Catch the best in-car audio from Dover International Speedway as Kevin Harvick keeps his championship hopes alive and Jimmie Johnson sees his chance at a seventh title disappear.
RELATED: Watch Harvick's burnout " Effort to hinder inspections? Rodney Childers, crew chief for the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team and driver Kevin Harvick , used photos and humor to make his points after oblique but pointed accusations by fellow Sprint Cup competitors that Kevin Harvick 's burnout at Dover may have been an effort to cover up infractions. Childers tweeted a response to Tuesday's insinuations. I don't have a clue how we passed tech the 18 or 19 times we have been to tear down and not done a burn out.. https://t.co/Qy4AiAnE8x — Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) October 7, 2015 The No. 4 team was a hot topic among other drivers at Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Contender Round Media Day on Tuesday, with several drivers questioning if the team would intentionally damage such a dominant race car and saying that the practice was relatively commonplace. Harvick led 355 of 400 laps in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . It was a race he had to win to reach the second round of the Chase after a wreck put him in last place in the field of 16 coming out of Chicagoland. Childers also brought history to bear as he made his point about burnouts via photos on Instagram , posting 13 photos of Harvick doing victory burnouts, reaching back to the driver's time in the No. 29 car. Told about some competitors' beliefs that Harvick's contact with the wall during his celebratory burnout at Dover was intentional and a way to circumvent post-race inspection from revealing anything amiss, Harvick responded with amused wordplay. "I knew how to knock my car back into compliance by rubbing it up against the wall," he said, grinning. RELATED: Watch Harvick in Victory Lane A few more photos from Childers:
Editor's note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author. RELATED: Harvick and the most clutch moments in sports history DOVER, Del. -- How strong was Kevin Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing team in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway ? "If we would have had qualifying on Friday," crew chief Rodney Childers said Sunday evening, "we'd have led 400 (laps)." Folks laughed and Childers smiled. But beneath the euphoria of another victory, Childers wasn't kidding. Harvick, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, didn't lead every lap in the series' 29th race. He led 355. The dominating performance came one week after the No. 4 Chevrolet was out front for 216 of 300 laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . A miscalculation cost Harvick that particular victory -- his fuel cell ran dry just three laps from the finish to drop him from first to 21st. Combined with a crash at Chicagoland Speedway the previous week, Harvick arrived in Dover with seemingly little chance of advancing out of the Challenger Round of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Fifteenth in a field of 16 that would see four drivers eliminated from Chase contention, Harvick didn't accomplish the impossible at Dover. The improbable? Yes. The impossible? No. We've seen this movie before. Faced with elimination last year, Harvick thrashed the field at Phoenix and then went on a week later to win the race and the championship at Homestead. Pressure rolls off the 39-year-old like rain off a freshly waxed car. Being put in a must-win situation isn’t pressure in Harvick's world. It's opportunity. Pressure is being thrust into the spotlight following the loss of one of the sport's legendary figures. "That was pretty high," Harvick said of the call-up to fill the ride formerly held by seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt in 2001. "There will never be anything close to that one. "When you look at the sport's biggest hero gone, you look at millions of race fans that are depending upon somebody to drive that car and you have 350 people that have jobs and families and you're their guy, never done it before, but good luck. You know what I mean? That's a lot of pressure." Before Sunday, Harvick had never won at Dover. Cross the 1-mile concrete track off the list. Only Sonoma , Texas, Pocono and Kentucky remain to be conquered. In a span of barely three-and-a-half hours Sunday, Harvick and his team went from the best team not expected to advance to the team to beat from here on out. Runner-up Kyle Busch , extending his own amazing season by racing his way into the next round from outside the top 12, said as much. "That was a guy," Busch admitted, "that we wanted to knock out ... that's a guy that can win all these races and you don't want to have to compete against a guy like that." Harvick has finished second 10 times this year, and to come so close without closing the deal can be disheartening. It can also build character. "If you're going to get frustrated over running like we've run this year, you're probably going to be a detriment to your team," Harvick said. Win or lose, he said, you show up at the start of a new workweek and begin anew. "It's just the nature of this team and what they do, and the character of it is deep, and they all believe in each other," he said. "When you have a group of people like this that doesn't do things out of the ordinary for situations like this, you know, they just look at it as another task at hand." He has led more than 2,000 laps for the second consecutive season, a mark as impressive as this year's 19 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes. It was a demoralizing defeat for those who thought they had the defending champion on the ropes. But there are more opportunities ahead for Busch and others in the Chase field. "We'll see what happens," the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. "There are still two more rounds to figure out who's going to make it to Homestead." In the meantime, Harvick and his group aren't making any apologies for Sunday's runaway. "“We're not going to ride around fifth all day and wait to take the lead at the end," Childers said. "That's not what we're made out of. "We came here to lead laps and to do our job and to end up with that car in Victory Lane." And at the end of the day, that's exactly what they accomplished.
