Harvick puts on clinic at the Monster Mile

by Tucker White On Sun, May. 06, 2018

DOVER, Del. - MAY 06: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John's Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway on May 6, 2018 in Dover, Delaware. Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Dominant victories are just routine now for the driver that carries the nickname “The Closer.” While the smoke and confetti rained down on Kevin Harvick’s victory lane celebration at the Monster Mile, he maintained an expression that said “Been there, done that.”

“The first thing I’ve got to do is just thank everybody on my team — everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Yates Engines, everybody from Ford for just continuing to put the effort that they put into these cars,” Harvick said. “Three cars in the top five says a lot about where we are as a company, but everybody from Jimmy John’s and Busch and Ford, Fields, Haas, Mobil 1, Morton Buildings, Textron Off-Road, Liftmaster and the fans, especially. It was great to see those fans stick around for the finish, but it’s fun racing your teammate. That says a lot about our company and one of your good friends as well.”

Harvick led a race high of 201 laps on his way to scoring his 41st career victory in 621 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts, and second at Dover International Speedway.

He mentioned in victory lane that his son Keelan broke the arm of the Miles the Monster trophy he got from his first win at Dover in 2015.

“Miles is pretty popular, as you can imagine, with the kids. We took the last‑‑ the first one that we won, we took it home and put it in his play room, and I said, you can keep it in your play room,” Harvick said. “First day I came home and he had the arm broke in half off of the thing. When we talked‑‑ when I talked to him after the race, he said, “Dad, are you bringing that trophy home?” I said, “I’m bringing it home, but do not break the arm off this one. I have no idea how he broke it, but it is hollow, so he must have landed on it or hit something with it.”

He then revealed that his line to his son about not breaking this trophy was more tongue-in-cheek.

“Oh, he can break it, it’s fine. Yeah, we’ll put it in the same spot. We’ll put it in the same spot in the playroom for a while,” Harvick added. “We’ll have to go hose it off first because it smells like beer. It’s always strange trying to explain to people why his playroom smells like beer.

“But no, we’ll clean it up and put it in his playroom. We glued the other one back together. It’s fine.”

Teammate Clint Bowyer led 40 laps, on his way to a runner-up finish.

“Well the biggest thing was just if we had a chance to adjust our car in clean air, like he (Harvick) did. He had that luxury all day long, and that was the first shot at tires, and clean air,” Bowyer said. “It took off and it was turning really, really good. It really kind of needs to be kind of tight and work into that. I knew when it took off as good as it did and it was rotating as good as it did, I was in trouble. Sure enough, I just got way, way, way too loose.

“But awesome Ford Fusion, Rush Truck Centers, Haas Demo Day. We won with that Haas Demo Day on the car at Martinsville. I thought maybe it was going to be again.

“But the opportunity Gene (Haas) and Tony (Stewart) give all of us at Stewart-Haas Racing makes this a lot of fun. It’s fun to be running like this and competitive and upfront in the limelight.”

Daniel Suarez, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch rounded out the Top-five.

DOVER, Del. – MAY 06: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway on May 6, 2018 in Dover, Delaware. Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images

“It was good,” Suarez said of his run. “Very proud of everyone on this team, Scott Graves, the rest of the guys, Stanley (Tools), everyone that makes this happen. We had a little rough start in the first few weeks, month and a half. Now we’re definitely moving in the right direction. So just very proud of this team, Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD Engines, everyone that makes this possible. It’s pretty cool to finally get moving in the right direction.”

“Frustrated a little bit. We could never make it any better,” Truex said of his day. “We talked at the rain delay there, just so tight on exit. Just couldn’t get the thing turning off the corner. And I could catch anybody who was in front of me, at any point in time. After 15 to 20 laps into a run, I just stuck there. So it was very frustrating. And the harder I tried, just the more I hurt my tires. It didn’t go any faster. At the end, I was really struggling hanging on. We took a swing at it there, at the last caution, and it was definitely a swing and a miss, because if anything, it was worse.

