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Kickin The Tires

Harvick keeps Daytona 500 car safe by not blocking in Duel

Photo by Chris Owens / Harold Hinson Photography

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. – Kevin Harvick’s decision not to block a run from William Byron kept the No. 4 Busch Light #PIT4BUSCH Ford Mustang in one piece.

Blocking caused absolute chaos in the Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway less than one week ago. Despite winning, Erik Jones’ NASCAR Cup Series machine was badly damaged at the end. It was also one of just six cars running at the end of that exhibition race.

With three laps to go in the second Bluegreen Vacation Duel race, Byron got pushed to the lead by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. The duo easily cleared the inside lane and race leader Harvick. Without a block, a possible field clearing accident was averted.

“When they are coming that fast it is putting a lot of risk out there to block,” explained Harvick. “We have seen how that works out. I got to thank Busch Light and our #PIT4BUSCH Ford Mustang. We had a great car tonight.

“The guys did a great job. We were able to get onto pit road and had a great pit stop and put ourselves in position to have a chance there. Matt Dibenedetto was a heck of a pusher.”

Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang was out-numbered in the Daytona 500 qualifying race. He was one of nine Ford Performance cars in the field, but one of just five in the lead pack. Meanwhile Chevrolet had eight cars in the lead draft. As with most recent superspeedway races, manufacturer loyalty was key.

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series Champion recognized that he was out-numbered:

“It was kind of two against the rest of those Chevrolets and we held our own tonight. We have some fast Ford Mustangs. I got to thank Mobil 1, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Jimmy Johns, Ford, Outback and everyone that helps us on this car for making it so fast. There was just a herd of Chevy’s we had to race against in that race and two on seven and we almost beat them with only two cars.”

An aggressive block may have kept Byron’s No. 24 Axalta “Color of the Year” Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at bay. However, like the Busch Clash, it may have resulted in a major accident. The runs that drivers have been getting with the current aero package have made blocking increasingly dangerous.

Byron was in the middle of a six-car line when he and Johnson pulled out of line. The move slowed the entire inside line, forcing Harvick to decide on blocking. With his Daytona 500 primary car at stake, he ultimately stayed in line.

“That was just a weird scenario with the 24 in the middle of our six cars that we had on the bottom,” admitted Harvick. “He was able to pull out of line and then it kind of slowed our line down enough to where they were able to carry that momentum from the outside line.

“Those guys did everything they needed to do right there. I probably could have been a little more aggressive on the block, but we have seen what that results in.”

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