NASCAR Notebook: Pit road mistake turns fortunate for Harvick
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- The best save of the weekend wasn't made at the Phoenix Coyotes' arena in nearby Glendale. Instead, it belonged to Kevin Harvick, who kept his NASCAR Sprint Cup title hopes alive in the face of a pit road mistake that could hav...
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- The best save of the weekend wasn't made at the Phoenix Coyotes' arena in nearby Glendale. Instead, it belonged to Kevin Harvick, who kept his NASCAR Sprint Cup title hopes alive in the face of a pit road mistake that could have crushed them.
Harvick had to give up track position and bring his car back to pit road on Lap 225 of Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway to allow his crew to tighten a lug nut that had not been secured completely a lap earlier.
So under caution on Lap 235, with little to lose in terms of track position, he returned to pit road to top off his fuel cell. That enabled him to remain on the track for the remainder of the race and finish sixth, six spots ahead of points leader Denny Hamlin, who had to pit for gas on Lap 298 of 312.
The pit road mistake weighed on Harvick, but not for long.
"I kind of got over it after about 15 laps and just started driving the car again," he said. "And it all worked out in the end. The guys thought we were really close on fuel, and they thought we could make it, no problem, but they were still a little bit nervous about it, and our mistake wound up being one of the things that kept us going.
"Our mistake wound up being something that gained us more points than if we would have not made the mistake. We just kept after it and wound up getting an OK day."
McGrew's status an offseason decision
Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't want to think about personnel issues with his No. 88 team until the end of the season. That includes a decision about the status of crew chief Lance McGrew.
"I ain't really making any decisions on that until after the season's over with," Earnhardt told Sporting News. "I asked (team owner) Rick (Hendrick) and everybody in the corporation if I could just not consider any options for next year or any ideas until we're done racing--that I wanted to focus on what we're doing. I just wanted to get all I could out these last two races before I started thinking about that.
"I will say this about Lance: I've really enjoyed working with him. I've enjoyed even more so becoming his friend and getting to know him as well as I have. I have a lot of respect for him, and he's put up with a lot of crap this year and last year, trying to help get this thing going. He gave me his best effort to try to help each weekend, and I've just got a lot of respect for him."
Since McGrew replaced Tony Eury Jr. as crew chief in mid-2009, the results have been disappointing. Earnhardt hasn't won a race since June 2008, and this year he failed to make the Chase for the second straight season.
Earnhardt, who started 31st and finished 14th Sunday, isn't laboring under any illusions when assessing the overall performance of the No. 88 team.
"I think I can say that what's going on on the racetrack is a fair assessment," he said. "It's had its ups and downs this year, but here lately we've struggled quite badly. It's been unfortunate, and you really can't visually see what our issues are. It's a moving target for us."
Clinch scenarios at Homestead
Denny Hamlin, who leads Jimmie Johnson by 15 points in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, has two ways to clinch the championship outright--either by leading the most laps and finishing second next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway or by winning the season finale.
Johnson and Kevin Harvick, who trails by 46 points, are the only two drivers with a chance to catch Hamlin, who won last year's race at Homestead.