KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kevin Harvick’s winning ways continued on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway as he passed Martin Truex Jr. coming to the white flag and held on to capture his fifth victory of the season and series-leading seventh for Ford in 2018.
Harvick, who started on the pole, had a competitive car all night as he led five times for 79 laps and finished second the first two stages. A series of late-race cautions set the stage for Harvick to rally after a red flag with 14 laps remaining reset the field. Truex was able to build a good-sized lead, but Harvick was able to close the gap in his Busch Light Fusion and found himself in position to pass with three laps to go.
“I think as you look at the last couple of laps it wasn’t working for me on the bottom and I was able to make up some ground on the top,” recalled Harvick in Victory Lane. “I thought if it came down to it I could pass him on the bottom because my car went through one and two on the bottom, or I could drive through the middle of three and four, but I just had to pick which lane. He wasn’t gonna choose and he never chose the high lane and we were able to drive right by.”
The win gave Harvick back-to-back Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins for the second time this season and he’ll look to equal his previous three-race streak when points racing resumes in two weeks in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Joey Logano finished third while Paul Menard had two good restarts at the end to finish sixth. Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola were eighth and ninth for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Overall, the Fords showed strength all night, especially in the beginning when Ryan Blaney lead a charge of four Fusions across the finish line in Stage 1. At one point, Ford held the top five positions as the race went green, except for a competition caution on lap 30 and the two stage breaks, until 31 laps remained.
The intensity picked up on the restarts and led to more attrition, which began when Blaney and Kyle Larson made contact while battling for second place with 20 laps to go. Blaney attempted to side draft Larson, but cut a right-front tire and ended up in the wall with a 37th-place finish.
Another multi-car accident came with 14 laps to go that collected Matt Kenseth, who was making his return to Ford and Roush Fenway Racing behind the wheel of the No. 6 Fusion. Kenseth, who ran in the mid-twenties most of the night, ended up 36th on the scoreboard.
At the end of the night, there were 10 Fords that finished in the top 20, including the Front Row Motorsports duo of David Ragan (13th) and Michael McDowell (20th).
MONSTER ENERGY CUP RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st -- Kevin Harvick
2nd -- Martin Truex Jr.
3rd -- Joey Logano
4th -- Kyle Larson
5th -- Denny Hamlin
6th -- Paul Menard
7th -- Erik Jones
8th -- Kurt Busch
9th -- Aric Almirola
10th -- Kyle Busch
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
11th -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13th -- David Ragan
14th -- Brad Keselowski
15th -- Clint Bowyer
20th -- Michael McDowell
22nd -- Matt DiBenedetto
36th -- Matt Kenseth
37th-- Ryan Blaney
VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion -- Finished: 1st
WALK THROUGH THE LAST PASS. “I think as you look at the last couple of laps it wasn’t working for me on the bottom and I was able to make up some ground on the top and really I thought if it came down to it I could pass him on the bottom because my car went through one and two on the bottom or I could drive through the middle of three and four, but I just had to pick which lane. He wasn’t gonna choose and he never chose the high lane and we were able to drive right by.”
FIVE WINS. HOW GOOD IS THIS RACE TEAM?
“Well, I think this weekend shows really how good the race team is. Everything didn’t go exactly smooth and everybody just kept a good demeanor about things and kept calm and kept working through things. The same thing tonight. Everybody just kept working through trying to make the car better and we were able to wind up in Victory Lane. Those are the days that you just grind it out.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford Fusion -- Finished 3rd
“The 4 was the fastest car and he won. He’s the most deserving winner. We were faster than the 78 and we got beat by him, so that part is a little frustrating to me.”
“What do you expect, it’s the end of the race. We’re gonna get crazy and we’re gonna make some big moves. That’s the name of the game.”
WALK US THROUGH THE END.
“I really just had two bad restarts in a row, which is frustrating to me. As the leader I feel like I probably took the wrong lane, which cost me the lead in the first place and then the last time I was trying to time him on the bottom and he just read it really well and kind of stopped me, and then I spun the tires after that. The car behind me wasn’t the best of pushers. He wanted to win the race too and I don’t blame him. He’s not my teammate. He’s there to win too. I just hate being that close. It’s a great run for AAA and Team Penske, but when you’re that close to winning it’s pretty frustrating as a driver and probably as a team we’re all probably a little frustrated right now.”