RELATED: Truex: NASCAR making an example of us Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, said Monday that Martin Truex Jr .'s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet was brought back to the laser-inspection area minutes before Sunday's AAA 400 because it was suspected that the side skirt had been manipulated -- and further inspection proved that to be true. "One of our officials noticed the side skirt of that car and thought it had perhaps been manipulated," O'Donnell told NASCAR.com on Monday. "We brought it back to the laser-inspection station and sure enough were able to prove out that it had been." The result was Truex Jr.'s crew had to work to fix the area and get it back up to code before rolling to the grid and starting from the back of the field because of "unapproved adjustments." Originally slated to start ninth in the final race of the Challenger Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Truex rallied for an 11th-place finish and advanced to the Contender Round. After the race, Truex told NBCSN that "NASCAR tried to make an example out of us today for some reason." O'Donnell said every car goes through a vigorous pre-race inspection and part of that is the laser-inspection process that looks at every part of the car. In this case, he said, the car passed inspection, but when it was headed out to the grid an official noticed that the side skirt looked like it was manipulated. "We've got additional cameras and obviously our personnel who are looking at the cars prior to anyone taking the green flag," O'Donnell said. "It's unfortunate it happened to the 78, certainly had a good result in the race. But we'll continue to police that area in each race."
RELATED: Where does No. 88 team stack up in this week's pit crew rankings? CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Dale Earnhardt Jr . said he doesn't anticipate any further changes to his pit crew even though teammate Jimmie Johnson has been knocked out of this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Earnhardt and fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon advanced into the Contender Round of the Chase, which begins this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Johnson, a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, did not secure one of the 12 Chase positions, falling by the wayside when a rear axle seal failed during Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . RELATED: Johnson's dream of seventh title in 2015 washed away at Dover Speaking to the media Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Earnhardt couldn't guarantee that there would be no changes in his over-the-wall crew, "but I would like to keep my guys," he said. Earnhardt's last win came in July at Daytona. His pass of Jamie McMurray in the closing laps at Dover vaulted him into the Contender Round, but he and his team had to overcome a loose wheel during the race to put themselves back in contention. A caution allowed Earnhardt to pit and correct the problem and kept him from having to come to pit road under green-flag conditions. "I'll be honest with you. … I don't know what's going to happen. You might find out tomorrow that somebody got changed," he said. "I don't think you build a guy's trust … he needs to know that you believe in him; the same for the driver. The driver needs to know the team believes he can do it. "I think the (tire) carrier, the (tire) changer, all those guys want to think that the driver and everyone involved believes in them when they go over the wall. "If I take the 48 guys because I think they're better, then what am I going to do next year when we have to start from scratch again? All those guys that are on my car now are going to be pissed off because I don't believe in them because I took the 48 guys when the going got tough. "So I don't believe in doing that. I think that my guys can do it; I think we will find the combination that works for us to get to the end of the season and beyond." RELATED: Change made to No. 88 pit crew Earnhardt's No. 88 crew has been retooled in recent weeks, most recently for Dover as front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski replaced David Mayo, who had earlier been replaced by Kevin Novak but had been brought back onto the main crew. The addition of Brzozowski can possibly be a game-changer for the team, according to Earnhardt. "I hope that Scott wants to stick around beyond this season," he said. "I actually talked to him today. "It's not like we need two new (tire) changers. We just need one key guy that can come in and kind of elevate the standard and push everyone. Over the past couple of years when we've had great pit crews, a lot of the guys that we've been working with this year were on those teams. "If you get one guy in there that’s kind of a key player … like a wide receiver or a quarterback is to a football team, he can really elevate the play of everybody around him and boost the entire crew; just the confidence that those guys have going over the wall when he's a part of it changes the whole consistency of the team." Gordon's No. 24 team picked up the services of tire changer Nick Odell recently, which freed up the move for Brzozowski to the 88. Gordon, a four-time champion in his final full-time season, is still searching for his first win in 2015. "We really want Scott to try to wrap his brain around sticking with us," Earnhardt said. "We could really use a guy like him on the 88 car to bring some stability to the rest of the group. I've got a lot of faith in our guys; it's not like we need to go crazy and blow it up, go looking outside our system." Any crew changes for his team, he said, would be orchestrated by crew chief Greg Ives and Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt. Swapping individual crew members heading into the Chase isn't unusual. There have even been cases of swapping entire crews, in the middle of a race no less, as Johnson and Gordon did in 2010. "I know teams have done that before but I just feel like, yeah you might get somewhere in the short term and get some stability but over the long term you basically have just destroyed the integrity of the team you have," Earnhardt said. "Having those guys back at the beginning of next season is not going to be an option. They're not going to want to work for you once you take them off the car during the Chase."
RELATED: NASCAR official release NASCAR issued P2-level penalties to Furniture Row Racing 's No. 78 Chevrolet team for infractions found during last weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway . NASCAR officials confirmed the punishment Wednesday, saying that first-year crew chief Cole Pearn has been placed on probation until the end of the year. The P2 penalty was decided after a further review of the violation this week at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. The No. 78 entry for Martin Truex Jr . was removed from the starting grid shortly before the green flag fell on Sunday's AAA 400 . NASCAR officials discovered issues with a flared wheel opening in pre-race ceremonies, and the team was required to fix the infraction in the Sprint Cup garage. "I didn't even see it, actually," Truex said of the last-minute repairs. "I was at driver intros and Marty Snider from NBC was like, 'Hey, your car's not out here.' I looked at (Ryan) Newman, he's like, 'Yeah, I just walked by it coming out here.' Then I saw on TV that it was back in the garage. I was like, 'Well, that's not good.' It actually wasn't as bad as you'd think. I felt really good about the race car we had going into the race. I obviously felt really good about Dover; I always do. Something about that track just gives me a lot of confidence, and they're like, 'We've got to go to the rear.' I'm like, 'No worries, we'll be fine.' "If anything it made me more focused. I was kind of mad about it for a minute, and then I was like, you know what you've got to do, just go do it, and we did it, so it was good." Truex was forced to start at the rear of the 43-car field, rallying to finish 11th and secure his spot in the Contender Round, the next three-race series in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs.
Presenting NASCAR content from around the web Editor's note: On Wednesday at noon ET, "High 5" will present some of the best NASCAR-related content from around the web. 1. Don't push the button... College football didn't disappoint viewers this week, as Clemson knocked off No. 6 Notre Dame in a thrilling fashion, beating the Fighting Irish 24-22. After the game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney -- who is known for his passionate speeches, enthusiastic behavior and even a little dancing -- began what was a promising post-game sermon on ABC. But he was interrupted with a wrong push of a button back in the ESPN studio. For 13 slow seconds, viewers were treated to a clip of unknowing SportsCenter anchors Jay Harris and Kevin Connors scrolling through their iPads. Major oops. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; Apologies for glitch during Dabo Swinney's emotional postgame interview. Wrong button hit - interrupted his answer. Live TV — Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) October 4, 2015 Just goes to show you how big of a deal one button can be. The flagman at Bristol can certainly attest to that, as his accidental lean on a switch at the end of the race in 2014 brought out the caution, handing the checkered flag to Carl Edwards . Doesn't seem like Carl minded too much, though. 2. I'm lovin' it Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2015 was a big day in America: McDonald's began serving breakfast all day long . Yup, now you can satisfy your midnight cravings for an Egg McMuffin. We know one guy who's excited for late-night oval-shaped hashbrowns. So excited that he even put Mickey D's breakfast on his car. #dedication If you don't have dinner plans, remember that breakfast is now an option! #AllDayBreakfast starts today @McDonalds https://t.co/RQEk6vsBCb — Jamie McMurray (@jamiemcmurray) October 6, 2015 3. Make way for ducklings NASCAR is no stranger to wildlife on the track. Back in August, a rabbit was seen hopping down the track at Bristol Motor Speedway . And there was that one time that a seagull dared to face off Dale Earnhardt in the 1991 Daytona 500 . Poor, poor seagull. This little guy was the latest critter to (literally) hit the track Sunday during the Sprint Cup Series' AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . For the bird's sake, thank goodness for caution flags and wings that allowed him to escape the Miles the Monster unscathed. 4. Where there's rain, there's... Apparently giant snakes. As if the bird on-track wasn't enough, a five-feet-long boa constrictor was seen slithering its way through downtown Dover, Delaware, amidst the rainy conditions on Wednesday. While the idea of a massive snake slinking its way around town is creepy (and slightly terrifying), at least it didn't make its way to the race track like Mr. Bird did on Saturday. Can you imagine the chaos a SNAKE would cause? Although the Miles the Monster-giant snake match-up is an interesting idea … 5. 'Merica The MLB's Texas Rangers were certainly feeling patriotic during Tuesday's practice before their upcoming playoff series against the Toronto Blue Jays. A little workout before heading to Toronto. #NeverEverQuit pic.twitter.com/oninA5nXqB — Texas Rangers (@Rangers) October 6, 2015 With all the pride Texans have for their state, we are a tad surprised these are American flag shorts and not Texas flag ones. But either way, NASCAR's got them beat. Cars > Shorts. #Merica
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman talks with the winner of the AAA 400 , Kevin Harvick, in Victory Lane at Dover International Speedway.
