Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), started at the front and earned a hard-fought fifth-place finish in Sunday’s 400-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. It was his fourth top-five finish and eighth top-10 of 2016.
The Bakersfield, California, native started from the pole position on Sunday after rain cancelled qualifying Friday, forcing NASCAR to set the starting order based on practice speeds. The rain forced more changes to the Saturday schedule, and the Sprint Cup teams were limited to one 80-minute practice.
Harvick led the first 21 laps before he radioed to the crew that his Busch Light Chevrolet was experiencing a loose-off handling condition. The issue caused him to drop back to seventh prior to his first green-flag pit stop for air pressure and wedge adjustments and four tires on lap 90, but that quick stop allowed him to gain two positions and rejoin the race in fifth.
The changes improved the handling of the No. 4 Chevrolet, and Harvick continued his march back toward the front of the field. He worked his way up to the second position by the halfway point of the race and took the lead for the second time on lap 230. He held the lead for the next 40 laps until coming to pit road for service under caution on lap 270. The No. 2 car stayed out on the racetrack without pitting, so Harvick restarted in second.
The 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion briefly reclaimed the lead on lap 274, but Harvick quickly fell back to fourth as he again fought a loose-off handling condition. He continued to battle though a flurry of cautions in the second half of the race and stayed within the top-five.
Harvick restarted fourth with 35 laps remaining in the race but lost one position on the restart, and he had to fight hard to maintain his spot until the checkered flag on lap 400. During the race he led three times for 63 laps to bring his total to 562 laps led in 2016. He also secured his 10th top-five in 31 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond and his 141st top-five in 547 career Sprint Cup starts.
“Well, everybody on our Busch Light/Jimmy John’s team did a good job. We were really loose to start the race, got into the wall there, and we had to make some more adjustments after I self-adjusted it,” laughed Harvick, who previously won Sprint Cup races at Richmond in September 2006, September 2010 and April 2013. “We had a couple of really good runs there in the middle of the race. As we started adjusting on it, we never could get the rear drive to go along with the turns. It’s kind of a balance of where the turn is good enough and you can still manage the drive, but everybody tried everything we could. We threw a lot at it and just never could find that magic balance for the car that we had there in the middle of the race.”
Harvick’s fifth-place finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday.