LAS VEGAS (March 6, 2011) — Kevin Harvick and the No. 33 Rheem team came to Las Vegas Motor Speedway with one goal and that was to defend their 2010 win at the 1.5-mile track. It only took Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) co-owner Harvick one lap in qualifying to land the solid starting position of fourth for the Sam’s Town 300. The team felt the top-five starting spot would benefit them in the end and help the team make a return trip to victory lane.
In front of a cheering crowd the green flag waved and brought the 43-car field to life. In the opening lap the lead cars went three wide and Harvick took the No. 33 Rheem machine straight to the lead. The 200-lap event only made it to lap four before it saw the first caution flag of the day. With the lead in hand, Harvick and the KHI team opted to stay on track.
The field returned to green-flag conditions on lap 9 and in the same lap, Harvick was shuffled out of the lead position. The driver delivered feedback to his crew as he fought to maintain track position among the top-10 cars that his Chevrolet was becoming very loose. Crew chief David Hyder radioed to Harvick that the team was working on a plan to help alleviate the handling issue and would prepare for a pit stop at lap 50.
Harvick joined most of the lead lap cars for a round of green-flag pit stops at the lap 50 point and brought the Rheem Chevrolet in for four fresh tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to help with the handling. Back on track, Harvick steadily held ground among the top 10. At lap 66 the caution waved for the second time during the race at which the KHI team took the opportunity for another pit stop. The team added four fresh Goodyear tires to the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet and completed an additional chassis adjustment in a continued effort to help improve the handling of the car.
Back to green-flag racing at lap 70 Harvick kept the KHI car in the top 10 and maintained position with the lead pack cars as the race closed in on the halfway point. The Rheem team used every chance presented to them to keep improving the handling of the Chevrolet. By lap 125, Harvick reported that he believed the handling had improved but was still on the loose-side driving into the turns.
After surviving earlier on-track incidents, misfortune struck on the lap 143 restart when a vehicle in front of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet checked up going into turn one. As a result Harvick, running seventh at the time, hit the rear of No. 11 car and was left with enough front-end damage from the contact that he made the decision to bring his KHI Chevrolet to the garage for repairs.
The Rheem team worked diligently to make the necessary repairs to the No. 33 car and was able to return Harvick to the track with less than 25 laps to go in the event. The checkered flag flew with Harvick coming in with a 28th-place finish.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to action at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 19. Tune in to ESPN at 1:00 p.m. EST and 1:30 p.m. EST on PRN.