Most drivers who have an “elevator ride” day up and down the running order and still finish runner-up would leave it at that. When Kevin Harvick spoke in the deadline room at Texas Motor Speedway after the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, however, he was anything but content. The source of his frustration was the continuously malfunctioning, NASCAR-issued air guns.
“Yeah, it’s just been a frustrating two days,” he said, also referencing issues he suffered in the previous day’s XFINITY Series race. “We had a pathetic day two days on pit road because we can’t get pit guns that work in our pit stalls. Today we had to pit under green‑‑ got ourselves a lap down because the pit guns work half the time, they don’t work half the time. Yesterday we had four loose wheels because the pit guns can’t get the tires tight.
“Our guys did a great job with a really fast racecar. I feel bad for the guys on pit road because they get handed just absolutely inconsistent pieces of equipment. Today it wound up costing us a race.”
Under the third caution of the day, for Kyle Larson suffering a right-front tire blowout and slamming the wall in Turn 1, a lug nut got caught in the jack, impeded the pit stop for a few seconds and cost Harvick the lead. A few laps after the ensuing restart on Lap 135, he came back down pit road because of a loose wheel.
He rejoined the race 22nd one lap down.
“We had four or five issues with the pit gun this year as we’ve gone through the year,” he added. “We wound up winning the race. It’s unfortunate that we have to use a piece of equipment that is handed to us, and that dictates your day.”
Harvick got back on the lead lap when the caution flew with 99 laps to go, during the middle of a green flag pit cycle. He restarted at the tail-end, however, when a crew member fell over the wall to catch a rolling tire (thus a “Too many men over the wall” penalty).
He worked his way up to second, overtaking McMurray for the spot with 56 to go.
On the final restart with 23 to go, Harvick and Kyle Busch broke away from the field to settle the victory for themselves. Harvick couldn’t get close enough to Busch, got as close as three-tenths of a second, and finished second to the No. 18 Toyota Camry.
“I mean, Kyle had a decent car,” Harvick said. “It’s just in traffic, our car wasn’t as good as it was obviously in clean air. He did a good job of not making any mistakes there at the end and kept his car on the bottom, never gave us an opening to really drive in there and be able to, you know, capitalize on a mistake.
“He kept his car right on line and did exactly what he needed to do. It was fast enough to be able to keep us back there. My car would slide the front tires. We had some trouble keeping the car on the bottom once I would get close to him.
“I needed the whole run to capitalize on the full strength of our car, with his car. I felt like him and the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) probably had the best two cars, aside from ours, on the racetrack. It just took a long time to get to the point of being able to pass him.”
All in all, it was a solid afternoon for Harvick. He led 87 of 334 laps, won the first stage and jumped up to fourth in points.
“So, you know, you can overcome a lot of things,” Harvick said. “We had a super fast car today, but in the end pitting under green for the wheel was what put the dagger in it. We just didn’t make it all the way.”