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Pre-race hype? Aggressive racing for the title? Well, things didn't turn out quite as expected

   Well, can't say Kevin Harvick wasn't aggressive, as Kyle Busch, here, would concede. But Harvick never led a lap in the championship finale (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

     By Mike Mulhern



    For all the pre-race talk about 'aggressive' racing among the three title contenders, well, Sunday's season finale was something of a bust.
    In fact, of the three, only Jimmie Johnson even led a lap. And Johnson led only one.
   But Johnson didn't make many mistakes, while Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin did have their problems.

   And that was the difference in the championship
    Harvick came in here, for the season finale, 46 points down and a slight underdog to Hamlin and Johnson in their title chase. Harvick came up short, finishing third, right on Johnson's rear, in Sunday's Ford 400, and closing out the season third in the standings too.
   But missing the Sprint Cup trophy by only 41 points was nevertheless a victory, of sorts, for the team, which last year at this point was on such a downer.
   "I remember where we sat when I left this race last year," Harvick said after his down-and-up afternoon.
    "You always want to win...but I'm not going to be sit here and be disappointed. We raced as hard as we could race this year, with everybody putting up every piece of effort they had....
     "And I know what it feels like to run like we did last year.
    "So I'm more excited about looking to be consistent and racing this way than....well, I'm not going to look back.
    "This is going to make us stronger.
     "We have got a good race team that's going to stick around for a while, and I'm just happy to be a part of it.
     "We put up a valiant effort...."
     Point of reference here: under the championship scoring system used for more than 30 years, before the 10-race chase, Harvick would have won this championship going away, by a whopping 285 points over Johnson. That system gives points for all 36 tour events, not just the last 10.
     So Harvick easily had the best overall season of anyone, and he was remarkably consistent.
     Perhaps that's why he's been in such a good mood lately.
     "Last year we weren't in the chase. This year we got that accomplished by a bunch," Harvick said.
    "And once you get to the last week, you're supposed to enjoy that part of it.
     "You've got a shot, and that's really all you can ask for.
      "How the circumstances play out from there is....well, there are a lots of things in your control but there's a lot of things out of your control too -- especially with the position that we were in today.
     "So you race as hard as you can and try to put yourself in position to gain points and do the best you can.
     "I just wasn't going to get caught up in worrying about where Denny was or Jimmie We needed to go out and win and put ourselves at the front of the pack."
    Harvick started the race deep in the pack, after Friday shrugging off a typically slow qualifying run that put him 28th on the starting grid. And track position appeared a key part of performance here.
    Still Harvick managed to fight his way to the lead during a round of caution-flag pit stops on lap 188 of the 267-lapper.
    But then NASCAR officials called Harvick for speeding entering pit road and put him at the rear of the pack and took away those laps.
    For Harvick that was a turning point, though he did rally to finish third.
    Harvick was immediately angry at the penalty, and after the race he hadn't cooled off: "I don't think that penalty will ever settle in my stomach."
    "I don't know how you can be speeding when you're on the bumper in front of you if the other guy is not speeding.
    "...I won't ever settle for that."
    However Harvick conceded that with Johnson finishing second "even if we had won the race, it wouldn't have been good enough.
    "But I'm still disappointed that we didn't win the race."
    Yet he's certainly not leaving the track in as funky a mood as last year: "It's a 180 for us. Last year at this time we all wanted to put a gun in our mouth. Didn't know what we needed to do to fix it.
    "We were running better (in the fall of 2009, an improvement over that summer), but we didn't know if that was going to continue into the next year."
   But it did. And Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin have had one of the best teams on the tour all year.
    "We came out of the gate strong, we ran strong all year. In the end we came up a little short. But from where we were last year to this....
    "It's a stepping-stone for us to build on...to be consistent racing for championships."
    But five in a row now for Johnson?
    "You have to respect it," Harvick say, "knowing how hard it is to do this.
    "But you have to step back and look at it and realize that, while what they have accomplished is pretty remarkable, they are also vulnerable.
     "This is the first crack at it.
     "They have obviously done a great job, but there are a few chinks in the armor. I think everybody has caught up to being more competitive to them."
   Richard Childress, Harvick's team owner, was stunned at NASCAR's pit road penalty call: "We thought it was a glitch. 
    "But that is history, and we had a good year, and congratulations to those guys. We had a good year and Jimmie had a great year. 
    "The guy that wins the championship has a great year. But we are proud of everything our guys did.  We raced hard and gave it a shot, gave it all we had.  
     "If we didn't have the penalty, I think we would have had a good shot at winning the race in clear air, and who knows….
      "The whole role would have played different.  Nobody knows how it would have played if……
      "We may not have won the championship, but winning the race would have been a good day. 
      "I am not saying it cost us the championship, but you never know what happens without it."
    Gil Martin, Harvick's crew chief, was upset too: "The penalty I think took our shot away from winning....but I don't think it would have made the difference on the championship.
     "But who knows?"


     And then Kevin Harvick (29) got jammed in on pit road and wound up clipping Kasey Kahne's rear tire changer, Chuck Efaw, who was taken to a local hospital with unspecified leg injuries. No further medical condition reports were immediately offered. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

I thought the race was very

I thought the race was very good. The hype that was promised was delivered IMHO. While I am neither a 48, 11, or 29 fan; I still enjoyed the race. I admit I'd rather have seen Jimmie win than any of the others. REMEMBER THOUGH, all 3 teams led the points at one point or another during the race.

Denny's agressive driving early and the teams miscommunication in the end cost him the championship. Kevin needed to be about 10 pts closer goin into the race and not have a speeding penalty.

Kevin needs to realize that a

Kevin needs to realize that a few points can make the difference between winning or finishing second or third in the championship race. He may feel proud of himself for taking out Kyle, but he may have cost himself next year's championship by doing it. A payback could be coming. Was it worth it? Will Kyle will now fear him and stay away from him in the future? That doesn't sound like Kyle.
Part of Jimmie's success is his ability to get along with the other competitors, on the track and in what he says. Part of Kyle's failure to contend for championships is his inability to control his emotions and his mouth. What started his downward spiral in the Chase was a payback from David. There is a lesson for Kevin there, too.

Question: What's the point

Question: What's the point of pit road speeding penalties, especially when no penalties are accessed when a pit crew member get hit? The incident generally happens going in or out of a pit stall, not in/out/traveling down pit road.

If NASCAR has or need a theme song...This is it!

Enjoy! LOL!

two things that aggravate me:

two things that aggravate me: 1, post all the pit road speeds for every driver every stop (the red lines should be clear), so we know just what's going on; 2, drivers should be penalized for hitting anyone on pit road -- safety is the purpose of the speed limits, remember, and to penalize someone for speeding but not for hitting a crewman is simply wrongheaded.

There are no drivers in 2010

There are no drivers in 2010 that reach thru the TV screen and pull fans into the action......none. Think about it,K Busch comes across as some sort of spoiled juvenille, not adult in any sense. The whole Hendrick line up comes off as a bland vanilla, safe for sponsors while unpallatable for race fans. The Childress roster has no identity to speak of, the names Boyer,Burton and Harvick hardly resonate like Foyt,Petty and Allison.When your team owners, ie. Joe Gibbs and Jack Roush(the cat in the hat), have more color and personality than the drivers they employ, then; "Houston, we have a problem". As a footnote,the names Ragan,Ambrose,Almendinger,Mcmurray,Montoya,Biffle etc. good guys all!.......No doubt.Compelling sports figures.......... The people have spoken with their wallets and TV viewing habits and the answer is cyrstal clear..........NO.

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