Kevin Harvick found a secluded spot in his motorhome and talked to the media. Sporting a hoodie and glasses, he answered everyone’s questions like the professional he is.
Not one to wear his heart on his sleeve, but not the stone cold stoic, either, he hid his disappointment well. Most people wouldn’t take missing the cut to the championship round so well, especially after a late-race rally.
Harvick made an unscheduled stop for a flat tire on Lap 182, which put him two laps down. For over 200 laps, he fluctuated between one and two laps down.
“We got a couple laps down and every time we’d get close one of the other cars would get lapped and so it just wound up not working out for us quick enough to get back where we needed to be,” he said.
Harvick caught a break on Lap 376, when Bubba Wallace carried too much speed into Turn 1 and hit Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He passed Wallace to become the first car one lap down.
His second break came on Lap 400, when James Davision stalled in Turn 2, which put Harvick back on the lead lap.
For the final 100 laps, he found himself in a points duel with Brad Keselowski for the final Championship 4 spot. Keselowski overtook him in the running order, too.
With 27 laps to go, Keselowski took seventh from Kyle Busch and passed Harvick in points. As he climbed through the top-10, Harvick passed Denny Hamlin for 11th with 21 to go and cut the points deficit to just one point. With nine to go, however, Keselowski passed Alex Bowman for fourth, and grew the gap to two points.
With the laps winding down, Harvick moved to 10th and trailed Keselowski by just a single point. All that stood between him and the Championship 4 was Busch. If successful, he’d finish the race tied with Keselowski, and win out via a tiebreaker (thanks to his runner-up at Kansas Speedway).
Desperate times called for desperate measures.
Rounding Turn 4 on the final lap, Harvick turned right up into the left-rear corner of Busch and put him into the wall. In doing so, however, he lost control of his car and rear-ended the inside wall.
“It was just a move I had to try knowing that I needed one point,” he said. “I needed to hit him square in the door, but at that point I was too late and wound up hitting him in the back. It was just a Hail Mary that didn’t work out.”
Harvick limped across the line to a 17th-place finish, the last car on the lead lap. He finished eight points behind Keselowski.
He could’ve thrown NASCAR and its playoff format under the bus, but put the blame for this collapse on himself.
“The last three weeks didn’t go exactly how we needed them to and you’ve got to be right when you get to this Round of 8,” he said.
The best Harvick can finish in points now is fifth. He’ll try to make that happen, Sunday, at Phoenix Raceway, where he’s won a track record nine times.
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