Kevin Harvick is on track to have what ultimately could prove to be the best year of his career, with two race victories already this season and consistently fast race cars.
But by his own admission, Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, Harvick let one get away.
From the time it rolled off the trailer Friday until the checkered flag to end the 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway, Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was the dominant car of the weekend. Harvick qualified on the pole and led an event-high 119 of 267 laps in the first night race at the 1.5-mile track.
But when the race ended, Harvick was second, just 0.112 seconds behind race-winner Jeff Gordon.
Afterward, Harvick used a single word to describe why he came up short in his quest to be the first three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner in 2014: execute.
"I think, to win the race, I just needed to execute on pit road better the last time down," Harvick said.
In fact, pit road was Harvick’s downfall all night.
Twice, he pitted only to have cautions come out shortly afterward, which cost him dearly in terms of track position both times.
And on his last stop, Harvick was too slow coming down pit road, which allowed Gordon to come out ahead of him and eventually work his way to the front and win.
"The car was really fast," Harvick said. "We just had to overcome a lot tonight, getting caught on pit road both times under green-flag pit stops."
Harvick took responsibility for the slow final stop.
"Then there at the end, we ran out of gas coming to pit road there, and I was looking at the fuel pressure gauge instead of the (tachometer) and lost a bunch of time down pit road and off of pit road, wound up getting stuck behind the 24 (Gordon)," he said.
And that was the race, though Harvick put on a tremendous show at the end, nearly running Gordon down to win in the waning laps. But despite a dramatic last-lap surge, he came up just short.
"The car was really tight," Harvick said. "And then I found a groove that worked for me way up the racetrack, and I caught him (Gordon), and then I slipped and lost everything I had gained and then gained it all back and just ran out of laps at the end."