In a season where many a potential win had slipped away because of ineffectiveness on pit road, Kevin Harvick experienced yet another frustrating loss Sunday night at Darlington Raceway.
As he's done so often during his three years with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick was dominant during the Southern 500. He led a race-high 214 laps and frequently built up multi-second gaps over the second-place challenger.
But there would be no celebrating a third win of the season, or a second triumph in three years in a race regarded as one of NASCAR's most significant. Instead, Harvick's victory bid came undone due to three late pit stops that saw him lose a total of 17 positions on pit road. The biggest bumble saw him fall from the lead to 12th following a stop with 84 laps remaining.
No matter how fast a car you may have, track position is still a vital component to winning, and Harvick couldn't overcome the deficit. He would finish second to Martin Truex Jr., whose team executed near flawlessly on pit road in the latter stages.
"Oh, it's just the same old thing," Harvick said. "The guys in the shop and the guys in the garage are doing a great job, and the guys on pit road are doing a terrible job. You get in a position to win races, and they continually step on their toes and don't make it happen. You're not going to win races like that."
Miscues on pit road have been a reoccurring theme for the No. 4 team. Several potential wins over the past three years have gone by the wayside as a result, with the problem so prevalent SHR switched Harvick's crew with that of teammate Tony Stewart for the 2014 Chase playoffs, which Harvick ultimately won.
Still, issues on pit road have continued to linger. SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli and Harvick's crew chief Rodney Childress have attempted changing crewmembers -- including replacing the front-tire changer earlier this season -- and Harvick has tried to stay positive believing his team would improve and eventually learn from its mistakes.
But Harvick is done cheerleading, he vehemently said Sunday night. Not with just one regular season race left and the playoffs beginning Sept. 17 when winning and losing will take on the utmost of importance.
"I'm over being a cheerleader," Harvick said. "Those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road, and cheerleading hasn't really been working. You've got to get after it on pit road and do your job.
"We have championship cars and we're just mediocre on pit road. It's kind of been that way for a few years, and they've moved some things around, but it just seems like it's just week after week after week."