Hearts sank in the Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet camps – and in a significant swath of the Phoenix International Raceway grandstands – on the white-flag lap of Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500.
But those hopes fizzled on the white-flag lap when Harvick suddenly slowed on the backstretch. His Chevrolet was out of gas.
Hamlin rolled on to win easily.
But Harvick said later he doubts he would have had a shot at beating Hamlin even if his fuel had stretched to the finish.
“I don't think so,” Harvick said. “Our cars were pretty evenly matched. Really, the whole second half of the race, he was a little bit better on the restarts and was able to kind of scoot by on the one restart there. I lost a couple spots. So that was our weak point of the day – the restarts.
“We were able to match him, make up a little bit of ground, and just – I don't know that there would have been enough time.”
Harvick led 88 laps, more than any other driver (Hamlin led 61). He was out front for 43 straight early in the race then led 21 straight in the final 110.
The second-place run lifted Harvick into third place in points two races into the season.
“A lot of them (his team members) may think it's a bad day, but obviously we all want to win, but in the end, finishing second and being in contention for race wins and having the speed in the car is really what you're looking for early in the year, and if you can knock out a couple wins, that's what you want to do,” Harvick said.
“We have to build it one week at a time, and that confidence and that character that comes with winning or losing is part of it.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.