Saving souls is what the Pope is supposed to do, it’s his job. On the other hand, saving fuel when you either have to place yourself in the top 5 or win has apparently never been in Kevin Harvick’s job description.
No one should have any doubt that Kevin Harvick can drive, he’s one of Sprint Cup’s preeminent wheelmen. So how is it that he burns up the New Hampshire track all day and then runs out of fuel 3 laps from the end to hand the victory to Matt Kenseth?
Who knows? He knew that saving fuel and taking a 3rd or 4th at New Hampshire would put him in a less dire position going to Dover than he now finds himself. Now, he has to win at Dover next week. No insurance.
He is now 23 points outside of 12th place in the standings and overcoming that may require divine intervention. May I suggest the “Pope Toaster”? From now until Dover I would make good use of this must have device.
All levity aside, we all want to see these drivers go as hard as they can, but they have to finish to be in the hunt. Harvick didn’t get the memo. It’s mystifying that Harvick was the odds on favorite to win his second chase, based on his early season performances, but as Kyle Petty said: “They went from favorite to total chaos.”
Everyone, except Harvick and perhaps his crew chief, Rodney Childers, knew that was the situation. Now was not the time to roll the dice. The radio communication between the two was sparse, if not non-existent, at a time when ‘Save fuel, save fuel’ should have been the message blowing up the radio.
Harvick didn’t save fuel at a rate that would make up the 3 miles he was short and had very little to say to his crew chief during the later stages of the race. He was able to keep the Joe Gibbs Racing cars at bay, but spent far too much petroleum capital to make it stick. In fact, that was JGR’s strategy.
Kenseth was instructed to ‘run him out of gas’ and that’s exactly what Matt Kenseth did, thus locking himself into the next round of the Chase.
Last weekend at Chicagoland Harvick finished 42nd after not stopping to change an obviously damaged rear tire due to a controversial contact with Jimmie Johnson. This weekend should have been his win or a finish high enough to make Dover less daunting weekend.
Unfortunately it’s now a fact that Harvick is desperate, perhaps too desperate to listen to those around him and those charged with his strategy. It wouldn’t be the first time that Harvick has ignored warnings or put the clamps down on his crew.
If he can’t win next weekend, then you can safely say that the pressure really did get to him. Johnson, Kenseth, Busch and Edwards aren’t playing the game the way Harvick is, they are being strategic, which is how the Chase has to be played.
Kevin Harvick is undoubtedly one of the best drivers in NASCAR, a true wheelman. However in terms of strategy, maybe he should stop trying to occupy both the car seat and the pit-box.
But, there are still plenty of Papal toasters available. Perhaps Dover will be his pop-up miracle.