Kevin Harvick facing long climb from 33rd on grid Sunday at Martinsville


At this point of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, even the smallest setbacks can have major consequences.

On Friday, Kevin Harvick may have suffered a big setback.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was the slowest of the eight remaining Chasers in today’s lone Cup practice at Martinsville Speedway. Then later on in qualifying, he scraped the wall twice in the first round and wound up qualifying a dismal 33rd on the grid for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 – the opener for the Eliminator Round of the Chase.

Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press tweeted Harvick’s reaction afterwards:

On the bright side, a victory at Martinsville has been achieved from farther back. In the fall of 2002, Harvick’s current teammate Kurt Busch won from 36th.

But less than five percent of Martinsville victories – that’s six in 131 races – have come from outside the Top 20. All seven of his Chase rivals will be starting within the Top 13 on Sunday.

Tomorrow now becomes critical for Harvick, as he’ll have two practice sessions (9-9:50 a.m. ET, 12 Noon-12:50 p.m. ET) to find a strong race pace on the No. 4 Chevrolet.

With where he’ll be to start on Sunday, he cannot afford to struggle off the bat and be lapped early at the half-mile Virginia oval.

Harvick must also now avoid the fate of another big name that didn’t get a good start to the previous Contender Round. USA Today writer and NASCAR on NBC contributor Nate Ryan makes a note:

As you know, things seemed to snowball against Johnson following his poor qualifying run in the Heartland. Harvick can’t let that happen to him.