Kevin Harvick returned to the driver’s seat of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet Impala at Kentucky Speedway where the two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion finished second after closing in on the race lead in the last 10 laps. The top-10 finish ties Harvick with Tommy Houston for the most all-time Nationwide Series top-10 finishes with 198. The runner-up finish is the No. 33 team’s seventh top-five and 11th top-10 finish in 18 races this season.
The Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) co-owner qualified the No. 33 Chevrolet in the sixth position for the 200-lap event. As soon as the green-flag waved to start the Friday night race, Harvick powered his way to the front and moving into the second position in only two laps. Running behind KHI teammate and polesitter Elliott Sadler in the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet Impala, the two pulled ahead of the rest of the 43-car field. On lap 10, Harvick made the move for the lead as the KHI duo raced out of turn four.
Harvick reported his Rheem Chevrolet was a touch free by lap 15 while he continued to hold a significant lead over the field. After the lap 30 mark, the No. 33 team prepared for an anticipated lap 52 green-flag stop. The driver radioed to his crew that his car was a bit free but overall handling good.
The night’s first caution flag on lap 42 provided the opportune time for a pit stop for the Rheem team. Crew chief David Hyder called Harvick to pit road for four tires and fuel. The team opted for no changes on the stop as the driver felt the Rheem Chevrolet had started to tighten up just prior to the caution.
The KHI team executed a solid stop and sent Harvick off pit road still with the lead. The California native brought the field to the green flag on lap 48 and held the lead through the second caution period which fell on lap 65. With the race lead in hand, the team went with a fuel-only stop with the goal of maintaining the track position, but the No. 22 car of Brad Keselowski beat the No. 33 car off pit road leaving Harvick to restart in the second position.
NASCAR returned the field back to green-flag racing on lap 71. Harvick engaged in a close battle for the lead, racing door-to-door with the No. 22 car for several laps before settling into the second position. As the race reached the halfway mark, the yellow flag waved for a third time. Harvick relayed to his crew that he could use a little more rear grip, and Hyder called the driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. The No. 33 maintained the second position for the lap 106 restart.
In the same lap that the field returned to green-flag conditions, an accident brought out the fourth yellow flag. With no need to make a pit stop, Harvick remained on track for the lap 112 restart and fought in another close battle for the lead with the No. 22 car.
The cars sailed around the 1.5-mile track for several laps before seeing the yellow caution lights flash for a fifth time on lap 132. Looking ahead to the end of the race, the Rheem team made a quick stop for one can of fuel only and took the lap 139 restart from the second position.
With less than 30 laps to go in the event, Harvick hammered down and chased after the No. 22 car of Keselowski. As the laps continued to wind down, the driver closed in on the race lead but the KHI team kept a close eye on their fuel mileage as they were afraid they would be several laps short on fuel. The race remained under green-flag conditions for the final laps of the event and Harvick continued to draw closer to the No. 22 car, but the checkered flag waved before he could race his way to the win.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 19th race of the 2011 season. Harvick will pilot the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet and race for his second win at the one-mile track. Tune in to ESPN at 3:30 p.m. ET to watch the action live.