Tire difficulties played a huge role Sunday for Sprint Cup Chasers Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano at the AAA Texas 500.
But only defending series champion Harvick was able to overcome the adversity at Texas Motor Speedway.
Harvick survived two cut tires and a broken shifter to finish third while an early bad tire led to a spin that wrecked Logano’s chances and resulted in a 40th-place finish.
Harvick will head to Phoenix third in points in the final race before the cutoff to four Chase-eligible drivers for Homestead. Logano will have no option but to win at Harvick’s favorite track or see a season that has included a series high six wins end without a chance at the title.
While Harvick, who has won four consecutive races at Phoenix and seven overall, will be the driver to beat next weekend, he won’t be in a must-win situation. That’s because of everything he did to survive Sunday.
“It was interesting to say the least,” Harvick said. “We definitely had a lot of things that went our way today as far as what could have been damage with two tires. I just have to thank the Hendrick engine shop. I don’t know how the motor didn’t blow up when it popped out of gear in the middle of a straightaway. It was definitely one of those days where not giving up paid off.”
Harvick will head to Phoenix third in the points in the final race before the cutoff to four Chase drivers for Homestead.
Harvick said there was debris all over the track and his No. 4 Chevrolet had no problems finding it. He cut a left rear tire early in the race, but caught a break when a caution came out for debris that allowed him to remain on the lead lap when he pitted to change tires.
Then he had an issue with his shifter. He was forced to steer with his left arm and keep the car in fourth gear with the other. He said he had to let off the shifter at times because his right arm was falling asleep when he was trying to keep the car in gear.
“It was definitely an interesting last 100 laps,” he said.
If that wasn’t enough, Harvick cut another tire after he had worked himself up to second with 50 laps remaining. He had to pit and went a lap down. But once again, he caught another break as green flag stops got him back on the lead lap and then all the contenders pitting when the final caution flew on Lap 311 for debris.
I don’t know how the motor didn’t blow up when it popped out of gear in the middle of a straightaway. It was definitely one of those days where not giving up paid off.
That set up Harvick, who was running as low as 27th after his first tire issue, for the most unlikely of podium finishes with his 14th top-10 finish in 26 TMS starts.
“We’ve done a good job of managing the Chase this far with all the adversity we’ve had,” said Harvick, who led 11 laps Sunday. “We’ve only had one smooth weekend. Hopefully the smooth weekend is next weekend [Phoenix] and the week after [Homestead]. We’ve overcome a lot of things I don’t think people would think we could overcome.”
Logano’s Eliminator Round woes in the Chase continued at TMS. Last week he was knocked out of the race at Martinsville by Matt Kenseth. Sunday he was knocked out by a blown left rear tire that drew applause from the crowd at TMS and sent him behind the wall after he was running fourth.
It’s not what we needed to do. We needed to win. This team’s not quitting. We’re going to go to Phoenix and try to win it.
Logano eventually got back on the track but finished 66 laps down and is in eighth place in points heading to Phoenix.
“It just blew apart off of Turn 3,” said Logano. “It shredded everything. It ripped everything apart. It’s not what we needed to do. We needed to win. This team’s not quitting. We’re going to go to Phoenix and try to win it.”