In convincing manner, Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag for the win at NASCAR’s Sprint Series Darlington raceway. Harvick lead over 200 laps at the 2014 Bojangles Southern 500. Harvick, starting from the pole, never found himself outside the top ten,with his lowest place being in the ninth position early in the race. With eight laps to the finish, Harvick’s team decided on four tires after a caution, which may very well have been the decision that won this race. Harvick ran strong all night, having no problem running the top or bottom of the track.
With 23 career victories under Harvick’s belt it is no surprise that he is at the top of his game. He has had some great wins to top off his career up to this point, some of the jewels being the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. Kevin Harvick appears to be meshing with his new team and owner, the Stewart-Hass Racing. After a long run with Childress Racing, maybe this is just the change Harvick needed to win a championship.
Dale Earnhardt Jr
Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave Harvick a run for his money tonight. In the press release after the race, Earnhardt said he did not believe they really had a top two car tonight, but with the Hendrick Motorsports team behind him, they were able to come close to the victory that has eluded Earnhardt in his career. Earnhardt credits his team with the second place finish.
Earnhardt had a smile from ear to ear when speaking of the lead he had at the end of the race. In Earnhardt fashion, with the competitive juices flowing, he said he didn’t want to hear how far ahead of Harvick he was before the caution. Like most athletes, they don’t want to know how close they could have come to winning; they want the win, period.
On the final restart, Earnhardt was able to maintain the lead only to lose it to Harvick in turns three and four. “Wished I had run the top in three and four but I think Harvick would have gotten around us anyway,” says Earnhardt. “He just had the better car.” When asked about Harvick and the Stewart-Haas team, Earnhardt expressed how good the team has been and he could see them coming up in the standings, it was just a matter of time.
He stated that it hurts to come that close and not win. He hasn’t had a really good run in Darlington for some time. Earnhardt’s team is still learning the habits of their driver and is starting to feel the rhythm they need for a good season.
Johnson in the 48 car managed to find his way from the back to cross the checkered in third place. When asked, Johnson was happy to finish in the top three and felt he had a really good chance of pulling out a win. In the second to last caution, Johnson chose to take the outside lane on Earnhardt which proved to be the wrong decision. His tires spun and he was unable to get a good start off the green flag, a lesson he should have learned from the night. Most drivers found it difficult to get a good start off the top of the track due to debris and the track becoming slick as the race went on.
Johnson went on to say that he struggled in qualifying and the first couple of runs at the track, but in the end his team was able to give him a car he had the chance to win in. Unfortunately, Johnson stated, it seems like caution breeds caution at Darlington. The middle of the pack gets a little aggressive later in the race and cautions happen. Johnson making a late run at Harvick, came just short when a caution came out in lap eight. After that, Johnson was never able to quite get at it.
Kevin Harvick becomes the first to win at Darlington from the pole since ’97, and he does it in convincing manner. Harvick stated in his press release that he felt like they had made the win a little more stressful than he would have liked.
Harvick felt like he had a little left in the tank in three and four and took a chance at the end of the race to challenge Earnhardt that paid off and gave him the win. He was not sure if the caution had not come out if he would have been able to catch Earnhardt. All in all the cautions worked out for the benefit of Harvick.
His team deserves credit for the incredible job they did tonight on his car. The Stewart-Haas team, run by crew chief Rodney Childress, has worked hard to give Harvick every chance they could. Darlington being a difficult track to win at is one of those tracks that most racers get at and drive the car hard. “The cars go south pretty quick, after 12 to 15 laps the car will get away from you,” says Harvick. He also said that he loves Darlington.
Harvick said he has had fast cars all year long if not for some bad luck; the season would look a lot different up to this point. He felt as though he had some chances to win in a couple of races if not for the mechanical problems the team was plagued with earlier this year. The desire to chase down and put the stamp of a championship on his legacy, Harvick feels as though his team is put together to make that goal possible.
He referred to the unlimited resources as being the biggest obstacle he has. Not knowing exactly how to utilize those resources for the best results of the team. Not a bad obstacle to have for any race team. Harvick states, “In the end you are as good as the people around you.” Harvick is excited about the future; the potential of his team is endless even though they will have some growing pains.
Childers, the crew chief for Harvick, thought they had a strong car throughout the night. The decision to put four tires on late in the race was a risk but the only thing Childers could think of was that this would be the only shot they had. In the end, it was the right decision as Kevin Harvick went on to win NASCAR’s Darlington race tonight with convincing manner.
Childers had some problems with inspections this week, stating it just really came down to hitting it just right when it comes across the platform. As any crew chief, Childers was already running through his head the things they had done wrong and how to improve on those mistakes for the next race in two weeks.
Commentary by Jabar Morarend