: Zack Albert
Date: Nov. 22, 2015
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It wasn't the sort of record that Kevin Harvick wanted to break, another runner-up finish in a season full of them with a repeat NASCAR Sprint CupSeries championship on the line.
Harvick entered Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 as a pre-race favorite and the defending race winner. He was left with his 13th second-place effort of the year, his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet a scant 1.552 seconds behind eventual winner and first-time champion Kyle Busch.
The baker's dozen of runner-up performances surpassed the modern-era record formerly held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in the 1972 season. Those oh-so-close finishes -- balanced against three wins in 2015 -- helped him forge into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with rock-solid consistency, but it wasn't quite enough on Busch's night.
"It's been a great couple years, and I know we're disappointed about finishing second tonight, but it's kind of the theme of the year, finishing second," Harvick said. "Unfortunately it's just one short, but all in all, it's been a great couple years, and couldn't be prouder of our bunch of guys."
Harvick led once in the race's early stages for 46 of the 267 laps, but struggled to find the handling balance on the 1.5-mile track. "No rear grip. Won't turn," he called out to crew chief Rodney Childers during the sixth of seven caution periods, hoping adjustments could help him regain his previous edge.
Childers said he wasn't able to tell if alterations the team made overnight helped the No. 4 car or not, since track conditions were so much different from Saturday practices to Sunday's main event. But he said he's historically fought the same issue -- "tight getting in and too loose off" -- in past visits to the South Florida speedway.
"We haven't been able to get a hold of it," Childers said. "It's probably one of our worst race tracks really, but we won last year and finished second this year at a place we feel like we just can't get a hold of. We need to make some changes with our cars and try to do a better job coming down here next year.
"All in all, we had a great car and a great season. You look at the wins and the top-fives and the top-twos, and it's pretty incredible what we've been able to do and just really proud of Kevin and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing."
The race's final caution flag with 11 laps left seemed to give Harvick new hope, and he jumped from fourth to second place shortly after the restart. But by then, Busch had swept around late-race leader Brad Keselowski to take command.
Post-race, after thanking his team and accepting congratulations from Stewart-Haas teammate Kurt Busch, a trademark smile formed on Harvick's face as he watched the 30-year-old Busch celebrate on the main stage -- seeing a little bit of his 2014 self in the No. 18 team's jubilation. It's a scenario that played out for Harvick last season, but was just one elusive position away.
"I think when you race your whole life and you accomplish what you've raced for your whole life, it's exciting," Harvick said of Busch's first Sprint Cup championship. "I've been fortunate to experience that last year and know that feeling and know how gratifying that is. You know, it's fun to see that excitement.
"He broke his leg at Daytona, and to come back from everything that he came back from, it's like I told you guys three or four days ago, I mean, there's four phenomenal stories that were sitting up on the stage, probably three that were much more exciting than mine, but that's a great comeback story from where he was after Daytona."
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