Clutch Performance At The Monster Mile Catapults Kevin Harvick Into The Contender Round

Clutch Performance At The Monster Mile Catapults Kevin Harvick Into The Contender Round

by October 4, 2015 0 comments

Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images

DOVER, Del. – Kevin Harvick dominated to win the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, earning the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Budwesier/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet team a spot in the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Entering Sunday’s race, Harvick had to win the race to realistically transfer to the next round of the Chase. He led 355 of the 400 scheduled laps, the most laps that he has ever led in one event. The win marks his third victory of the 2015 season. Harvick won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway back in March. Having overcome a “Hail Mary” scenario, the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet team chanted “I believe that we will win” during their celebration in Victory Lane.

“You know, the payoff when you get in these situations, the rush that you get out of these types of situations, just from the situation itself throughout the day and the moments, are something that are a lot of fun to be a part of,” Harvick said. “Obviously you don’t want to be in these situations, but no matter what, when you get to Homestead, you’re going to be in this situation.

Even though Harvick’s clutch performance on Sunday was spectacular, he and his team are certainly no strangers to the “go big or go home” moments. In November of last year, Harvick had to win at Phoenix International Raceway to transfer to the Championship Round, and he did. The very next weekend, he had to beat three other drivers to win the championship, and he ended up not only beating them, but he sealed the deal with another win. What makes these feats even more impressive is that 2015 is only the second season of competition for the team that was formed in 2014.

Harvick said, “If you’re not ready for it, it’ll eat you up, and luckily I had Tony Stewart and a lot of experienced people to help me through that week last year because it was a lot different, and I think that those comments and suggestions of how you handle your week have just rolled over into things that we’ve done this year, and you just don’t let those types of situations overwhelm you. I think that’s Zipadelli’s pretty standard line is don’t let this week overwhelm you because it’ll be to the detriment of you if you don’t pay attention and keep yourself at bay.”

Also transferring to the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is Dale Earnhardt Jr. who made the cut by one position. In the final laps of Sunday’s AAA 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jamie McMurray battled it out for the third position. Whoever finished in front of the pair would transfer, and in the end, it was Earnhardt Jr. finishing third, eliminating McMurray’s championship hopes.

“Jamie, he took off on that run before last with about 50 to go, and I didn’t see that kind of speed in his car all day, so it kind of surprised me, but I thought we were going to get to him and get around him, but he took off with the laps running out,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “But we had a late caution and got around him, him and Matt (Kenseth) down there on Turn 3 and 4 on the outside.  Jamie was trying to squeeze down in front of Matt into Turn 3 and get to the bottom, and they really slow‑rolled that corner for some reason, both of them, and I just went to the outside because it was about the only shot I had to pinch anybody down, pinch Jamie down if I could get to his quarter panel, and that’s how it worked out.”

As for Jamie McMurray who was making his first appearance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, he’ll have to be pleased with a competitive fourth place finish at the Monster Mile. McMurray and his No. 1 Nature Made Chevrolet team can still cap off the season with great finishes and be a spoiler for those competing in the Chase.

“We were driving so hard those last few laps and it’s just hard to make up any ground,” McMurray said. “And it seemed like our car was maybe better on stickers. He (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) was a little bit better on the scuffs. We haven’t run this well, honestly. We talked earlier today about that. So, I’m thrilled with our performance today.”

Richard Childress Racing’s Paul Menard and Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer missed the cutoff for the Contender Round on Sunday afternoon. Bowyer finished 14th, while Menard struggled for a 25th place finish. This year’s Chase appearance was the first for Paul Menard, as well.

Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson also missed the cut for the Contender Round after a disappointing 41st place finish. Johnson entered the AAA 400 fifth in the Chase standings, but on Lap 104, Johnson had to make an unscheduled pit stop that eventually sent the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to the garage for repairs. He eventually returned to the track 37 laps down, but a broken rear axle seal is what ultimately destroyed Johnson’s chances at a seventh career championship.

“Definitely disappointed,” Johnson said. “It’s tough having a very inexpensive axle seal be the culprit and take your championship hopes away. It’s racing, I’ve had mechanicals take me out of championships growing up that led to some success for myself and I’m sure helped me with a championship or two. It’s just part of racing. It just shows how critical everything is on a race team. And how important every component is and you can’t take anything for granted. Heartbreaking for sure, but I don’t know what else we can do about it we just have to go on and try to win races and close out the season strong.”

The Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, October 10. Coverage for the Bank of America 500 will broadcast live on NBC and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 7 p.m. ET.

AAA 400 Results:

1.) #4 Kevin Harvick

2.) #18 Kyle Busch

3.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

4.) #1 Jamie McMurray

5.) #43 Aric Almirola

6.) #5 Kasey Kahne

7.) #20 Matt Kenseth

8.) #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

9.) #42 Kyle Larson

10.) #22 Joey Loagno

11.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.

12.) #24 Jeff Gordon

13.) #16 Greg Biffle

14.) #15 Clint Bowyer

15.) #19 Carl Edwards

16.) #2 Brad Keselowski

17.) #41 Kurt Busch

18.) #11 Denny Hamlin

19.) #31 Ryan Newman

20.) #9 Sam Hornish Jr.

21.) #10 Danica Patrick

22.) #55 David Ragan

23.) #3 Austin Dillon

24.) #13 Casey Mears

25.) #27 Paul Menard

26.) #14 Tony Stewart

27.) #51 Justin Allgaier

28.) #35 Cole Whitt

29.) #47 AJ Allmendinger

30.) #38 David Gilliland

31.) #6 Trevor Bayne

32.) #7 Alex Bowman

33.) #98 Reed Sorenson

34.) #83 Matt DiBenedetto

35.) #26 JJ Yeley

36.) #32 Josh Wise

37.) #46 Michael Annett

38.) #33 Alex Kennedy

39.) #62 Timmy Hill

40.) #40 Landon Cassill

41.) #48 Jimmie Johnson

42.) #34 Brett Moffitt

43.) #23 Jeb Burton


Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Contender Round Point Standings:

1.) #20 Matt Kenseth

2.) #22 Joey Logano

3.) #11 Denny Hamlin

4.) #19 Carl Edwards

5.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.

6.) #41 Kurt Busch

7.) #24 Jeff Gordon

8.) #2 Brad Keselowski

9.) #18 Kyle Busch

10.) #31 Ryan Newman

11.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

12.) #4 Kevin Harvick.

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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