Kevin Harvick came to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in danger of elimination from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. That all changed when the driver of the No. 4 Ditech Chevrolet took the checkered flag after leading only 8 of 300 laps in the Bad Boy Off Road 300. With the victory, the 2014 titlist put himself back into contention for a repeat.
After a rough start to round one of the Chase at Chicago a week ago, Harvick redeemed himself in a big way, moving from 14th in the playoff standings to second. “It was a game of inches last week,” Harvick said in a Team Chevy post-race release. “We wound up getting a lap down there and I had a good car. I had a fifth or sixth place car, and just wound up not being where we need to be.”
Since making it to the ‘Round of 12’, Harvick is breathing easier. “One of our main goals this year was to not stretch ourselves out so bad,” he said. “I feel like the performance of the car and the things that we’re doing are good enough to be competitive, and we just need to not make mistakes and go from there.”
Like Harvick, Kyle Larson came to the northeast on the chopping block. The No. 42 Target Chevrolet remedied that with a top-10 finish. “That is better than where I have been here the last couple of years, so that is good,” he said, also in the Team Chevy transcript.
According to an NBC graphic, Larson was still in the red in ‘points as they run’ on lap 174 but with 29 laps left, he had moved into the top 12 in the Chase standings and that is where he ended the day. “Just a solid, consistent day, we got off there halfway through the race and lost some track position,” he explained. “We were good on just short runs then would be bad in the middle of the run and then I would be pretty decent again there at the end of the run. We took two tires there late and needed it to go green. I probably would have finished seventh or eighth. We had some cautions there and just able to kind of hold on for 10th.”
With Harvick and Larson moving into the top 12 after New Hampshire, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray join Chris Buescher and Austin Dillon in the bottom four of the Chase standings going into Dover this weekend.
Buescher rolled off the grid 28th but finished 30th. “We’re just trying to get speed out of all of our cars. It was a tough day,” the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford driver said in a post-race Ford Racing advance. “We put a lot of effort into it and we’ll just keep digging and trying to get it better. We just have to keep plugging along.”
The Front Row Motorsports team needs a miracle to happen at Dover if they are to advance. “That’s pretty much our situation,” Buescher said. “Dover is a really good race track. I like that place a lot. We had a good finish for us there earlier this season, so we’ll go there and see what we can do to get a win and try to move on to the second round of the Chase. We’re in it and to be a part of the Chase is a pretty big deal this year.”
Dillon is ranked 14th in the playoff standings after finishing 16th at NHMS. “Truthfully, that was a heck of a fight and we are only five points out going into Dover and we struggled all week long,” the No. 3 Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Chevrolet driver said in the Team Chevy transcript. “We fought hard. I never gave in, never gave up, our team never gave up. They did a heck of a pit stop there to put us in a lucky dog position, just to gain us some more points. A bunch of them guys are just right there.”
Dillon is staying positive.
“We didn’t have a car all day capable of doing anything, but we stayed focused and that means more to me than anything because at times this year we haven’t. I tried to let God work today and let things play out. It wasn’t our day, but we made the best out of our day, we really did.”
Stewart started the day ranked 12th in the Chase standings but after a 23rd-place finish in the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, he dropped to 15th.
Jamie McMurray rolled off the grid 11th in the playoff standings. He rolled off the grid in the seventh-place position but a 19th-place finish at New Hampshire has the driver of the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet currently in jeopardy. He is now just -5 points away from the top 12.
At the end of the Citizen Soldier 400 this weekend at Dover International Speedway, we will know who moves on to the Chase ‘Round of 12’. Will the standings stay the same or will there be another change?