Growing up playing sports, I often heard the saying, “You win as a team and you lose as a team.”
Whether I was playing soccer, baseball or basketball, it always reminded us that none of us individually were bigger than our whole. If we lost, everyone took a piece of the blame and worked to better ourselves for future contests. It didn’t matter if the pitcher gave up a game-winning home run or if a forward missed a wide-open goal; we all knew there were other instances throughout the game where we could’ve turned the tide and it wouldn’t have mattered if a home run was given up or a wide-open goal was missed.
On the flip side, we all celebrated our victories. We all celebrated as a team. Even our right fielder who didn’t have a single ball hit to him or the 12th person on our bench who only saw limited playing time.
We were a team and we won and lost together. We celebrated together and practiced to get better together.
I say all this to say that in a sport like NASCAR, fans sometimes only see the face of the team — the driver — and forget that there is a team (a crew, if you will) behind the driver.
In Sunday evening’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, it looked like Kevin Harvick, driving the No. 4 Busch Beer Chevrolet SS with a Cale Yarborough-inspired paint scheme, was the man to beat. And he was.
Harvick had a respectable second-place finish. He led for most of the race, leading 214 of the event’s 367 laps. On the track, he looked invincible, but on pit road his team didn’t live up to expectations.
“The guys in the garage and at the shop continue to do a great job, and we continue to give it away on pit road,” Harvick told the media during his post-race press conference. “Pretty much summed up the night. Just the dominant car and just three bad pit stops on pit road.”
The biggest pit-road issue came on their seventh of 11 pit stops. Harvick entered the pits atop the field, but exited pit road in 12th due to a broken air gun.
Although he called out his over-the-wall crew as a result of his frustrations with their struggles, they’ll be fine. There’s a reason Harvick leads the points standings by 43 points over Brad Keselowski, and has more top-five and top-10 finishes than any other driver — they’re a team.
They’ll work out their struggles and move on. They’ll be fine once the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins; however, if issues like this pop up during the postseason where winning is at a premium, don’t be surprised to see Harvick voice his opinions once again.
Coming off of pit road during the final caution period, Martin Truex Jr. was able to sneak by Harvick for the lead. Truex held on to the lead for the final 16 laps to win by 0.606 seconds.
The win was Truex’s fifth victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, his second of 2016. This is the first season with multiple wins in NASCAR’s premier series. His first win of the season came in Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600 where he led 588 of the event’s 600 miles.
He is also the 11th different winner in the last 11 races at Darlington.
Did Harvick’s pit-road struggles affect his standing in Lionel Racing’s Power 10? What kind of impact did Truex’s second win of the season have on his ranking? Are there any drivers that found their way into the top 10?
These questions and more will be answered in this week’s edition of Lionel Racing’s Power 10.
(Note: Only the 10 drivers receiving the highest average rankings are shown. The number of spots they’ve moved since the previous Power 10 are shown in the parentheses.)
1. Kevin Harvick (–): Despite having struggles on pit road, Kevin still drove one heckuva race. Most people wouldn’t be able to battle back after poor pit stops time and time again to finish second.
2. Martin Truex Jr. (+7): Martin finally gets some voter love, jumping seven spots to his highest ranking of the season. I guess this proves that one win is great, but two wins is even better.
3. Brad Keselowski (-1): For the first half of Sunday’s race, Brad looked like he might be Kevin’s biggest challenger. Shortly after the half-way point he fell back to the middle of the field before finishing ninth.
4. Kyle Larson (NR): One week after winning at Michigan, Kyle turns in a third-place showing. Not bad. This type of consistency puts him back in the top 10 with his highest ranking yet.
5t. Kyle Busch (-1): Kyle drops one point after finishing 11th at Darlington — a race in which the only laps he led came during a caution period. Regardless, he’ll be fine in the Chase.
5t. Denny Hamlin (+2): Denny has been on a tear as of late. The last time he finished 10th or worse was at Kentucky back on July 9 — seven races ago. His average finishing position since then is 5.29.
7. Joey Logano (-2): After starting and finishing fifth in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington, Joey jumped two spots in the points standings. It’s a little odd that he dropped two here.
8. Chase Elliott (-2): Chase still remains the rookie to beat in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year competition. Among the rookies vying for the award, he has six more top-10 finishes than the next driver.
9. Carl Edwards (-6): Carl was looking to defend his 2015 Darlington victory; however, that was not the case. He finished 19th, the first car a lap down.
10. Kurt Busch (-2): Kurt’s night ended prematurely after getting in an accident with Paul Menard in Turn 2 of Lap 328. Despite the accident, he holds on to the final spot in this week’s Power 10.