Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, not in NASCAR

Two drivers looked to have a win well in hand during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover Sunday.

Early on, Kevin Harvick looked to be filming a sequel to the May race here when he won both Stages and led 201 laps in route the win.  Sunday Harvick took the lead early, won both stages and led a total of 286 laps.

It all came undone during a pit stop on lap 322, when Harvick’s car came down off the jack a bit early; the left rear tire changer wasn’t done and a valve stem on the tire was knocked out. The tire was flat when Harvick came back around to pit again. He dropped to 17th one lap down. He would make up his lap but ran out of time and was only able to salvage a 6th place finish.

Despite a 68-point lead over the rest of the Playoff contenders under winning driver Chase Elliott, Harvick seemed none too pleased after it was over.

“I would have rather won,” he said.

The news wasn’t much better for his fellow Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola. With Harvick out of contention Almirola moved to the front of the field looking to break a 148-race winless streak dating back to Daytona in July of 2014.

Almirola appeared to have the win in hand when he pitted after a late race caution for another SHR driver, Clint Bowyer who saw his strong day finish in the garage after a hard hit with a blown tire with 9 laps to go.

Almirola, who had led 64 laps to that point, lined up eighth after pitting and taking four tires. On the restart with 4 laps to go, Almirola tried to go to the outside of Brad Keselowski exiting turn 2. He bounced up into the wall and down into Keselowski. The ensuing melee swept up Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.  Bowman was done and finished 28th, Truex 15th, Almirola 13th.

“We’ve had so many opportunities and been so close and had the car to win and been in position and I don’t know, it just seems to not come through,” he said.  “I don’t know.  I’m frustrated and mad and angry.  I don’t know.”

“I could have been conservative and probably finish third or fourth like Kurt (Busch), it’s just track position is so tough and it’s so hard to pass here.”

Bowyer finished 35th after running in the top five for much of the closing laps.

“I’m just really disappointed,” he said.  “I’m frustrated with our day, obviously, we had a very fast race car.”

“I got tore up passing a lapper and then all of a sudden we had a loose wheel, I think it was a loose wheel, and then we went back out and broke something in the front end and it was two different things.  When we pitted it was something in the rear, obviously, the right-rear, the left-rear was loose, it was all out of control, and then all of a sudden we went back out it was fine, so I took back off and then I think something in the left-front broke, it just went straight – whether I ran over something, I don’t know.”

“I’m just sick for Aric,” Bowyer added.  “He had that race won.  It was his win and unfortunately his teammate had trouble and took him out of it.”

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