PAUL MENARD, No. 21 Menards/Atlas Ford Fusion -- Finished 6th
“We had a good car all weekend. We made some good adjustments coming into tonight and kept working on it all night long. The track changed a lot as the sun went down. We kind of saved our best for last, I guess. We had a couple cars crash in front of us. We avoided it and the further up you can restart the better off you can stay up there and the more likely you are to stay up there, so clean air was everything tonight.”
A NICE BOUNCEBACK AFTER THE LAST FEW WEEKS.
“Yeah, it was just an uneventful race and a solid weekend. We had good preparation with the car, good stops, good adjustments. It was kind of a boring weekend, which is good.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Haas Automation/VF1 Ford Fusion -- Finished 15th
“It was a solid run. All weekend long it was just not our weekend. We had tech issues and didn’t get to qualify. We started in the back and got up through there pretty good, but then kind of stalled out. We got wrecked there. I was trying to get us up in the top five and got wrecked there. That’s just part of it I guess.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 SunnyD Ford Fusion -- Finished 11th
“Overall, we were pretty much an 18th-place car all day. Our Ford wasn’t affected by any of the adjustments we were making, but with pit strategy and late-race cautions we were able to salvage an 11th-place finish. Not a bad points day. We’ll go back to the shop and keep working on our cars.”
DAVID RAGAN, No. 38 MDS Trucking Ford Fusion -- Finished 13th
“We made good adjustments Saturday night to start the race and I felt like our car was okay the first run and then we made a good improvement that first pit stop, so that really helped us stay on the lead lap a little bit longer, and then we just caught a couple of lucky breaks at the end, but we were just good enough that we could take advantage of those lucky breaks. I feel like we’ve made some more progress with our mile-and-a-half cars. It was a fun race. We still have some more improvement we can do, but it was fun to race there with some good cars.”
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion -- Finished 20th
“It’s good to get some points and get some momentum back of just finishing races. We just started out really loose and got behind a little bit and made good changes at the end, but by then we were two laps down and it’s just hard to make up. Everybody fought hard and it’s still good to get a top 20. I’m really happy for my teammate, David Ragan, top 15. That’s a great run for them and they’ve been having a good streak. That’s not what we hoped for, but all in all an okay day.”
Blaney and Kenseth Quotes
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 REV Group Ford Fusion
(Involved in accident on lap 247)
“I don’t know. It was hard racing. I definitely take the blame on that one. I was just trying to side draft hard and the car was kind of light down the frontstretch there and it was just hard racing at the end. I got about spun out in one and two on the restart, getting sucked around. We were making some spots back up and just trying to get back up to the front and tried too hard. That stinks. We had a really fast race car and I hate it for REV. The two races they’ve been on our car this year and we’ve led a bunch of laps in both of them and ended up wrecked. I wish we could get over that hump, but I thought we made a good gain tonight and where our cars need to be. Hopefully, we can carry that forward into the next upcoming weeks, but it was definitely my fault just trying too hard. I made contact and it cut my right-front down. I hate I got the 42, but it was just hard racing.”
WERE THE CARS EDGY?
“When you get restarts at the end of races everyone goes nuts. You see it right now. Everything was calm until the end, you get restarts and people start crowding each other and that’s what happens.”
IS SIDE DRAFTING THE ONLY OPTION TO MAKE THAT PASS?
“Yes, that’s the only option. If I didn’t side draft him and get some position on it he would have sucked me around into one, so I feel like that was my only option. Looking back on it now, it probably wasn’t my only option, but in the moment I thought it was. Yeah, the cars are really edge and hard to handle.”
MATT KENSETH, No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford Fusion
(Involved in accident on lap 253)
“I don’t have any idea what happened with the wreck. I just saw everybody wrecking and the track was kind of blocked, so I tried to get down towards the grass. This grass is not the new friendly grass with the rain and all it just kind of dug in and then I just hit the car in front of me.”
YOU SAID YOU HAD NO EXPECTATIONS, BUT CAN YOU TAKE AWAY ANYTHING FROM TONIGHT?
“I expected us to be a little more competitive than that, so it was a really tough weekend all around. We obviously have some work to do. The good news is it’s got to get better.”
