Harvick plays it safe in final laps, gets runner-up finish

Leave a comment

Kevin Harvick knew that a win wasn’t going to be in the cards for him on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway – even when Jimmie Johnson (running second at the time) suffered a flat tire with three laps left, popped the wall and went to the pits.

“My car started to shake really bad,” he said. “That was about the third set of tires that started to shake really bad on my car, and I just backed it down and let the 48 [Johnson] go [for second place] at that particular point. I wasn’t catching the 16 [winner Greg Biffle] and didn’t really feel it necessary to have a tire failure or an issue…

“So our best bet at that point was the 48 catches the 16 and something happening as those two guys were racing. But we just maintained and managed our gap between us and the 56 [Martin Truex Jr.] to just hold that track position and not have anything silly happen with the right front [tire] at the end.”

As a result, he came away with a big chunk of points thanks to his runner-up result at the Quicken Loans 400, which continues a hot stretch as of late for him. In the last seven races, Harvick has collected two wins, four Top-5s and six Top-10s with a 40th place result at Talladega last month as his only blemish.

Harvick admitted he wasn’t sure if he was going to have a solid afternoon in Michigan, believing he had “a 10th to 15th place car.” But thanks to adjustments from his crew and a more spread-out racing groove, he was able to move forward.

“You knew that we knew what we were fighting in traffic and what we were going to have to deal with, and the groove kind of spread out today – went from the center down – the bottom groove in 3 and 4 was fairly good,” said Harvick. “You could make some time there and move your car around if you needed to get around somebody.

“But [the crew] made a lot of little changes, and most of them the right way. We took the time in the first couple stops today to make some big adjustments on the car. Lost some awesome track position, but it paid off for us after that.”

Harvick moved up one position to fourth in the Sprint Cup standings.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.