FORT WORTH, Texas – It's been the ultimate boom-or-bust season for Kevin Harvick. Or to use another cliche, we can call it a roller-coaster season. Either way, there's been a peak and a lot of valleys.
He was fast again on Monday in the Duck Commander 500. Fast for the laps he was on track, anyway.
After qualifying second, Harvick was running right with race leader and teammate Tony Stewart when the engine on his No. 4 car expired. The day was over and Harvick had completed 28 of the race's 334 laps.
"Something happened with the engine," Harvick said. "The Jimmy John's Chevrolet was really fast. It’s frustrating. I don’t know what else I can say."
Harvick ended up 42nd. Crew chief Rodney Childers' initial diagnosis was an oil pump that got knocked loose.
Looks like something knocked the oil pump belt off it and then blew up about a 1/2lap later. Craziest crap ever…
— Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) April 7, 2014
Harvick won the second race of the season at Phoenix and finished seventh last week at Martinsville. But after the engine failure at Texas, he's either had a crash or an equipment malfunction in the other five races. He's currently 26th in the points standings.
Harvick is in a similar situation to teammate Kurt Busch, who is 25th in the standings. Busch had tire issues at Texas on Sunday and was the cause of three different caution flags because of them.
Because of the new win-and-you're-essentially-in points format for the Chase, Harvick and Busch don't need to panic at all. Remember, drivers with a win are eligible if they're in the top 30 in points.
The two have had a myriad of issues throughout the first seven races and Harvick is still 31 points ahead of 31st place. If things are as far south as Chile right now, it'd have to be downright Antarctican for either of them to miss the Chase in the very likely in the very-likely case that 16 or less drivers win a race. It's simply implausible.
The simple fact of qualification doesn't make everything OK, though. Simply qualifying for the Chase isn't the ultimate goal for either team. But there's plenty of time to figure things out, and the speed has been there, even if the finishes haven't been. And we'll look on the bright side. If you're going to struggle for a seven-race stretch of the season, you'd rather have it happen at the beginning than the end, right?
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