JOEY LOGANO POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
JOEY LOGANO: Well, obviously no matter who won earlier today or later today, it doesn't really matter. As long as we get a win for him, that's what the goal is. Dangit, just had a ‑‑ we had a top‑5 car. We weren't a winning car. At best we were usually around a 4th place car. That's about where we were.
Had the opportunity to stay out there and get track position and just got beat on restarts. Got beat by the 78 while we were the leader there. Just didn't have a ‑‑ Erik wasn't going to push me. I should have known better. He's going to go three wide and try to take the lead. I can't blame him for that, which gave Martin a good corner on the high side there to be able to clear us and take the lead. Then I had another shot at it and tried to time it, but he out‑snookered me. Yeah, I know.
But after that, you're just trying to hold off who you've got behind you and try to catch Martin there, and then Kevin was ripping there with the new tires at the end. He was the fastest car with the new tires. It was kind of hard to hold him off. Once he figured out at the top there, he started going, and I don't think anyone was going to hold that car off at that point.
Really my only shot was you guys wrecking each other, and they're too good for that, so I was back there just wishing away. Overall a solid day for our AAA Fusion. This has been a good racetrack for us in the past, and then we've had a couple bad runs here, and this is a good day to try to see some light at the end of the tunnel at this racetrack for us. Look forward to coming back.
For each of you, I'm sure you take comfort that you've got your wins in the bank for the Playoffs, but what's going to stop him? Can anybody stop him once you guys get into the playoffs?
JOEY LOGANO: How does it feel? Not as good as the 4, I can tell you that much. Oh, man, I'm still chasing a car that's way faster than me. It used to be the 78, now it's the 4 at this point. The good news is we're closer than we were last year, so we are consistent, we're knocking off top‑5s, top‑10s, getting stage points every time. I think we're probably still second in points, cutting away in Kyle's lead hopefully a little bit there, and I know Kevin cut down into my lead a little bit. Points battle is getting closer. Like you said, we're consistent, we're just consistently off the Stewart‑Haas cars right now.
What can be done?
JOEY LOGANO: Well, if we knew, we would do it, wouldn't we? I wish I knew. There's not a real bright, shiny tool that you can just use and say, there it is, that's what it is. But it's just a bunch of little things, and they're doing a really good job right now. They're executing races well and they've got a ton of speed. They're qualifying fast and they're winning races.
KEVIN HARVICK POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the race winner of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway, Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford for Stewart‑Haas Racing. We're also joined by crew chief Rodney Childers and Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition for Stewart‑Haas Racing.
Kevin, congratulations on the win. This is your fifth win of 2018. It also is the fifth win in 12 races, so congrats on that. Talk a little bit about your race.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, you know, I think for us, it was a battle all weekend. We just ‑‑ I think for me, the coolest thing that came out of the weekend is just the grit of the race team. You look at everything that we battled through in practice and not really getting all the laps that we would like to in practice and struggling to get the car where we wanted it to be in the race, but we just kept grinding on it and nobody complained ‑‑ or I complained. I complain all the time, though. That's kind of my job is to complain sometimes. But everybody just kept working on the car and really trying to make it better, and then it came down to a couple restarts, and we were able to get in front of the 42 there. I felt like that was a key moment in the race, to get him back behind a couple cars. I felt like he had the fastest car tonight, and we were able to put him back in the pack a little bit.
And then it came down to a decision, and it's like I told him, I'd always rather be going forward and trying to win than going backwards and lose. So that was a lot of fun, and we were able to miss the wreck, and that's when everything just kind of went our way in that situation, and then we were able to find somewhere on the racetrack that worked and run Martin down and win the race.
I haven't been that excited to win a race all year. But when you win them like that, those are the moments that you drive the car and watch the car and work on the team, those are the moments that you live for right there, those late‑lap winning passes and coming from behind and winning on a day when you don't feel like you had the fastest car, and that makes it a lot of fun.
Rodney, I wanted to ask you about that restart. Starting sixth and starting on the outside, what was Kevin saying to you and you saying to him?
RODNEY CHILDERS: We kept talking about we felt like we were in a good position. I have to be honest, I was so mad I couldn't see straight. I don't get mad very easy, but about five to go I started throwing my computer in my bag and packing my stuff up and was so mad I couldn't see straight. And then all of a sudden I looked up again, and I was like, holy cow. I mean, he had gained like 15 car lengths through that corner.
