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Christopher Bell, Kevin Harvick look to turn around fortunes at Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kans. — Kevin Harvick moved on, but Christopher Bell admitted that it took him longer to put his disappointing Southern 500 behind him.

Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway provides a chance for both to turn their playoffs around.

Bell holds the final transfer spot to the next round, leading Bubba Wallace by one point, Harvick by two, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by four and Michael McDowell by 19.

Bell rebounded by qualifying on the pole for Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET on USA Network). Harvick will start 20th.

Bell started on the pole last weekend and had the best pit stall. It also was his first race with the pit crew that had been with Ty Gibbs and was among the best in the series.

What looked to be a great opportunity to win, derailed quickly. Bell’s car fell off the jack on his first pit stop and he lost several positions. He later hit the wall and was collected in an incident late in the race. Bell finished 23rd.

“Getting out of there with a bad finish was devastating,” Bell said Saturday at Kansas. “Honestly, whenever I saw the points and saw that I’m still in the hunt, it was pretty relieving. I know going forward all we have to do is what we’re capable of doing.”

Bell admits that “Monday was pretty rough” during the team’s debrief on the race.

But this weekend presents a new opportunity. Not only for Bell but others, including Harvick.

The 2014 Cup champion was in position to win last weekend when he was called to pit road with about 60 laps left. Harvick was running second to Tyler Reddick, but pitting a lap before a competitor can leapfrog them. Reddick’s crew reacted by calling him to pit road late but Reddick couldn’t make the pit entry. Ryan Newman spun to avoid hitting Reddick, causing a caution.

That happened as Harvick approached pit road entry. The team was not clear if Harvick entered before pit road was closed by the caution.

Had Harvick just driven through pit road, he would have been placed where he blended back on track. Instead, his crew serviced his car. That resulted in a penalty because Harvick had not made it to pit road before it closed. He restarted at the end of the field — all but ending any chances to win or have a good finish. He placed 19th.

“I’ve just got too many things to do to dwell on one moment because it’s not going to do anything but get me behind,” Harvick said of how he’s moved on. “You think about the moment, and if there’s something that needs to be addressed, then you look at that, address that and move on. This one was pretty simple in my mind as far as what you could work on.

“I don’t know. From that standpoint, there’s really nothing you can work on. I came to pit road, came down pit road looking at my lights (on the dashboard) … three … two … one … caution’s out. See the light, look back at the tach … by that time you’re across the commitment line, so there’s really no changes there from my standpoint.”

While Harvick focuses on what’s next, he knows there are many fans hoping to see the future Hall of Famer win in his final Cup season.

“It’s definitely something that you recognize, feel and try to appreciate, just because that’s what our goal was this year, right?” Harvick said. “You want to go out and do everything right, as you walk out the door and have everybody respect and like the things you’ve done throughout your career.

“Obviously, winning the Southern 500, being in that position, and having all those people root for you and want that to happen is exactly what we want. There’s no way to force that stuff. You can’t control so many things that happen, but I can definitely sense the support and it’s really been that way all year – since we started this season. The fan support and the industry support has been over-the-top.

“I told somebody, ‘You almost can’t screw this up.’ But, it would be spectacular if you could win, and do those things that so many people are coming to the racetrack hoping that they get to witness in person.”

For Bell, he carries special memories of this 1.5-mile speedway. While en route to the Truck championship in 2017, he ran select races in the Xfinity Series, winning at Kansas in his fifth Xfinity start.

“You are always hoping for that opportunity to prove to yourself that you can do it, and any time you can go out there and do something good – win a race, win a pole or whatever it may be – it certainly resonates in your head that I can do this,” Bell said of winning that race. “This opportunity is not too big for me. This moment, this series – I’m ready for it. It was a special race, and an important race in my career.

“Looking back of how I got to where I am, if you take that Kansas win out – it certainly changes things. It was a big race for me.”