Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kevin Harvick overcomes pit mistakes to win Sam's Town 300

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 | 8:11 p.m.

Kevin Harvick was angry.

It was early in Saturday afternoon’s Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Harvick’s Rheem Chevrolet crew had just blown a pit stop.

Coasting back onto the track during a caution, an animated Harvick lit up his pit crew during a short, one-sided conversation that ended with the driver telling his crew that they “looked like a bunch of idiots out there.”

But none of that mattered at the end of the day as Harvick coasted into victory lane with a smile on his face after capturing his 35th NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

“It was good in the beginning and good in the end,” Harvick said. “We had a couple of hiccups today, but we were able to overcome them because our car was so good.”

The hiccups came in the form of a jack that didn’t elevate enough and a lug nut that fell off — two pit crew mistakes that came at different points in the race.

“The car was fast, but we definitely have some work to do,” Harvick said. “I get mad. They know how I am, and they know what I expect of them. That’s not what we expect on pit road.

“But they work really hard week-in and week-out to give me cars like this, and it feels good.”

Harvick finished 1.361 seconds ahead of runner-up Denny Hamlin. Carl Edwards took home third place while pole-sitter Brad Keselowski finished fourth.

The race was delayed about 90 minutes because of a steady drizzle that covered the track just minutes before the scheduled start.

Harvick led the field with 82 laps led overall and took the lead for good with 25 laps left when he passed Hamlin after the day’s eighth caution flag.

Harvick’s car gained speed as the race went on, and he recorded his fastest lap of the day with 19 to go. He steadily increasing his lead until he had his first checkered flag of the 2010 season and his second career victory at Las Vegas.

The victory bumped Harvick up from 14th to 7th place in the Nationwide points standings, 91 points behind Edwards.

It is his second Top 10 finish this season.

“He passed more guys than anyone else out there, just picking guys off,” Harvick’s crew chief, Ernie Cope, said. “We had the worst day ever and he kept us cool.”

Las Vegas’ Kyle Busch was in the running late but a run-in with the wall on Lap 21 ended any chances of a hometown victory.

Busch, who trailed only Harvick with 43 laps led, immediately radioed his crew, saying, “We’re done.” He finished in 16th place.

There were eight caution flags in the race — one as rain sprinkled down just past the race’s halfway point — and all five rookies who competed were involved in crashes, including Danica Patrick.

Patrick exited the race after colliding with Michael McDowell on the 84th lap of the race.

“It’s a real bummer,” she said. “We were really hooked up out there, and I felt we had a quick car.”

Out of the race, Patrick’s rooting interest was for the eventual winner, who helped her earlier in the race by pointing out the right race line to take.

“Kevin Harvick was great,” she said. “Leading the race, he was telling me to go high with him. That was cool, him taking time to help me out. I learned for sure.”

Harvick’s first win at Las Vegas came in 2004. He is starting in 34th position for tomorrow’s Sprint Cup Series Shelby American.

No comments: