The NASCAR Sprint Cup championship prospects of Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch are under water after Sunday’s damp AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Harvick and his No. 4 Chevrolet enter next week’s race at Phoenix International Speedway sixth in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship standings after finishing sixth, behind winner Carl Edwards in a race cut short under caution because of rain.
Busch turned in his second consecutive poor outing with a 20th-place showing and is in eighth in the standings.
In all probability, their only path to seizing the final two berths in Sprint Cup’s final four in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway is victory next week in the third and final race of the Round of 8.
“Our [car] was off,” Harvick said. “We were tight, we were loose, and we were kind of all over the place. We could take off OK, but we would fall way off at the end of a run. All in all everybody battled and did all they could, and we just didn’t have a fast enough car.”
Despite his status, Harvick surely enters next week with plenty of confidence.
Though he fell to 0 for 28 at Texas Motor Speedway in races at NASCAR’s highest competitive level, Harvick has dominated in the Sonoran Desert, having won eight times and five of his past six there. In the race he didn’t win during that stretch, he finished second.
“We have done it I don’t know how many times,” Harvick said. “So we will just go there and do what we always do and race as hard as we can.”
Never one to avoid conflict, Harvick, who started third but could never find his footing, appeared to intentionally wreck pole sitter Austin Dillon while racing close to the No. 3 Chevy in a bid for fifth in a restart on Lap 264. Dillon went into the Turn 4 wall.
It was ultimately Dillon, though, who got in the best shot, adding insult to Harvick’s standings injury.
“He didn’t like the silver-spoon kid was outrunning him tonight,” Dillon said. It seemed clearly to be a reference to a run-in that his brother, Ty, had with Harvick three years ago in which he labeled Richard Childress’ grandson with the idiom used to disparage those perceived to have inherited wealth, or in this case, inherited opportunity.
“I mean, he is tucked down to my door tighter than anybody did all night. He knew how tight he was on my door and that is why I got tight and slid up in front of him. He didn’t check [up], but he had the opportunity to. I get it, you’ve got to hold a guy down, but he sucked down on my door and got me tight. That is the reason I slid up in front of him and then he didn’t lift he just turned me.
Dillon, who led six laps in the early stages of the race, was knocked out of the race.
Dillon’s crew chief, Slugger Labbe, said he believed the contact was intentional, something Harvick denied. Harvick apologized on the radio during the race and again afterward.
“Slugger says a lot of things that he shouldn’t,” Harvick said. “All in all there was no intent there, and I like racing with Austin, and I like everything that they do, and there was no reason to … I was running seventh and sixth. We were on a restart there and he slid up, and he got loose, and I hit the back of him.”
“That was not anything I wanted to see.”
Busch, who started 10th, had another sloppy race following a 22nd a week ago. He fell a lap down on Lap 244 and never again feigned competitiveness. He was assessed a pit row penalty for taking on fuel in the second stop of a free pass, a violation. He also had radio issues, hampering communication with crew chief Tony Gibson.
“We just missed the set-up,” a disappointed Busch said. “It’s a Chase race, it’s kind of important and we missed it again.”
Stewart-Haas part-owner Tony Stewart, making his last start at TMS, might as well have taken a Big Wheel to the race in never getting out from behind his start of 23rd.
Smoke finished four laps down.