But just everybody, like Kevin said, did a great job all weekend. We didn't feel very comfortable with our car in practice, and you know, honestly didn't feel great about it going into the race. But like he said, everybody kept working hard on it, and he pulled us through there at the end.
Kevin, were you as mad as Rodney was with five laps to go?
KEVIN HARVICK: I was not.
RODNEY CHILDERS: He was the opposite.
KEVIN HARVICK: I wasn't mad at all. I'd always rather have four tires and have a chance to go forward. I hate staying out there and riding around on old tires and just hoping that it all works out for you. You know, four tires won us a championship, so tonight it won us a race, and those are the moments that you want to be on offense and you want to be in control, and sometimes it looks worse than it actually is. I know that's what he was mad about was coming out eighth and thinking that you don't have a chance, but I really feel like on even when we were eighth, I felt like on sticker tires, I felt we would have had a bigger advantage than we did after they had a cycle on them and everybody sat there during the red flag and cooled off. I don't know if it would have all worked out, but I felt like the advantage shrunk when we had the red and had everybody stop and we wound up with a heat cycle on them.
What was your impetus to move up to the top with five laps to go?
KEVIN HARVICK: He was getting smaller, and I was like, I've got to do something different, this isn't working. I said, I'm going to drive it into the next corner. I've got five laps to go, I'm going to drive it in here, and I'm either going to hit the wall or it's going to turn. It turned and we gained about 15 car lengths in that lap, and I'm like, well, I guess that was okay, I'm going to do it again, and it just kept sticking. Those are the moments that you just kind of throw caution to the wind, see what happens, and it all worked out.
You and Rodney, especially since you guys have gotten together, have had some really dominant stretches of time where it feels like you guys are unbeatable or untouchable, but this seems like a whole extra level on top of that. Does this feel different or even more special than some of those runs that you guys have had where you've gone to Dover and you had to win and you did? Is this different than that?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, now it feels like a game. It really does, because of the fact that you want to see how many races you can win. You want to see how many laps you can lead. We know that we're riding a momentum wave that is hard to come by, and you need to capitalize on it as many times as you can because it may never come again. I've never had it in my career, and I've been doing this for 18 years. These moments are not something that happens very often, and now you need to go put every detail into a car like you're racing for a championship race at Homestead every week because it just has that special feel to it. It's just a good time to be at SHR. They're doing a great job of putting fast race cars on the track, but I think when you look at a night like tonight, it really shows the experience of the team because I feel like this is the kind of cars that we had in 2014 but we had a lot of parts failures. We were all new. We made a lot of mistakes and just didn't really know how to deal with it like we do now, and it's ‑‑ but yeah, it's addicting. Now it's a game.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, for sure. You know, we talked about this this week, it's something that you may never do again in your career, and while you have fast cars and while you have momentum and while you have a group of guys that gives it everything they have and a driver that gives it everything that he can, like you have to, like you have to just fight every week and give it everything you've got. I mean, if it's eight races you win, if it's ten races you win, if it's 12 races you win, the reason that we all are here is because of watching people like Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham win 12 races a year, and that's what your goal should be no matter what race team you are. Yeah, you've got to keep going.
Kind of following up on that, Greg, you've been with Tony Stewart through championships. How far can this ride take you guys? Have you ever seen such a run like this? What's going to stop this team?
GREG ZIPADELLI: Hopefully nothing. Right, I mean, that's what the goal is. No, I think as an organization, all our cars are running better, which is exciting to me and everybody back at the shop. It's crazy to see what these guys have done this year. It's exciting. It's just really cool. I mean, like Kevin says, you've got to ride it, you've got to keep working. I think when you do it, it excites everybody. Everybody believes, I think more now than they ever have, especially with the switch to Ford. We asked a lot out of our people last year. It wasn't the year that we wanted.
To see everybody step up, see Kevin and Rodney where they are in their careers, and like Kevin said, he's been doing this a long time, and I think he's hungrier now and enjoying it more than he may have ever. So that's really fun to be able to see and be a small part of.
Kevin, Martin had said something to the effect that he just didn't feel like he had enough car to catch you when you passed him. With all the issues that you talked about just a few minutes ago with the car this weekend, was there any concern on your part that you had enough car to hold him off once you got the lead?
