Why Kevin Harvick Should Have Expected a Tough Day at the Daytona 500

With 10 laps to go in the 64th Daytona 500, Kevin Harvick rode a three-car draft with pace-setter Chris Buescher and trailer Kyle Larson.

The NASCAR Cup Series forces collided.

Just as Harvick attempted to bump draft the No. 17 Ford, Larson reciprocated. Sandwiched, Harvick shot down from the high groove and ignited a multi-car collision.

Harvick should have expected a tough day.

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing gambled with one car at Daytona

With the supply chain sagging because of recent international events, NASCAR teams are struggling to reach their pre-season quota of five race-ready Next Gen cars.

With 11 cars crashing out at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 20, the issue could get worse as NASCAR heads out West for its next three events, beginning Feb. 27 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Before coming to Daytona Beach, Florida for the sold-out, season-opening extravaganza, Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing team took a chance. They hit the beach with one Next Gen car.

Harvick, a future NASCAR Hall of Famer, has 58 wins and a 2007 Daytona 500 title. However, that kind of clout doesn’t help much when crew chiefs across the industry don’t have enough components. He wasn’t alone. Teammate Chase Briscoe had only one, but after a pre-race penalty, Briscoe rallied to place third.

Harvick sure didn’t drive like he didn’t have a backup car or several reserve rides.

Harvick: ‘For me and my career, a lot of things were backward’ 

NASCAR Cup Series drivers Joey Logano (22) and Kevin Harvick race during the 63rd Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 14, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Florida | James Gilbert/Getty Images

Harvick admitted his career started in reverse.

As Richard Childress Racing’s replacement for the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., the rookie competed in all of the Winston Cup events, except the tragic 2001 Daytona 500. With two wins among 16 top-10 finishes, Harvick received Rookie of the Year honors.

But he had to wait for his Daytona 500 debut. He probably wished he could have waited longer.

After starting on the outside of the front row and leading for 7.5 miles, Harvick failed to finish strong. Or finish at all. Six drivers, including Casey Atwood, John Andretti, Ricky Rudd, Jeremy Mayfield, and Joe Nemechek, crashed out on Lap 148.

“For me and my career, a lot of things were backward, happened the opposite of probably the way that they should. I ran my first season of Cup (in 2001), every race but the Daytona 500, because of Dale Earnhardt’s death and replacing Dale in the car and then coming back to the Daytona 500 in 2002 was probably one of the bigger moments in my career,” Harvick told NBC Sports. “… I think I wound up at the front of a 23-car pileup. It was definitely one of those moments where you wish you could have done a little bit differently and had the outcome be a little bit better.”

Harvick drops below the double-yellow line but contends until late sandwich

During Stage 1 on Feb. 20, Harvick attempted to move up from his 22nd starting position, but while trying to avoid a potential collision; he drove below the double-yellow line. He was not penalized because it was a defensive move, and he didn’t gain track position. Still, the move blew Harvick’s first-stage momentum. He dropped to 24th.

Harvick soon received a break on rookie Harrison Burton’s airborne accident. He moved up to sixth and contended for much of the next 118 laps.

Until the Buescher-Larson sandwich. He plunged to P30.

Harvick should have expected a tough ride at Daytona.

With none in reserve.

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