Short-run speed is no help to Kevin Harvick in a long-run race

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 17: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, races Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Speedway on November 17, 2019 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway often is decided by a short run to the finish. That’s was part of the game plan developed by driver Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers.

Unfortunately for the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team, the entire third stage was run without caution, and the final 101-lap green-flag run prevented Harvick from using the short-run speed built into his Ford.

Starting second at the beginning of the race, Harvick streaked ahead of polesitter Denny Hamlin and led the first 20 laps before eventual race runner-up Martin Truex Jr. ran him down. After a restart on Lap 13, Harvick again went to the point and stayed out front for 13 laps but couldn’t hold the position.

In the final green-flag run, Harvick’s car faded after he was last to make his final green-flag pit stop, hoping for a caution that never came. Harvick finished fourth, but he was 14 seconds behind race winner and new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch at the finish.

“On the restarts, I could do what I wanted to do, and I could hold them off for 15 or 20 laps right there, and, you know, this race has come down to that every year, so you kind of play towards that,” Harvick said.

“And they (the other title contenders) were quite a bit better than us on the long run, but we had a really good car for those first 15 or 20 laps on the restarts and had a lot of speed—just never got to try to race for it there with a caution.”

Greg Engle