It just wasn’t Kevin Harvick’s weekend.
The No. 4 Chevy driver had a terrible qualifying run on Friday, starting deep in the field at 33rd. He started off Sunday’s race well, however, working his way all the way to sixth.
But that was short-lived. Harvick found himself on the unfortunate end of simple bad luck, the victim of fellow Chase driver Matt Kenseth getting loose on Lap 229. That pushed Harvick into the wall and essentially ended his day.
Harvick’s crew eventually got the car back to racing shape, but he wound up finishing 33rd — worst of any Chase contender.
Harvick expressed his displeasure with Kenseth during the race by brake-checking him and then took it a step further after the race.
“Yeah, he won’t win this championship,” Harvick said. “If we don’t, he won’t.”
Kenseth understood Harvick’s mindset and displeasure.
“It was a mistake — he was an innocent bystander and was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Kenseth, who finished sixth. “I totally understand how he feels.”
It’s a big blow for Harvick and his team. He now needs to win one of the next two races to earn a spot as one of four drivers competing for the Sprint Cup Championship in three weeks at Homestead-Miami.
Harvick’s best bet to advance will be at Phoenix, where he has won five times. He has no career wins at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, site of the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday.
“The good thing about this format is you have two more weeks and two racetracks that we can win on,” Harvick said. “Everybody was so worried about us starting in the back and we wrecked at the front. Unfortunate.”
Somehow, Ryan Newman consistently puts himself in the mix. He has yet to win this season, but has just been good enough to keep advancing throughout the Chase.
And that trend continued at Martinsville. Newman never led a lap and appeared to be a relative nonfactor throughout the day, but managed to finish third.
That puts him in solid position once again to sneak into the championship round.
“It has played to our advantage mathematically, no doubt,” Newman said. “We were the 16th seed [to start the Chase] coming in without a win. We’ve not won yet. It has played to our advantage.”
Chase contender Joey Logano led for 60 laps and finished fifth. He was more than OK with that result, the third-best finish among Chase drivers.
Logano, in the midst of a career year, now has six top-five finishes in seven Chase races.
“We’ve been top-fiving the heck out of this Chase, which is what we need to do,” Logano said. “I just really want to win these things, so you take a little bit of pressure off, but it was still a good points day.”
Denny Hamlin led 68 laps and felt he should have finished higher than eighth. But he had a bad restart on the final one, leaving him in a logjam.
“We’re running better than we’re finishing,” Hamlin said. “I’m just looking at the guys that finished in front of us and I had them beat all day.”