Monday, November 17, 2014

Harvick, Anders-Stevens: Thrillers in Florida and California

It was an important weekend of racing with the nail-biting conclusion of the thrilling NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase, and with the NHRA Pro-Stock championship decided in the final round of the World Finals in Pomona.  The race at Homestead saw 4 drivers still contending for the Sprint Cup title.  In the final analysis, Kevin Harvick finished on top with an amazing pass of Ryan Newman following the 13th restart with only three laps to go.  Harvick on 4 fresh tires and Newman on only two gave it all on those three laps leaving the rest of the field in the dust.  In the end, Harvick had the faster car when he needed it most.

The strategic call that likely won the race for Harvick came with 20 laps to go during a caution period for debris on the track.  Harvick and Newman chose to come in and take on tires, Harvick for four and Newman for two.  Chase contender Denny Hamlin instead chose to stay out and gain field position.  With 15 laps to go, Hamlin outgunned Jeff Gordon on another restart, but Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman were coming on strong from behind. On the second to the last restart with 9 laps to go, Hamlin succumbed to the quicker car of Kevin Harvick.  Then, on the final restart, with only three laps to go, Harvick made the race winning move as he out accelerated the field.  Newman tried his best to stay on Harvick taking the inside line, but the 4 fresh tires on Harvick’s car made him unbeatable as he crossed the finish line as Sprint Car Champion – his career first.

For Harvick, it has been a long road to hoe.  Tasked with the impossible, Harvick replaced the late Dale Earnhardt Sr at RCR, but after 13 years, the talented driver could not pull a championship title.  Following a turbulent year at Childress, Harvick chose to drive for Tony Stewart in 2013.  Harvick had some nicr things to say about the NASCAR Chase format. "I forgot we won the race, how about that?" Harvick said after his emotional victory. "I think this Chase is about the best thing that has happened to this sport over the last decade. This is probably going to shorten the drivers' careers because it's been so stressful but I want to thank every single fan for sticking with this sport, and to the industry for working to get it right. You guys are what makes us go around, and we love racing hard for you."  And as for how he withstood the pressure, "This week ate me up," said Harvick. "If it wasn't for Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, I would have been in bad trouble this week. Those guys really helped me get through the week."

 In NHRA, history was made as Erica Enders-Steven became the first woman in NHRA history to win the Pro-Stock world championship title on Sunday.  Though Erica had a fabulous season with 6 wins and on top of the point standings for most of the year, it came down to the final round of eliminations as she faced her closest point competitor, Jason Line.  Line and Enders-Stevens have each won 12 times against the other in prior events and Enders-Stevens is 2 - 1 against Line in prior final rounds. Line is too quick on the tree and turn on the red light, as does Erica. Since Line fouled first, Erica was crowned champion.  But just to show that it was not just a stroke of luck, Enders-Stevens ran the quickest pass of the weekend for the Pro Stock Championship...this is her sixth National event win and here 12th career. She is the first woman to win the Pro Stock Championship.   On a side note, Jack Burns texted Nick Ferry Saturday night an encouraging note “to wait upon the Lord.”  Well, Erica apparently heeded the advice!

In another heart-warming story, Bobby DeArmond won his Stock Eliminator race in the final round against Paula Cotton as Paula also red-lighted.  DeArmond went on to run a 10.128 second pass in his A/SA ’69 Camaro.  What makes this win special is that this is Bobby’s first race since his son was tragically killed a year ago.  Our heart-felt sympathy is extended to the DeArmond family.

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