Kevin Harvick pushed NASCAR®Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson to the limit but failed to get the help he needed in the closing laps to win Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Despite finishing third, the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet SS team didn’t come away empty handed, as crew chief Gil Martin picked up his first Moog Steering and Suspension “Problem Solver of the Race” Award after the 29 car posted the best second-half improvement (0.219 seconds) in average lap time while finishing on the lead lap.
Harvick’s Moog-equipped Chevrolet took the inside lane on the Lap 159 restart for a two-lap sprint to the finish, but Johnson’s outside line gave his No. 48 Chevrolet the push it needed to pull away from Harvick and Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet). Nevertheless, Harvick and his crew chief extended to eight their string of top-10 finishes and solidified their hold on fourth place in both drivers and owners points standings.
Martin, 2010 winner of the prestigious Moog “Problem Solver of the Year” Award, made a series of adjustments to the 29 Chevrolet’s steering and suspension system to address changing track conditions. After starting 26th, Harvick waited until midrace to make a run toward the front and his Martin-tuned chassis helped him advance to sixth by Lap 101 and fourth by Lap 128. He was running second or third throughout the final 15 laps, which saw four crashes and two restarts, setting up the two-lap dash ultimately won by Johnson’s Moog-equipped Chevrolet.
“Jimmie had the dominant car out there tonight but Kevin could have stolen this race if he had gotten a stronger push on that final restart. But that doesn’t detract from an impressive performance – both on the track and in the pits – by the 29 team,” said Tim Nelson, motorsports director for Moog Steering and Suspension manufacturer Federal-Mogul Corporation. “Gil is one of the best in the business and he and Kevin are going to be a force to be reckoned with when we get into the Chase (for the Sprint Cup).”
At the halfway point of the Sprint Cup season, 14 different crew chiefs have claimed Moog Problem Solver of the Race honors, setting up a fierce battle for the $100,000 Moog Problem Solver of the Year Award. Matt Borland (No. 39 Chevrolet) leads the pack with three weekly Moog award wins, followed by Todd Gordon (No. 22 Ford) with two and 12 crew chiefs who each have one Moog win.
“Being named Moog Problem Solver of the Year is one of the most important honors for a Sprint Cup crew chief. Right now these guys are worrying about getting into the Chase, but you can be sure they’re also watching the Moog standings to see if they have a shot at winning our $100,000 prize in November,” Nelson said.