RELATED: Full race results " Updated Chase grid " Series standings SHOP: Harvick gear DOVER, Del. -- By Jove, he's done it again! Forced to win at Dover International Speedway to keep his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship hopes alive Sunday, Kevin Harvick did just that, dominating Sunday's AAA 400 to stave off elimination from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . In a virtual carbon copy of last year's Chase race at Phoenix, where the 2014 premier series champion had to win to advance to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway , Harvick led 355 of 400 laps (a career best at any track) in winning for the third time this year and the 31st time in his career. "I think we're better than we were last year, just because of the experiences and things that we've had," Harvick said after the race. "I think when we look at everything that’s gone on over the last couple of years, it's just been a lot of fun. "So, it's just that never-quit attitude. That's what (team co-owner) Tony Stewart said when we went to Homestead last year. He said, 'Whatever you do, do not quit until they throw that checkered flag.' " Harvick won the race and secured his first Sprint Cup title by a half-second over Ryan Newman in the 2014 race. But there was one major difference between last year's must-win race and the one on Sunday. Phoenix is Harvick's best track. At Dover, on the other hand, he had never won before and had posted just four top-five finishes in 29 previous starts. As fast as Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was, however, none of the statistics mattered. After a restart with 24 laps left, he pulled away to a 2.639-second victory over Kyle Busch , who, likewise, secured a berth in the 12-driver Contender Round with his second-place finish. Nor did the stats help Jimmie Johnson , whose shocking ouster from the playoffs took place at the Monster Mile where he holds a record 10 victories. The six-time series champion pitted his No. 48 Chevrolet at Lap 104 and brought it to the garage shortly thereafter, with a failed rear axle seal. Johnson lost 36 laps while his team replaced the rear end housing and was credited with a 41st-place finish, leaving him 12 points shy of the Chase cutoff, which came down to a tiebreaker for the 12th and final spot between third-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr . and fourth-place Jamie McMurray . Joining Johnson and McMurray on the Chase sidelines were Paul Menard (25th Sunday) and Clint Bowyer (14th), who, like Harvick, faced a win-or-bust scenario at the one-mile oval track. Narrowed to 12, the field for the Contender Round now includes Challenger Round winners Matt Kenseth (Chicago), Denny Hamlin (New Hampshire) and Harvick, as well as Carl Edwards , Martin Truex Jr ., Kurt Busch , Jeff Gordon , Brad Keselowski , Kyle Busch , Newman and Earnhardt Jr. But on Sunday, Harvick showed his hand as the speed horse in the Chase, just as he was last year. Harvick's car was fast last week at New Hampshire, but he ran out of fuel while leading with three laps left to create the must-win scenario at Dover. "Anytime you can go through moments like this and gain some momentum and prove to yourself that you can do things like this, there's no way you can't be stronger," Harvick said. "I'm just so proud of those guys and so proud of our fans and everybody for all their support all week. There it is -- stay the course." Kyle Busch conceded Harvick's victory was bad news for everyone else still in the Chase. "The way he ran today -- hell, yeah," Busch said. "That was a guy that we wanted to knock out. That's a guy that can win all these races, and you don't want to have to compete against a guy like that. "But that's why they're as good as they are, and they were last year's champion, so they're going to have an opportunity to continue on. We'll see what happens. There's still two more rounds to figure out who's going to make it to Homestead."