Pit mistakes doom chances of Earnhardt Jr., Harvick and Truex Jr. at Kansas

From The Marbles

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Kevin Harvick finished 15th at Kansas on Sunday. Martin Truex Jr. was 16th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 21st.

Those finishing positions could have been a lot higher if it wasn't for pit road miscues during the race.

We'll start with Junior, as his happened first. He was forced to hit pit road in the early stages of the second half of the race with a loose wheel. The team changed all four tires under green, but Junior ended up losing a lap.

He stayed a lap down the rest of the way as the cautions didn't fall right for him to get the Lucky Dog to get back on the lead lap. At one point, he was even two laps down when he had to make his final pit stop under green.

“I was pretty sure we had an issue," Junior said. "We had a lot of wheels shaking, tires shaking because of the wheels spinning inside the tire. Every set we had today except for one didn’t shake. Every set shook, but it’s a completely different kind of thing when the wheel is not tight. We don’t know which one it was we came in so quick it didn’t beat up the wheel enough to give us a real indication of which one it was.

"I knew we needed to come down pit road. We had a fast car, just never really had good track position and got behind.  We didn’t come here to run second or top five we don’t need that we need a win.  We had to try to go out there and win and we just got behind.”

Both Harvick and Truex got penalties during the final set of green flag pit stops with approximately 50 laps to go.

As Harvick pulled from his pit stall, the fuel can was still engaged. As it disengaged from the car, it rolled into the area past his pit stall. He was penalized for removing equipment from his pit box and forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty.

Harvick's car also had a vibration throughout the race. He first reported it in the opening laps while running second.

“We are lucky to come out of it as good as we did ... We didn’t have a great weekend," Harvick said. "A lot of things falling on and off and now we’ve got to go to Talladega and have a good week. All-in-all it could have been a lot worse and everybody kept digging.”

Truex's penalty was a pass-through after his team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire. Both he and Harvick lost a lap because of the penalties and found themselves racing to get the lap back if a late caution came out.

"It was tough day," Truex said. "We were in good shape before the penalty. We fought hard on the car all day and got much better right when we got the penalty. We were fast at the end, but not enough time to get back up there.This Chase format is tough, really tough. It will be a battle next week in Talladega."

Harvick was able to get the wavearound when the yellow flew for Justin Allgaier's crash, but Jimmie Johnson stayed out on the track. His choice not to pit meant Harvick was still a lap down and he stayed the the rest of the race.

Loose wheels and similar pit road issues are becoming the norm for Junior, hindering his title chances. The pit road mistake, coupled with his poor finish at Charlotte means that Junior is in 11th in the standings, 31 points behind Truex in eighth. He's likely looking at a win-and-move-on scenario at Talladega.

Harvick is tied for fifth, one point ahead of Truex. Harvick is seven points above ninth, meaning both drivers need to avoid disaster at Talladega, a track where a crash can happen almost anywhere.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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