Frustrations boil after pit road problems keep Kevin Harvick out of victory lane again

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DARLINGTON, S.C. — Stewart-Haas Racing’s Greg Zipadelli said he was almost too mad to talk, crew chief Rodney Childers didn’t talk, but Kevin Harvick did, blasting his pit crew after pit road problems again cost him a victory, this time in Sunday’s Southern 500.

Harvick went from first to 12th on a pit stop on Lap 280 after a problem with the rear tire changer’s air gun. That came after a slow pit stop on Lap 251 dropped Harvick from first to fifth after an issue with the right front.

The result was that despite leading a race-high 214 of 367 laps, Harvick finished second to Martin Truex Jr. at Darlington Raceway.

“Just the same old thing,’’ Harvick said. “You get into position where you bring a dominant car. The guys in the shop and the guys in the garage are doing a great job. The guys on pit road are doing a terrible job.

“You get into position to win races and they continually step on their toes and don’t make it happen.’’

So what needs to be done?

“That’s a good question for Rodney and Greg,’’ Harvick said.

Childers declined to talk after the race, but Zipadelli, vice president of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing, did.

“I’m pulling my hair out,’’ Zipadelli said. “We’ve changed people there, we’ve done things. They have a good week, they have a bad stop, they come back and have good stops.

“The one deal that really put them behind, something happened with the gun. The bottom line, the guy sitting in the seat? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to anybody why it happens. It just can’t happen.’’

Three pit crew members remain from Harvick’s championship team in 2014 — front tire carrier Todd Drakulich, rear tire changer Daniel Smith and rear tire carrier Mike Morneau. All joined Harvick’s team before the Chase that year when Stewart-Haas Racing swapped Tony Stewart’s pit crew with Harvick’s crew because of issues with Harvick’s crew.

“We’ve changed two people on there and the stops got better,’’ Zipadelli said. “Bristol, they had a couple of issues (but bounced back as Harvick won). Here tonight had really solid stops in the first half of the race, did everything they needed to do. Gun breaks and then everybody tries to make up for everything and you rush and you try to go harder and it doesn’t work.’’

Even with such a simple explanation, Zipadelli admitted the frustration with the pit road woes left him “so mad, it’s hard for me to talk.’’

While pit road has been a problem for Harvick’s team at times since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing, Zipadelli hinted that Sunday night’s issue might have been more with equipment than personnel.

“What happened there today certainly wasn’t the tire changer,’’ Zipadelli said of the stop that dropped Harvick from first to 12th. “There’s other issues is what I’m alluding to without getting into details.’’