Kevin Harvick had a junk car Sunday in Kentucky. He wasn’t a top 10 car in terms of pace. But, there he was leading at the end of the Quaker State 400.
Harvick, credits the Lap 228 caution for that. See, he was one of five cars to have not pit for the final time yet. That caution allowed him to have clean air back.
“Our Ford Mustang was not very good today, but we got a good break with the caution. I had a couple good restarts there and got the car better, but still just not where we needed to be,” Harvick said.
Harvick had a great launch on the final restart and battled with Martin Truex Jr. with three to go. Then, Ryan Blaney made it a three man fight for the win coming to the white Flag, but hit the drainage ditch at the start finish line below the apron and shot back up the track and into Harvick.
“We got a break there on that one restart, where we got a quick caution and we were a nose ahead of him and I was like, ‘Okay, we’re finally back in control of this race,’ and then he got put three-wide in the top of three and couldn’t maintain the lead,” said Blaney. “And then I hit a damn X Games bump, jump on the frontstretch there and bounced me into Harvick, so that sucked, but, overall, I was happy with our speed, just didn’t quite catch the breaks we needed to try to win the race.”
Harvick, said that the restarts at the end helped him remain in control.
“The restarts worked out in our favor and we were able to get the lead and Martin just misjudged there on the backstretch and got me sideways. I got out of the gas and that just brought everybody into the picture,” Harvick continued.
“Then we were four-wide on the front straightaway here and (Ryan Blaney) hit the drain and came up and hit the side of the car and then I couldn’t see, so, yeah, it got wild and that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Truex said he felt bad for his role and went to talk to Harvick post race.
“I tried to slide up behind him off of (Turn) 2 there so I didn’t get freight trained,” Truex said. “I clipped his rear enough to turn him sideways.
“I told him obviously that was my bad. He knew it. Kevin and I have raced hard and clean all the time. It was just a little judgment error on my part. Luckily he hung onto it, was able to keep rolling.”
Meanwhile, with all that bumping and banging, rookie Cole Custer slid by them all en route to his first career Cup victory.
“That’s pretty cool to get your first win,” Harvick said. “As much as I would have loved to win, I’m glad that we kept it in the company.
“Obviously, last week he was a big part of our win (at Indianapolis) and to get to Victory Lane in your rookie year is a big deal. Really happy for (team co-owner) Gene (Haas) and especially for Cole, he works really hard.”
For Custer, he knew he just needed to be in the top on that wild ending.
“I just knew I had to get to the top, and I knew I didn’t want to get put three-wide,” said Custer. “My spotter Andy Houston did a great job of making sure he kept me in the right spots and everything. Those few restarts before I had gone to the top, and it worked really good, and you’re able to keep so much momentum up, so I was like, I have to get to the top here and see what happens.
“The 4 [Kevin Harvick] and the 19 [Martin Truex Jr.] got together, and it kind of opened the door for me to get a lot momentum on them, and it played into our favor.”
Once he got to Turn 4, Custer went as far up the track as he could.
“I had just cleared the 4 [Harvick], and just as I got off (Turn) 4 and got straight, the 41 [Custer] was to my outside,” said Truex, who finished second. “I just didn’t expect him. I don’t know if my spotter saw it coming, but by the time he told me, (Custer) was already next to me, so there was no way I could even try to block. At the same time, I think he had so much momentum I don’t know I could even have blocked him anyway without crashing us both. … Not much I could have done differently there.”