With 57 laps to go, Kevin Harvick was in vintage form, showing off why people call him “The Closer.”
After finishing fourth in stage one and falling back in stage two, Harvick challenged Tyler Reddick for the lead.
Reddick tried passing Ryan Newman over and over, which drew Harvick closer.
Then, when Harvick tried pitting a lap earlier, Reddick tried to outmaneuver him – causing Newman to spin while avoiding the leader.
Harvick came down pit road after entering while it was closed.
“The caution came out and the light was on, and I didn’t think I could turn right,” Harvick said.
Without pitting, he would’ve lost track position but would’ve been in the top-10.
By pitting, as fate would have it, Harvick got a penalty that put him in the rear of the field.
Harvick could only muster a 19th-place finish with some damage from hard racing mid-pack.
Instead of finally getting a win and advancing toward a championship in his swansong season, Harvick is now two points below the cutline in 14th.
Now, Kansas and Bristol lie ahead in the Round of 16.
“We’ll just go and put the gas pedal down and do the exact same thing we’ve done for 23 years,” Kevin Harvick said about Kansas next Sunday.
Earlier this year, Harvick finished 11th at Kansas. Last year, he finished 10th at Bristol.
If Harvick stays clean while others make mistakes, he may advance. Stage points will be key.
Harvick ranks 10th among playoff drivers for stage points earned this year. However, he has one stage point between his last two Kansas starts and Bristol last year.
Minus Darlington, Harvick also has a top-10 finish in each of the last five oval races.