Kevin Harvick has never been a big fan of his pit crew. Sunday night after the Southern 500 at Darlington he won’t be cheering for them either.
Harvick led a race high 214 of 367 laps from the pole Sunday night. But at the end of the night all he could show for it was a second place finish.
He led a total of five times, but problems in the pits lost him 17 spots total, at one time 11 places when he came in with the lead but left in 1th place.
“I’m over being a cheerleader,” an obviously displeased Harvick said after it was over. “Those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road, and cheerleading hasn’t really been working. You’ve got to get after it on pit road and do your job.”
Sunday isn’t the first time Harvick has had issues with his crew. Harvick and his team co-owner Tony Stewart swapped pit crews for the final three races in 2014. That move led to a title for Harvick.
This season however, the issues on pit road, and Harvick’s unkind words, have continued. At Dover in May Harvick started on the pole but several slow stops left him deep in the field and in 15th when the race was over.
At New Hampshire in August, Harvick finished fourth and put the blame, once again, on his pit crew.
“I’m disgusted to tell you the truth,” Harvick said after that race. “It’s the same thing every week. We just make mistake after mistake, and until we clean that up we don’t have a chance to win races putting ourselves in a hole every time we make a mistake. It sucks because the cars are plenty fast, but we are just not executing.”
Sunday his pit road issues continued. During the seventh caution of 10 Sunday night, the right rear tire changer had an issue that lost Harvick 11 spots. His crew chief reported an issue with the air gun and a replacement was secured from the team of Danica Patrick.
“Our team in the garage did a great job,” Harvick said Sunday night. “They brought the fastest race car to the track once again and we just didn’t do a good job on pit road and gave it away.”
“We started 12th and eighth and sixth and we had a great race car all night,” he added. “Just got to thank everybody in the shop and in the garage for putting the race cars under us. We can’t just continuously shoot ourselves in the foot every few pit stops.”
Harvick said he was grateful to have fast cars. But not for the performance on pit road.
‘Oh, it’s just the same old thing,” he said. “You get in position where you bring a dominant car. The guys in the shop and the guys in the garage are doing a great job, and the guys on pit road are doing a terrible job. You get in a position to win races, and they continually step on their toes and don’t make it happen. You’re not going to win races like that. I’m really proud of the car that we brought tonight and the things that we’ve done on the race track, but you can only make so many excuses for pit road.”
The crew did get Harvick out second after the final pit stops with 12 laps to go, but he could not catch eventual winner Martin Truex Jr.
“He had a good car,” Harvick said of Truex. “I had a good car. I hit the wall a little bit there, the run before. We had control of the race and just were pile-driving them all night, and just gave it away.”
The second place finish for Harvick marks the third time in the last three Truex wins dating back to Pocono last June that has seen Harvick finish in the runner-up spot.