Kevin Harvick was running seventh late in Sunday's event at Texas Motor Speedway when he uttered words over the radio that seemed to spell disaster for his chances of winning the race -- and, perhaps, of winning the Sprint Cup championship as well.
"I think we're in big trouble," he told crew chief Gil Martin.
Harvick wound up sixth, but is now 59 points off the lead with two events remaining on the schedule. He came to Texas 38 behind Jimmie Johnson, who slipped to second in the standings after placing ninth Sunday night.
"Heck, we've let six or seven [races] get away this year. Tonight is just another chapter in it," Martin said. "But we've got two races to go. They haven't shut us out yet. The way it looks right now, they'll have to win every race to outrun us, because we're going to be there. We're not going home."
Harvick started 26th, but steadily worked his way to the front and was a factor until almost the very end. He led one lap to gain five bonus points, and challenged for the victory until his encounter with the wall. But Carpentier's accident allowed Harvick to take fresh right-side tires, and he led the parade off pit road and restarted for the final time as the first car with new rubber. That move allowed the No. 29 to actually make up a position from where it had been before the incident, and improve from seventh to sixth.
"He didn't brush [the wall]. He knocked it down," Martin said. "It is what it is. We lucked out right there. We got to come in, put two tires on, drug a lot of people in with us, and at least we gained spots on the 48 [car of Johnson]. The 11 [car of Hamlin] got away from us, obviously, right there. I think before that, the 11 had a set of tires like we did, because they were loose and fell back, and we were blasting fast. It happens, so what do you do?"
Harvick said he actually hit the wall twice, his vehicle getting looser as the event wore on and a warm afternoon became a cool evening. But given where he had been in practice Saturday -- he was 31st and 20th in the day's two sessions -- he seemed satisfied with the result.
"It was actually a pretty mellow day. We had a good car," Harvick said. "I didn't think we'd be anywhere in the hunt, to tell you the truth, after practice, and they did a great job getting the car ready. When it got dark, our [car], we just got really loose and we got in the wall, twice actually. They fixed that and everything went as good as it could."
Now it's on to Phoenix and Homestead-Miami, the former a track where Harvick has two career victories, the latter a speedway where he has an average finish of 8.4. The No. 29 team isn't surrendering yet, and Martin won't begrudge his driver a bobble into the wall that came with trying to win a race.
"I'm not putting any fault on him, because he's the same guy who for 320-something laps was driving his guts out and had it up front," Martin said. "So he'll be the same guy that wins this thing."