“Frustrating day, but battling back from that tire issue and then having to do some things to compensate for that definitely hurt us. And as bad as our car drove, I’m surprised we finished fourth. So everyone else’s must’ve been really bad.”

“It’s all about the team effort. Good day for us,” Kurt Busch said. “The way that the pit stops went we had to come back from a penalty. Restarts went fair the early part of the race and went good in the latter part. Those restarts are close quarters and you need to grab spots then. These cars are really aero-sensitive. Thanks to Haas Automation and Ford we had a top-five day.”

Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson rounded out the Top-10.

RACE SUMMARY

DOVER, Del. – MAY 06: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford, takes the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway on May 6, 2018 in Dover, Delaware. Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Because Kyle Larson failed pre-race inspection three times, he was sent to the tail-end of the field for the initial start. This moved Kevin Harvick up to first for the green flag at 2:01 p.m. He led the first lap, while Martin Truex Jr.

The leaders ducked onto pit road on Lap 22, after Corey LaJoie brought out the caution for a blown engine. Austin Dillon exited pit road first, but Alex Bowman opted not to pit and led the field back to green on Lap 26. His used tires were no match for Brad Keselowski on new tires, as Keselowski passed him down the backstretch to take the lead on Lap 52. Lap traffic allowed Truex to reel him in, but he surrendered second to pit on Lap 95 and triggered a cycle of green flag stops.

Keselowski and the others didn’t pit right away. He wanted to ride out for a caution or the end of the first stage. Regardless, Harvick ran him down and passed him exiting Turn 4 to retake the lead on Lap 110. Even as he and others ran out of gas in the closing laps of the stage, he rode it out and won the first stage.

Back to green on Lap 128, Harvick pulled away from Keselowski. The over two-second gap was erased when Derrike Cope spun out and slammed the inside wall in Turn 4 on Lap 154.

DOVER, Del. – MAY 06: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway on May 6, 2018 in Dover, Delaware. Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Keselowski exited pit road with the lead and led the field back to green on Lap 159. Harvick reeled him in after 20 laps, but couldn’t make the high line work to pass Keselowski. On Lap 200, however, Keselowski’s loose car allowed Harvick to hug the bottom and pass him exiting Turn 4 to retake the lead and win the second stage.

It was more of the same on the ensuing restart, with Harvick pulling away from Keselowski. He surrendered the lead to pit under caution with 129 laps to go, brought out by Kyle Busch’s engine failure.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. opted not to pit and led the field back to green with 119 to go. While he initially pulled away, his old tires couldn’t hold off Clint Bowyer, who passed him exiting Turn 2 to take the lead with 103 to go.

Caution flew with 84 to go for rain. The field was brought down pit road and the race was red-flagged with 80 to go. It was lifted after 41 minutes and one second.

DOVER, Del. – MAY 06: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford, celebrates with a fan as he is handed the checkered flag after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway on May 6, 2018 in Dover, Delaware. Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Back to green with 75 to go, Harvick took advantage of Bowyer getting loose going into Turn 1 with 63 to go and passed him the following lap going into Turn 3 to retake the lead and drive on to victory.

“Well, I was holding my own as loose as I was and I about lost it off of 2, and I was obviously going for a win and giving it my all. But I knew you just can’t buzz the tires like that on a track like this, and every time you do that, it’s a step. It wasn’t, what, two laps after that and he was all over me, and then I was in trouble,” Bowyer said. “When you’re loose like that getting into the corner and those guys get behind you, you’re in trouble. Then obviously when you’re loose and they get to your outside, you’ve got to give it to them. They’re going to turn you around. But he’s obviously a champion of this sport, and you hate to lose him, know what I mean? We could beat him at this racetrack. We come back in the fall, and when all the marbles are on the line, maybe we can.”

NUTS & BOLTS

The race lasted three hours, 28 minutes and 37 seconds, at an average speed of 115.044 mph. There were 17 lead changes among six different drivers, and eight cautions for 48 laps.

Kyle Busch leaves Dover with a 40-point lead over Joey Logano.

C1811_UNOFFRES
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