NASCAR

Harvick leaps ahead in Chase

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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Obviously Sunday at Kansas was a big day for Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing. Not only did Kevin win the race, but he jumped into third spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase points. Don’t get me wrong, they still have a lot of work to do. There are only six races left and despite being in third, Kevin is still 25 points out of first place.

Kevin definitely will head into Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night with a head full of steam, though. Kansas was a mile-and-a-half track. Charlotte is the same length, plus it’s one of three mile-and-a-half tracks still left in the six Chase races. I know the No. 29 camp has to be looking back at Loudon, N.H., which is really their only blemish in the four Chase races this year. They simply didn’t run very well there. You have to wonder if that 20th-place finish is going to come back to haunt them at Homestead.

Kevin also knows that both Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, who are first and second in the points, should be really strong at Charlotte Motor Speedway as well. Actually I am anxious to see how the No. 48 runs at Charlotte. They’ll be the first to tell you that ever since they repaved the track, Jimmie and crew chief Chad Knaus lost the handle there. Sure, they did win the Sprint All-Star race in May, but that’s a different formatted event and one week later they really didn’t run well in the Coca Cola 600.

So this weekend we have Charlotte and then the other two races on the mile-and-a-half tracks are at Texas and then naturally Homestead, the last race of the year. You have to factor in when it comes to Kansas, with the new surface and the greater grip level, that there probably won’t be a lot that can be transitioned over to these three other tracks.

Kyle Busch had an absolutely disastrous fourth Chase race. He wrecked both his primary and backup car. He dropped from third to fifth in the points. If that wasn’t enough, he also went from only 12 points back to now 35 points back. I still believe Kyle has a chance, though. I really think your 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is going to come from one of those drivers between first and fifth place with six races to go.

I think to be leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the year, to be third in the points and have three wins under your belt says a lot of Kevin and crew chief Gil Martin’s character. If you remember, back before the season started, some of the talk swirled around would Kevin and this team being a “lame-duck driver/team” operation in 2013. That was easily put to bed a long time ago with the exclamation point put on it Sunday at Kansas.

I hope you also see the irony in the fact that Sunday’s first- and second-place finishers, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, both are part of the Chase, both are leaving their current teams after Homestead and both going to work for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Also, I just wanted to mention that I am not saying the tire combination that Goodyear brought to Kansas wasn’t a good combination. I just think, however, they missed the boat on how they tested it. They did the tire test at Kansas with four teams in mid-July. The temperatures then were much hotter than what we saw at Kansas on Saturday and Sunday.

Now true, they did do the test at night, but the temperatures still weren’t anything close to what we saw at Kansas last weekend. I know this right-side tire combination worked well at Atlanta back in September, but they did that test with many more teams in similar weather conditions to the actual race conditions.

When you looked at the track Sunday after 400 miles, the track still never took any rubber. Unless there is something major that happens at a track with the tire in the spring race, I think Goodyear, NASCAR and everyone should work really hard not to make any changes to the tire they are bringing back to that track which happens to be in the Chase. They shouldn’t be changing rules, tires, etc. There is simply too much at stake right now.

Goodyear doesn’t miss the boat much, but I think it’s safe to say they missed the boat on this one at Kansas. It was sad the way it played out because tires simply shouldn’t be a variable in the Chase.

I just hope this is a wake-up call. You simply can’t go do a tire test, even at night in the heat of July with four teams, when you are coming back in early October with 43 teams racing in temperatures in the 40s and 50s.

Tagged: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch

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