Kevin Harvick launched from seventh place on the final restart during the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway to get out front and take the checkered flag. The No. 29 team spoiled the good showing of Juan Pablo Montoya, who led prior to the last caution.
Fourteen current Sprint Cup drivers have won at Richmond, and now Harvick, with two prior victories, is among them, taking the green flag at the .75-mile D-shaped oval with 14 degree banking.
With his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in 2013, Harvick now has three Richmond victories and he continues to defy his planned lame-duck status with Richard Childress Racing. Harvick has said he will move on from RCR, but has not indicated where in the NSCS team territory he will land.
It’s not likely he would relish being a teammate of Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing. There is no room for him at Hendrick Motorsports as Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon are locked into contracts and lengthy commitments.
Other top teams in NSCS could be very interested in the skilled veteran, especially if he can carry sponsorships with him. But for now, Harvick is simply a lame duck that keeps on flying high.
Harvick won the first contest of the season, The Sprint Unlimited, right out of the box in Daytona. His first win that counts came early in race 9 of 36. That victory and good finishes place him in the ninth spot in NSCS points as a Chase for the Sprint Cup contender.
Former Harvick teammate Clint Bowyer moved on from RCR this year and had another good result as he followed the No. 29 across the finish line.
The top-five finishers at Richmond had comments to share after the checkered flag. Fans can sometimes understand more about the intense bumping and banging that short tracks like Richmond provide by listening to those who thrived to the final lap.
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet)
Expectations might not be high for some of Harvick’s followers this year, but results sometimes exceed notions.
"A lot of people have thought we might lay down this year and there ain’t no lame in that game, is there?” Harvick said. “It was a great night.
“It's been a tough start to the season, but it all worked out for us tonight. We've gotten beat a couple times this year on pit road, but pitting was the right thing for us to do at the end. When tires fall off by almost two seconds, you've got to come in and get fresh tires for the restarts.”
Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota)
Bowyer has seemed to have boosted a good career with his move to Michael Waltrip Racing.
“We had a good car—we just didn’t have a great car,” Bowyer said. “It seemed like we were just too tight on the throttle—it wouldn’t quite turn and come up off. It really got wild there at the end—I was just lucky enough to be on the bottom.”
Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Logano has had a frustrating start with crashes and retaliation in 2013, but he escaped all that for a third place finish.
“I'm just super proud of my guys,” Logano said. “They never quit from the beginning of the weekend. I felt like our car was decent in race trim and practice, but in qualifying trim [it] was terrible. Threw the kitchen sink at it, got a good qualifying spot out of it.”
Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Montoya and team were ever so close to a win in Richmond, but a caution erased his edge.
“We had a great car,” Montoya said. “Same as last week, we had a great car. The pit crew redeemed themselves tonight. They did a great job all day, no mistakes. That is what we needed. We needed to come out of here and do with everybody smart, as he did. It is the luck of the draw. We restarted on the outside, and we were screwed."
Jeff Burton (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Burton, a Virgina native, may have exercised some home field advantage.
"The caution came out and what the heck, we might as well try something,” Burton said. “Luke (Lambert) made a good call there, and obviously new tires a lot better. But, worth a shot. We were going to maybe finish sixth without the caution so to pick up a spot from it was worth a shot."
In the end, Clint Bowyer had compassion for one of his fellow drivers:
“I do feel bad for Juan,” Bowyer said. “He has struggled [the] last two or three years. I really thought he was going to win that race. He drove his a** off to keep Harvick behind him. That was his race.
“It was unfortunate. I've seen it happen to Truex, my teammate, a few times here. When you see a guy getting beat up and having an opportunity like that, we're all human. If you don't have a shot at it, you'd just as soon see somebody that hadn't won in a long time.
“I was happy that he run well, you know, felt bad that he didn't get to win. That was after my shot at winning was surpassed, okay? Make that clear.”
Great point to end on—good thoughts for the next start.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.