Speeding penalty, run-in with drain keep Kevin Harvick from Pocono win

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After several races where he lamented that crucial pit crew mistakes kept him from wins, Kevin Harvick had nobody to blame but himself for finishing second in Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Harvick admitted afterward that a pit road speeding penalty earlier in the event could have been the difference between a win and his ultimate runner-up finish to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“It wasn’t exactly how you would lay it out on a piece of paper, for sure,” Harvick said when asked about how his day went. “We had a really fast car in clean air, a really loose car in traffic, and then we kind of got behind when I got the speeding penalty.

“I was making sure I didn’t hit the 11 and I looked down and I was way above where I needed to be on speed.”

Later in the race, Harvick suffered only minor damage as one of 13 cars involved in a huge wreck on Lap 118.

“We were able to somewhat dodge that wreck,” Harvick said. “There was a huge drain on the back of the straightaway on the middle of the asphalt, and ran through, and it bounced us up in the wall as we were trying to go through the wreck on the straightaway back there.

“It wasn’t too bad of damage. (His pit crew members) were able to beat it out and in the end, top it off before we went green there. We were able to save a bunch of gas with a bunch of cars that were doing the same thing there at the beginning of that run, and in the end saved plenty of gas to be able to race hard at the end.

“So it was fun. Our car wasn’t obviously quite as good after we wrecked it, but still they did a great job fixing it. … They said it wasn’t that bad on the radio. Just had the left rear tire or the left rear fender in on the tire. So they beat it all back out, and luckily, it was on the left side and not the right.”

Harvick even managed to find some humor in how he avoided all the cars that were spinning around him, but he couldn’t avoid a stationary drain.

“I just hung a left (to avoid the wrecking cars) and I just wasn’t expecting a two foot by two foot drain to be a foot down into the ground as I went down through the asphalt, Harvick said, adding with a laugh: “We had the wreck clear, just timed the drain wrong, I guess.”

Even with the damage, Harvick looked extremely strong in the final 20 laps, particularly in the final four-lap shootout at the end with Dale Earnhardt Jr. that produced one of the most exciting finishes to a race this season.

“I timed the last (restart) pretty good and was able to get into turn one, but I just couldn’t turn into the corner like I needed to, to stay beside him,” Harvick said of Earnhardt. “He was able to carry momentum.

“Then I caught a good draft off of three, the first lap on the restart, and was able to drive into one with him. And he kind of got up the racetrack and if I could get beside him going into one, I thought I could have a chance.

“He was a little bit better than I was in turn three and just had to kind of maintain there to just stay close. But I was going to need him to slip up in turn one and try to get position in turn two.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way and Harvick was relegated to a still outstanding second-place finish.

“That’s what you’re going to have to do the last 10 weeks,” Harvick said of still managing to get a strong finish with a car that was less than optimal. “Today we were able to accomplish that and hopefully this is a good sign of things to come.”

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NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.