Event: Hellmann’s 500 (Round 32 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.6-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 22nd/7th (Running, completed 192 of 192 laps)
Points: 4,000 points – Advances to Round of 8 in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford) in overtime
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished seventh in Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. It was his 24th top-10 finish of 2016 and his 14th top-10 finish at Talladega.
“All in all the Jimmy John’s Chevrolet team did a great job,” said Harvick, who won the Sprint Cup race Talladega in April 2010. “Everybody just got to pushing and shoving, and we finished seventh. That is pretty good for Talladega.”
Harvick started from 22nd place, and rather than just taking the passive approach of laying back and riding, he elected to mix it up, racing into the top-10 within the opening laps. The 2014 Sprint Cup champion quietly logged laps during the first 30 circuits. As the time for pit stops approached he reported that the Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was handling on the loose side when he drove into and through the turns. In addition to four tires and fuel, crew chief Rodney Childers called for a wedge adjustment during the team’s first stop.
As the race continued, the loose-handling issue persisted on the No. 4 Chevy. The team continued to massage the handling on the Jimmy John’s car, and Harvick executed a conservative approach on the track, comfortably running among the top-25 to the halfway point and beyond. It was at lap 125 that the Bakersfield, California, native started to make a play for the front of the field, climbing back into the top-five by lap 130.
Harvick maintained a presence among the top-five as the race drew to a close, climbing as high as second place. The sixth and final caution was displayed for a single-car accident on lap 187, forcing the race into NASCAR’s version of overtime with the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Harvick was in third place, but cars started darting on the final laps and he was shuffled back to seventh place by the time the checkered flag waved.
Harvick’s SHR teammate Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent by finishing fourth. It was his eighth top-five this season and his seventh top-five in 32 career Sprint Cup starts at Talladega.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 20th.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 32nd.
Harvick and Busch came into Talladega as members of the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Talladega, however, served as an elimination race, with the four lowest Chase drivers not advancing to the Round of 8.
Harvick moved on to the Round of 8 care of his win Oct. 16 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Busch earned his way into the Round of 8 as his point tally during the Round of 12 put him solidly among the top-eight. Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski were the four Chase drivers who failed to advance.
Joining Harvick and Busch in the Round of 8 are Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. All had their respective point tallies reset to 4,000.
Three races will be run in the Round of 8, with the next cutoff coming after the Nov. 13 race at Phoenix International Raceway. Then the Chase field shrinks to four drivers who will advance to the final, winner-take-all Championship Round Nov. 20 in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Logano won the Hellmann’s 500 to score his 16th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Talladega.
Brian Scott finished .124 of a second behind Logano in the runner-up spot, while Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five. Kyle Larson, Harvick, Aric Almirola, Dillon and AJ Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 25 laps with three drivers failing to finish the 192-lap race around the 2.66-mile oval, which went into overtime and finished four laps beyond its scheduled distance.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the seventh race of the Chase – is the Oct. 30 Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!