Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick had a wild ride in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
It’s best to begin at the beginning.
The race was barely a couple of laps old when Harvick radioed his pit crew saying he felt a vibration in the car, and that their day might be over before it started.
It turned out to be a false alarm, and Harvick went on to lead 21 of the first 49 laps.
That turned out to be the high point. The early vibration didn’t morph into anything serious, but the lead went away on lap 50, and Harvick wasn’t able to regain it.
Harvick’s team made a critical mistake on a pit stop on lap 213. Harvick took off while a member of his crew was still filling the car with fuel.
The fuel can didn’t come off the car until it was dragged outside the pit stall. Harvick was assessed a “stop and go” penalty that forced him to go down pit road, stop in his stall and go again.
That put him at the back of the field and essentially eliminated a top-10 finish. Harvick wound up finishing 16th.
“We are lucky to come out of it as good as we did with our team. We didn’t have a great weekend,” Harvick said. “A lot of things falling on and off and now we’ve got to go to Talladega and have a good week. All-in-all it could have been a lot worse and everybody kept digging.”
Rival Jimmie Johnson also did Harvick no favors when he didn’t pit under caution as the race leader with 23 laps to go.
That kept Harvick from getting back on the lead lap, and eliminated a third consecutive top-five finish.
And somewhere in the middle of all of that, Harvick lost the shifter knob in his car, and he had to finish the race without it.
“It was just really hard to shift from second to third (gear) just because there was nothing to grab onto for leverage,” Harvick said. “But in the end the car vibrated all day … I’m lucky something else didn’t break.”
Harvick is fifth in the points standings after winning two weeks ago at Dover two weeks ago and finishing second last week at Charlotte.
More importantly, Harvick is seven points clear of Kyle Busch for the final spot in the eight-driver Eliminator Round.