Kevin Harvick proved conclusively at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday that a great car and an elite driver can overcome issues that would sink a lesser team.
In fact, in the AAA Texas 500, Harvick rallied from three separate setbacks to finish third and keep his hopes of winning a second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship very much alive.
On two occasions, Harvick cut down tires on his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, the first time on Lap 36 when he ran over debris on the track. The second time came under similar circumstances on Lap 281 of 334, and that instance cost Harvick a lap during an off-sequence green-flag pit stop.
But Harvick got the lap back when the lead-lap cars in front of him also had to pit for tires and fuel during a cycle that started 15 laps later. Harvick made the most of his reprieve.
But cut tires were not the most annoying problem. Throughout the second half of Sunday’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Eliminator Round race, Harvick had to hold his shifter in place with his right hand to prevent the car from popping out of gear.
“We’ve had really good race cars, and that allows us to overcome things like today with two flat tires,” Harvick said. “Even with the shifter problem, we were able to maintain what we had. But all in all, we just kept gouging away, and everything worked out in the end.”
Harvick’s crew handed the driver a bungee cord during his last pit stop, hoping that would secure the shifter, but Harvick couldn’t find a way to secure the shifter with the cord.
“I never found anything to hook it to,” Harvick said. “I don’t trust those bungees anyway. I would rather just sit there and hold it and take my chances. I was more worried about it popping out of gear. It hadn’t missed a gear or jammed a gear or anything like that.
“It shifted smooth all weekend. I was just going along like normal. One lap, all of a sudden, it just pops out of gear in the middle of the straightaway. So, I don’t really know. That’s happened to us several times, so we definitely need to figure that out.”