Harvick Sweep Swept Away

It's not often that a third place finish in a NEXTEL Cup Series race can be considered disappointing. But for Kevin Harvick, that was exactly the case Saturday night.

Harvick's GM Goodwrench Chevrolet was the most dominant car for the first half of the Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

After starting eighth, Harvick took the lead on lap 50 and began to drive away from the field. He would keep the No. 29 Chevrolet in front a race-high 272 laps and looked like he was well on his way to his second NEXTEL Cup win in three weeks and a sweep of Richmond, after taking the checkered flag in Friday night's Busch race.

But a decision not to pit for fresh tires late in the race wound up costing Harvick a chance to visit victory lane.

When Martin Truex, Jr. blew an engine with just a little more than 100 laps remaining, all the leaders, with the exception of Harvick, came to pit road for new rubber.

Once the green flag flew, Harvick was able to hold off the challenge from eventual winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and others for a handful of laps before his worn tires finally gave out.

Harvick was shuffled as far back as tenth before another caution allowed him to pit and change tires.

With the fresh rubber, Harvick charged his way back through the field but was never able to mount a charge to Earnhardt, Jr. or runnerup Denny Hamlin and was forced to settle for third.

An obviously distraught Harvick didn't elaborate much after the race, choosing to answer media inquiries about the decision with a series of short and blunt answers.

"It was a good run for our No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet," said Harvick after the race. "We just got tight there at the end and lost a little bit of speed."

The run turned out to be Harvick's fifth Top 10 of the year and put him fifth in the point standings, 208 behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

But that still isn't enough to erase the bitter taste of a Saturday night that could have been another sweet chapter in Harvick's season.

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