For a while, it looked like Kevin Harvick was going to be unbeatable on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.
But the Stewart-Haas Racing driver had to settle for second after leading a race-high 119 laps in the 5-Hour Energy 400.
Harvick made a furious charge on the final lap but came up .112 of a second behind race winner Jeff Gordon.
Starting from the pole, Harvick was dominant in the early stages. But after he pitted in the middle of a green-flag cycle of stops on Lap 103, a spin by Marcos Ambrose brought out the caution at Lap 110 while the cycle was still going.
Harvick got the free pass as the top driver one lap down, but had to take the Lap 119 restart in 18th place. Stuck in traffic, his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nowhere near as quick as it was in clean air out front.
He came in for another stop at Lap 157, which was slow due to a dropped lug nut off of his left front tire. But the air pressure and chassis adjustments made on that stop appeared to help him as he steadily started to make his way back up the pylon.
The comeback was complete when Harvick wrestled the lead away from Joey Logano on a restart with 60 laps to go and just as he had early in the race, he quickly pulled away from the point.
But just before Harvick was to make his final stop of the night with 29 laps to go, he radioed his team and told them the car was out of gas.
He was able to get to the pits for service, but as the final laps and stops played out, Harvick would find himself behind Gordon instead of ahead of him.
“I was paying attention to [the fuel pressure] and didn’t get enough RPM down pit road, and then I didn’t get out of my box very well,” Harvick said. “He wound up getting by me there as we came out of the pit stops.”
Harvick tried to track down Gordon over the final few laps, and on the last lap, he was making serious ground on the Hendrick Motorsports driver.
If the race had been 268 laps long instead of 267 – the 5-Hour Energy 401.5, if you will – Harvick might have claimed his third win of the year instead of Gordon claiming his first.
“[Catching Gordon] wasn’t out of the question, because I knew that when we got to traffic that his car was not very good,” Harvick said. “I just needed to time it right, and I just had too much ground to make up at that time.”