Kevin Harvick, Rodney Childers forced into hail mary late in NASCAR championship race

Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers came up a late caution short of challenging for their second championship.

The narrative was Joe Gibbs Racing versus Kevin Harvick all weekend in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship race and the lone Stewart-Haas Racing participants just couldn’t match the sheer performance of the Toyota flagship cars on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The 2014 Cup Series champion led the first 20 laps of the race, and triumphed by the end of the second stage, but continued to lose ground during the third and final segment.  

Losing ground, crew chief Rodney Childers played the only tactic remaining at his disposal and left his driver out as long as possible during the final round of green flag pit stops. Childers had hoped to catch a well-timed caution to get Harvick on the freshest tires of their three rival contenders, but an incident never came.

“We just needed to do something different,” Harvick said. “Those guys, they were so much better than us on the long run. Really our best chance was to have a caution there at the end and never got one. We just did something different hoping for a caution, and that’s what you’re supposed to do in those late situations like that. Just do the opposite of the cars you’re trying to race, and it just didn’t work out.”

Harvick was at his best on Sunday during short runs and following restarts — and the race came down to a series of lengthy green flag runs.”On the restarts I could do what I wanted to do, and I could hold them off for 15 or 20 laps right there,” Harvick said. “And you know, this race has come down to that every year, so you kind of play towards that, and they were quite a bit better than us on the long run, but we had a really good car for those first 15 or 20 laps on the restarts and had a lot of speed. Just never got to try to race for it there with a caution.”

Childers wished he had been “braver” on air pressure adjustments throughout the race. He suspects the Gibbs cars went much further beyond the recommended pressure tolerances and found the speed he needed once he did so during the final stint.

“The last run was actually our best,” Childers said. “We dropped the tire pressure down probably closer to the Gibbs cars. I wasn’t that brave, going off the Goodyear data they sent, they said we’re going to blow out if we went that low.

“So, I finally went down there, got a little braver, and on that last run, had one of the best cars. So maybe we should have been a little braver earlier.”

Childers took some solace from the fact that Harvick was matching the championship finalists in pace. He just needed the caution that never came and the fresher tires it would have provided.

The No. 4 team enjoyed solid consistency all season but didn’t earn their first victory until the 20th race of the season at New Hampshire. Harvick ultimately took their Ford Mustang to victory lane four times.

“Everybody did a great job all year,” Childers said. “We got our cars better and better as a year went on. I was able to capitalize on some places like were better for us, like the lower drag. We were better there than the ones with the high downforce.

“So, to even be as close as what we were, I think was a good step in the right direction for us. We definitely gotta get just a little bit better.”

Source: Read Full Article