Guess who’s shown up for the party? Fans of the rugged, throw back type driver rejoice as Kevin Harvick launches himself into the championship mix, as he wins the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. While a mere three points separates points leader Matt Kenseth from Jimmie Johnson, you don’t to throw a rock very hard to get back to “Happy,” who is 25 points back in third.
The victory caps off what Harvick described as an “interesting” weekend. Between tire testing, practice, qualifying and the race itself, it was like hitting a moving target. He says “We just talked about a lot of adjustments that we wanted to make, and kind of eliminated a few things here and there overnight. It was like driving two different cars. Out front it was not even close, and in traffic you were just another one of the cars and had a lot of trouble, so that made the restarts really important.”
Keeping in mind that Harvick is “Happy” the same way Lund (at 6’5”) was “Tiny” the following sentiment gives you an idea of what the win does for his team and for his state of mind “To sit on the pole and win the race is obviously a great weekend, and controlling our own destiny by doing that, putting ourselves closer to where we need to be with the championship race. We’ll just keep having fun and keep doing what we’re doing.”
The outcome of Sunday’s serves as a reminder of the dangers regarding premature pronouncements. Everybody was saying it was a three-driver Chase between Kenseth, Johnson and Kyle Busch. Johnson’s sixth-place finish puts himself squarely into the rear view mirror of Kenseth, while Harvick (25 points back), Busch (35 points down) and Jeff Gordon (32 back) have more than a puncher’s chance to stay in the running. Gordon ran third on the day.
The whole Kyle Busch- Brad Keselowski feud took a back seat as Busch had bigger problems; getting scraped up on a first lap crash triggered by Danica Patrick. He brought the car in under caution for repairs, and got penalized for one too many crew members over the wall. A pit strategy gamble resulted in Kyle running second for a time. On lap 187, Busch ran into (or actually got ran into) by an old nemesis as he and Juan Pablo Montoya were jockeying space on the apron, and Montoya hit him, sending him into a spin. It all came crashing down literally on lap 200, putting an end to his day. There’ll be plenty of time for those two to continue their pleasantries.
The bottom line is we’re reminded there still plenty of racing left before a champion is crowned. While Kenseth and Johnson are the flavors of the month, we are reminded things can change dramatically in one race.
Harvick says, “For me, I think today is more positive for us than any other race we’ve been to all year, just for the fact that we were at a mile-and-a-half racetrack that had a lot of circumstances, and being comfortable, more comfortable than everybody else I guess you could say, driving the car and having the speed that it had I think shows the gains that we’ve been able to make since that race (Harvick’s win at the Coca-Cola 600). You know, I think the confidence in the team and the car and the mile-and-a-half stuff is good. The bottom line is you can have fast cars, but it’s going to come down just like it did at the 600. You’re going to have to have the right strategy to go along with everything as the day unfolds.”
You know things are going right when Happy speaks in terms like these.