Harvick Foiled by Fuel Mileage at Loudon
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 ditech Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was the dominant car for the majority of the day at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. But while leading the race with three laps remaining, Harvick ran out of fuel and needed a splash-and-go to bring home a 21st-place finish.
Harvick started on the front row in the second position and looked strong right from the start. He took the lead for the first time on lap 20 and remained at the front of the field for all but four laps until giving up the lead to pit under caution on lap 192.
The Bakersfield, California, native stopped for four tires and fuel, while several other teams attempted varying pit strategies. Harvick returned to the racetrack in the seventh position as the first car on four fresh tires on lap 197, which allowed him to race his way back to the lead by lap 211.
The defending Sprint Cup champion brought the No. 4 Chevrolet to pit road for fuel only under caution on lap 212. As Harvick was pulling out of his pit stall, his exit was blocked by driver Kyle Larson as he pulled his No. 42 into his pit box. While the cars never made contact, the incident slowed Harvick’s progress off pit road, and the No. 4 restarted 12th on lap 219.
Harvick had raced his way back up to fifth by the following caution on lap 239. The team opted to stay out under the caution and restart in the third position on lap 243. By lap 252, Harvick had the No. 4 Chevrolet back in the lead and was doing his best to save fuel while holding off Matt Kenseth and working his way through lap traffic. With just three laps remaining, the No. 4 Chevrolet ran out of fuel and was forced to pit road for a splash of fuel to finish the race in the 21st position.
“The good thing about these days is you have EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) data to go back and look at,” crew chief Rodney Childers tweeted following the race. “By the data, (Harvick) saved double what we needed to make it to the end. It should have been a non-issue. Which is why we weren’t worried. It looked like for some reason it must have not got full on our last stop of the race or the fuel cell bladder is coming apart. All in all my engineers do a great job for me and hardly ever make any mistakes. They work their butts off to make sure this doesn’t happen. If anything showed we were taking a chance we would have pitted. On to Dover. It’s not over.”Harvick led six times for a total of 216 laps to increase his season total to 1,676. He has led more laps than that in a single season just once – in 2014 when he led 2,137 laps en route to the Sprint Cup championship. He has led a lap in 22 of the 28 Sprint Cup races contested in 2015.