LONG POND, Pa -- Kevin Harvick's race team was preparing to compete at Pocono Raceway without crew chief Gil Martin, whose father passed away Friday. But to nobody's surprise the veteran signal-caller showed up for Sunday's race.
Martin had been absent from the track the past two days, attending to his family in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn. His father, Gilford Hicks Martin Sr., died Friday at age 89. In Martin's stead, Harvick's No. 29 team was overseen by car chief Chad Haney, with assistance from engineers Grant Hutchens and Josh Sell. A team representative said Martin was in touch with the crew via telephone and instant message, and watched Saturday's final practice on television.
Harvick, fifth in Sprint Cup Series points and with two victories this year, ran 12th in Saturday's final practice at Pocono. RCR had one of its airplanes on standby for Martin, just as it did a week ago at Dover.
"It's up to him. It is 100 percent up to him," Mike Dillon, vice president for competition at Richard Childress Racing, said Saturday. "That's where we left it. We wanted him to be comfortable."
RCR's three cars tested last week at Pocono, and the No. 29 program was able to use that data to get a jump on preparing for the event weekend on the triangular track where Harvick has never won.
"It was really good," Dillon said of the test. "We're obviously trying to get our whole program going better, and we're making a lot of advancements toward that, in my opinion. I think that test and the Kentucky test, which backed up this test with some good stuff we've done, have been very positive. That was a fortunate thing, because we had some speed."
All three RCR cars this weekend bear a decal remembering "Dah," as Martin's son, Ford, referred to his grandfather. Gil Martin shared his grief Friday via Twitter. "Today I lost my best friend," the crew chief wrote. "Thank you for all your condolences thoughts and prayers."
Dillon said Martin was "upset, but I think he's OK," he said. "He knew his dad would want him to come to the race track, he said, so that's why I say he'll probably be here Sunday, but we're having to plan like he's not. And if he comes, great. He's doing OK. As good as can be expected."
Dillon added that Martin's father was a big fan of what the crew chief does for a living. "His dad loved it," he said. "Every week, he loved it."
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