Harvick Just Short

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Fontana, Calif. - Kevin Harvick showed the rest of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers that he is a force to be reckoned with in 2005. The Bakersfield, Calif., native finished sixth in Sunday's Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, pushing him up 13 spots to 13th in the NEXTEL Cup Series points standings.

For much of the weekend, Harvick wasn't even on the radar. The GM Goodwrench Chevrolet practiced no better than 30th and while the team felt confident they would race well, they were concerned with qualifying.

In qualifying, Harvick backed up the crews feelings and posted the 31st fastest time of the day. "The car is going to race good," said Harvick. "We didn't think the car would be that fast in qualifying trim, but I know it is going to be good on race day."

It didn't take long for Harvick to prove his point once the race got underway. In the first 20 laps, the GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo picked up 17 positions and moved steadily into the top-15. On lap 25, Bill Elliott slapped the wall in turn four, bringing out the first caution. Harvick used the yellow flag to pit his Chevy and took on four fresh Goodyear Eagle tires, making only a small air pressure adjustment to help a "tight in the center of the corner" condition. A 13-second pit stop sent Harvick into the top-10 for the next restart.

Once up front, Harvick continued to march his GM Goodwrench No. 29 to the front of the field. At the half-way point of the race, Harvick moved into third place and was now a factor for the win. A series of sub 14-second pit stops kept the Goodwrench Monte Carlo in the hunt all day long.

"In the middle part of the race, we really settled into a groove," Harvick said. "The GM Goodwrench Chevy was really fast and the clean air allowed us to pull away a little and set us up for the run to the finish."

The run to the finish was exciting for the Goodwrench team. On lap 194, Harvick passed Carl Edwards on the front stretch for the lead. He led the next 10 laps before pit stops shook things up for a lap. Harvick regained the lead after stops and he led again from lap 205 to lap 217.

On lap 217, Jason Leffler blew a motor in turn three bringing out the final caution of the day. Harvick radioed crew chief Todd Berrier to discuss pit strategy. "What do you think Todd," Harvick asked. "I think we need tires here." Berrier agreed and so did RCR owner Richard Childress. The field rolled off turn four and Harvick dove onto pit lane. Two other cars followed, but Roush Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch stayed out. Harvick took four tires and returned to the grid in seventh place.

On the final restart, Biffle and Busch pulled away to a four-second lead. Harvick tried to "reel-in" the leaders, but the GM Goodwrench Chevy developed a tight condition, ending any chance at the win. "We're just plowing," said Harvick, as he watched Jimmie Johnson pass by chasing down the leaders.

With Harvick out of the picture, Biffle was able to take the checkered flag, with Johnson second and Busch third. Jaime McMurray and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five.

"We had great pit stops all day. I'm really proud of all the guys. We decided to pit there at the end and we all agreed that was the call, but it didn't work out for us. The GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo was awesome. It just got tight at the end. It was a good points day for us and we'll take this momentum to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and try to win there," Harvick said after picking up his career-best NEXTEL Cup Series finish at the two-mile oval.

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