Harvick victories piling up
By Dan Gelston
The Associated Press
DOVER, Del. — Kevin Harvick was flanked by his Stewart-Haas Racing team on the victory lane stage when a photographer yelled at the group, “What are you holding up?”
“Four!” they shouted in unison.
Harvick, team owner Tony Stewart and the rest flashed their fingers Four Horsemen-style and let out a “Wooo!” before they uncorked the champagne and sprayed anyone in their sights.
The checkered flag collection keeps growing at SHR, and Harvick is leading the way.
Harvick dominated a race interrupted by rain and drove to his Cup Series-high fourth victory of the season Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
“I feel like we’re playoff-racing on a weekly basis,” Harvick said.
He reeled off three straight wins at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix earlier this season and now has the 60-pound Miles the Monster trophy to add to his collection.
His brought the trophy home following his first win at Dover in October 2015, only to have his young son break the arm on the fiberglass creature that was never cleaned from the victory celebration.
“I’m bringing it home but do not break the arm off of this one,” Harvick said he told his son. “It’s hard to explain to people why his playroom smells like beer.”
Harvick swept the first two stages and easily chased down SHR teammate Clint Bowyer in the third for the lead after a 41-minute delay. Bowyer, who won this season at Martinsville to snap a 190-race losing streak dating to 2012, had asked for a rain dance when the race was stopped with 80 laps left.
Once it resumed, Harvick waltzed his way into victory lane in the No. 4 Ford. He led 201 of 400 laps and stormed past Bowyer and took the lead for good with 62 laps left.
“You knew he was going to be the one that you were going to have to beat for the win,” Bowyer said.
Harvick’s 41st career Cup victory gives him a stout nine top-10 finishes and eight top-fives in 11 starts this season. He held four fingers out the window as he took a victory lap on the mile concrete track and won at Dover for the second time.
Bowyer was second. Daniel Suarez, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
SHR had three cars in the top five with Harvick, Bowyer and Busch.
“Three cars in the top five says a lot about where we are as a company,” Harvick said. “It’s fun racing your teammate.”
SHR has five wins this season and has never won more than six in its 10-year history.
“It’s days like today that builds momentum for the organization,” Stewart said. “It’s about evolution.”
NASCAR waits another week for its own transformation to happen.
The ballyhooed youth movement that was supposed to usher in NASCAR’s rebirth continues to fizzle. The Dover race program had a photo of seven drivers with one career Cup win on the cover, yet the 42-year-old Harvick continues to hold off the so-called “young guns.”
Harvick, Truex and Bowyer — all winners this year — are over 35.
One highlight, Suarez, NASCAR’s first Mexican champion in the Xfinity Series, did match his career-best finish while driving with a broken left thumb.
“I feel like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself earlier in the season, trying to put a lot of pressure on the team to get the results,” he said.
Here’s what else happened at Dover:
KYLE BUSCH OUT
Kyle Busch failed to finish a race for the first time this season because of a broken drive shaft on the No. 18 Toyota.
Busch, who had complained of a vibration for most of the race, was running third when the part finally broke and dumped oil across the track.
Dover had its earliest Cup date since it started in 1969.
“NASCAR and the networks, they have a pretty tough job of balancing everything out,” track president Mike Tatoian said. “If you look at the overall NASCAR schedule, it may be an improvement. But that means some tracks get the short end of the stick, some tracks get the benefit from it. From our perspective, if we had our choice, of course we’d go later.”
BACK IT UP
Pole sitter Kyle Larson was sent to the back of the field because his No. 42 Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection three times. Larson had won his fifth career pole and was a heavy favorite on the strength of two runner-up finishes at the track.
Alex Bowman and Austin Dillon also were sent to the rear because of inspection issues with their cars. Larson and Bowman lost their car chiefs, and both teams were docked 30 minutes of practice next week at Kansas Speedway.
BABY ON BOARD
Larson said John Hunter Nemechek is on call for Kansas in case the Larsons’ second baby is born.
Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, is set to yield the No. 6 Ford next week to the returning Matt Kenseth. Kenseth, a two-time Daytona 500 winner and former Cup champion, was hired by Roush Fenway Racing to split races with Bayne.
The series shifts to Kansas Speedway, where Truex is the defending race winner.