The pit strategy was the right one, and the seas parted for Kevin Harvick to score his best finish of the season on Sunday.
Harvick wound up the runner-up at Kansas Speedway. When Brad Keselowski slid wide in Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap, Harvick was in the right place on the inside lane to take advantage and gain a few positions. It is his second straight top-five finish and fourth this season.
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“We had the right pit strategy once the cautions came out there,” Harvick said. “We had the pit road penalty (with 37 laps to go) and came in for tires and Rodney [Childers] made a great call of coming back in to put tires on, and that kind of put us on the offense. We were able to be really aggressive on the two restarts we had at the end and were able to make up some ground.
“Everybody on our Busch Light Ford Mustang did a great job today of just hanging in there. We made a few mistakes, but we made our car better throughout the whole day and were more competitive than we had been in the last couple mile-and-a-half races.”
Although he didn’t lead a lap, Harvick scored points in both stages of the Buschy McBusch Race 400 and ran inside the top 10 for most of the day. The most dominant driver in the Cup Series one year ago, Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team haven’t come out of the gate as strong in 2021 and are still looking for their first win of the season.
Childers went as far as to admit earlier this season a change in how NASCAR inspects the cars knocked “70 counts of downforce” off the cars. Aero balance has been one of the team’s struggles, and Harvick has led just 29 laps through the first 11 races.
“We all just want to win,” Harvick said. “You never know how the year is going to start. I think we’ve done a good job with everything that we have expected for a couple of weeks where we had some bad luck with flat tires, but some years start out good, and you go like gangbusters, and some years they don’t start out good and you have to figure it out.
“So, that’s just part of the game. I’ve been around this for a long time. You just keep grinding away, and hopefully, eventually, you pick it up, and if you don’t, you start over the next year.”
The next two tracks on the schedule are Darlington and Dover, where Harvick was victorious last season.