Kevin Harvick overcomes struggles to earn top-five Sonoma finish

Kevin Harvick had an up-and-down day on the hilly Sonoma Raceway road course, but he was able to recover for a fourth-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. 

Jerry Markland

The 2015 season has been kind to defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, but this weekend’s event at Sonoma Raceway was challenging to say the least.

Yet despite the struggles, Harvick was able to rally throughout Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, overcoming some issues on pit road to finish the day inside the top five.

The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was eighth in the weekend’s opening practice session, but only 20th-quickest in final practice. When qualifying came around, Harvick struggled getting the car to handle well through the right- and left-hand road course, posting the 17th-fastest time.

Starting mid-pack, Harvick knew he had his work cut out for him throughout the day, but was confident in the race setup put in the car by crew chief Rodney Childers.

Harvick remained just outside the top 10 for much of the race, but was up to fourth by Lap 50 of the 110-lap event.

However, when Harvick came to pit road just a handful of laps later, the car fell off the jack as the crew came around to the left side. The crew quickly went to work lifting the car so it could be jacked up, but the mistake cost Harvick a great deal of track position.

When he finally made it back on track, Harvick had fallen to 22nd on the leaderboard. But with a fast car he went to work making up positions and climbing back inside the top 10. By Lap 68, he was up to fifth.

Harvick was mired mid-pack again after pitting under the fourth caution of the day on Lap 73, but made his way back inside the top 10 when the final caution of the day flew with 11 laps to go.

Hitting pit road for the final time, Harvick’s pit crew got him out fifth among those that came in for service. Restarting the race in the 10th spot, Harvick went to work over the closing laps and was able to climb to fourth when the checkered flag flew for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch.

In the end, Harvick was thankful to earn his 11th top-five finish of the 2015 season.

"Just a lot of things went wrong. We had probably the fastest car on the racetrack it just took us all day to overcome all the stuff we had going on," said Harvick. "Just want to thank Budweiser, Outback, Folds of Honor, everybody from Jimmy John’s and Chevrolet for everything they do for our team."