KEVIN HARVICK: I knew once I got the lead that it was over. You know, I felt like at that point with clean air and putting him in dirty air and in the groove that I was running, I felt like that was ‑‑ unless he just ran into me, it was probably game over at that point. But sometimes it's just ‑‑ it's not easy to get yourself in that position, and it wasn't working for me on the bottom, and luckily I found a place to run that he didn't want to run or couldn't run, and we were able to capitalize on that.
Kevin, on that last restart, it looked like you come out of Turn 4, did you graze the wall?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think so. It might have been close. At that point I was willing to graze the wall, hit the wall, whatever.
We thought you grazed the wall and you looked like you lost all your momentum and you weren't going to be able to catch Truex and all of a sudden you started hunting him back down. At any point during that last restart did you think you couldn't catch him, or did you know that you had enough time?
KEVIN HARVICK: I thought it was over, to tell you the truth, after about three or four laps, and at that point you've just got to try something different, and it was kind of ‑‑ like I said earlier, you just drive it in the corner and hope that it doesn't just drive into the wall, and that top groove had a ton of grip for us and we were able to rip around the top and make up a bunch of ground.
At that point you're just in desperation mode to find something that works and we were able to find something, and it was in a spot where he wasn't. That's really kind of the old saying, go where they aren't, and riding behind him was definitely not working for us, it was chattering the front tires like crazy. Just had to move around and find something different.
Before Truex left here, he made a comment that either 4 or the Ford, it was hard to hear up here, I'm getting mixed reports, but had an unfair advantage. After his dominance last year, can you speak to that?
KEVIN HARVICK: That's funny. Maybe he forgot about last year.
Kevin, you mentioned the word addicting. Does that addiction then ‑‑ and Rodney, too, does that raise the level of internal pressure for you guys that say maybe seventh on a decent day is not good enough because you know you want to lead more laps, get more race wins?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think you have to manage it. I don't think anybody needs to put that much pressure on themselves. I think you've got to be realistic about it, too. There's just going to be days that don't work out, and you may or may not have the fastest car, but I think today is ‑‑ I love days like today because the message that it sends is we aren't going to quit, we didn't quit, and we won. That sends the message, the guys on the team, the guys in the shop, and it sent a message to our competitors. It's fun to never be counted out, and that's really what you want. But you still have to be realistic about it. It's still one week at a time. I think we know the potential of the things that we're doing, and the cars that we're putting on the racetrack. But there's going to be weekends where it just doesn't work out, and I think that's the experience part of the team and the organization that you look at and say, we can handle a seventh, that's okay.
Kevin, this is your fifth win of the season, and that already ties your career high for a single season. Were you aware of that? Anyone brought that up to you?
KEVIN HARVICK: I'm very aware.
Secondly, it seemed there for a long time that maybe the race would end up having the fewest cautions that it ever had, and last year at this race they had a record tying for the most. Is there any rhyme or reason why these two races were so different from year to year?
KEVIN HARVICK: No, but it still worked out the same way, and I think when it comes down to cautions and you have the stages, and this track is so inviting on the restarts to run from the wall all the way to the white line that everybody knows that they can be very aggressive and find a lane because there's multiple lanes to choose from. That's the great part about Kansas is the fact that you can just race all over the place and the restarts become so crazy, and that's really what leads to the cautions, as it did again tonight, the restarts, and tonight everybody wound up in the top groove. I don't know how a couple of those accidents happened there with the 88 and a couple of those guys. But yeah, the restarts are crazy.
How much did the track change with the sunset, and how good are these Roush engines this year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, you know, I think as you look at qualifying and you look at the year, the thing that I love about our engine shop, it's built on racers. When you look at Doug Yates and everything that he and his family have built through the years, all's they want to do is win, and they have conversations about stuff that is more ‑‑ it's more about a guy that's running a race team than it is a guy that's running an engine shop. They don't really care. They just want to do whatever they have to do to try to win, and that's the mentality that usually you find in a race team. So the engines are a lot of fun to have under the hood and have that mentality from the engine shop is pretty special. So it's a lot of fun.
How the track changed.
MODERATOR You know, this is always an interesting race because you go from day to night, and tonight our car was just really, really loose throughout the whole night, and the track as it cools off tends to get looser, and we kind of caught up with it at the end. I think if we had another swing at it, I think we'd probably do a few things different.