Kevin Harvick wasn’t going to let this one slip away, not after what happened a week ago.
Frustrated after a dispiriting afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway in the first race of NASCAR’s Chase, Harvick bounced back Sunday to win the Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The victory means Harvick and his No. 4 Chevy team can exhale a bit, with a spot already clinched in the second round of the postseason heading this week to Dover (Del.) International Speedway for the third and final race of the first round.
Harvick did it by waiting out a late-race duel between Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. – who led a combined 246 of the race’s 300 laps. After a caution flag flew with eight laps left, Harvick, who started on the inside of the front row with Kenseth, jumped to the lead and never gave it back.
“When you get in these situations, it’s fun to be able to succeed,” said Harvick. “It’s kind of like an addiction. You just love the rush of being able to be behind and be able to perform and make that happen. It’s something that is very gratifying.”
Harvick was still burning off some frustration when he arrived in New Hampshire from Chicagoland, where he had started that race at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments. After he charged up to sixth place, he made a pit stop during a green flag. When a caution flag came out, he got caught a lap down and finished 20th. It also dropped him to 15th in points, well below the cut line to advance to the second round of the Chase.
That’s not all that had been going on with Harvick. He also bumped Chicagoland race winner Martin Truex Jr. for no apparent reason, a move that angered Truex. Three weeks ago, after a disappointing second-place finish at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Harvick fired two members of his pit crew.
“I was just absolutely irate all week about everything that went on,” Harvick said of Chicagoland. “But by the time we had got (to New Hampshire), we had all calmed back down. It really took me until Saturday morning to get over wanting to tear somebody’s head off because of everything that went on last week and the way it all worked out.”
Harvick, who won the Chase in 2014 and was second last season, had moved on by the time Sunday’s race began.
“Everybody on this team knows that when we get to Chase time, it’s time to put everything else aside,” he said. “It’s a balance. You have to have that circle of life and balance, and for 10 weeks you have to have that enough to be ready to perform at the top level. It’s (about) organization, detail and people. If you have those three things going for you, you’re going to be able to perform at a high level.”
Harvick won because he was better than Kenseth and Truex late in the race, when it really counted.
“I think it’s really the nature of our team,” said Harvick. “It’s one of those things where you get behind a little bit, and that’s something I like because you can motivate yourself and you can motivate everybody around you by your actions and the things that you do and the attitude that you carry to the car on practice days, and how you present yourself in the meetings.”
His crew chief echoed his sentiments about being accountable only to themselves.
“I felt like we had a great car (at Chicagoland) and put ourselves in a bad position and probably could have won the race,” said Rodney Childers. “So it’s up to us. It’s up to us to take good cars to the race track. It’s up to us to have good pit stops. It’s up to me to make good decisions during the weekend and on pit road, and I think if we do that, we’ll keep advancing as far as we can.”