Kevin Harvick went from dead last to victory lane at Bristol Motor Speedway to earn the 77th win for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick was sent to the rear of the field this morning, after the No. 29 team was forced to perform unapproved work on...
Kevin Harvick went from dead last to victory lane at Bristol Motor Speedway to earn the 77th win for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick was sent to the rear of the field this morning, after the No. 29 team was forced to perform unapproved work on their Chevy for a leaky steering line while the car was impounded.
Harvick managed to use pit strategy to his advantage to gain his fifth career win and first at Bristol. It's a real comeuppance for Team 29 whose crew chief, Todd Berrier, was suspended for four races after an illegal part was found on the car in Las Vegas. The appeal of that suspension was denied this past week. This weekend, car owner Childress sat in the pit stall and called the shots for the event.
"We had a great car all day, we didn't make any huge adjustments, and we were pretty good from the start," said Harvick. "We were a little tight but all-in-all starting from the back and everything that's happened, it's been a sweet, sweet day.
"In hindsight, with everything that's gone on, and Todd being at home and coming to Bristol, where we've always run good, makes it fun. You don't have to say a whole lot because the performance we had today speaks for itself."
The win also hints to a resurgence of sorts at RCR. The organization has been struggling the last two seasons. This is Harvick's first win since the Brickyard 400 in 2003 and RCR's first win since Robby Gordon's win at Watkins-Glen also in 2003.
"We just kept working at it and Richard (Childress) has made a lot of changes and that is the biggest reason everything has turned around," said Harvick. "Losing sucks. Winning doesn't suck. Losing sucks bad."
The break of the race for Harvick came when leader Greg Biffle decided not to pit with eighty laps to go, and the rest of the lead lap cars came to pit road for fresh tires. Biffle on old rubbers was a sitting duck and Harvick easily powered past the No. 16 Ford to position himself for the win.
Pole sitter Elliott Sadler was second. It is Sadler's third top-five result in fourteen starts. In the end, Sadler just didn't have the juice to catch Harvick and challenge him for the win.
"I'm gonna have to give it to the 29 bunch," said Sadler. "They had a great race car today. It seemed like every time he got into trouble he would always come back through the pack.
"I'm so proud of my guys. Anytime you come to Bristol and you sit on the pole and maybe the lowest we ran all day was seventh or eighth - there's not a scratch on the car - and finish second. I'm so proud of these M&M guys. They made some good adjustments. I was a little free at the end to run with Kevin bit I am not going to complain at all. Anytime you get out of Bristol with a top-five you've had a great, great day."
Tony Stewart survived a late race single car spin to finish third. Stewart turned the No. 20 Gibbs Chevy 360 degrees and luckily managed to keep it off the wall only suffer minimal fender damage.
"We had a good car," said Stewart. "The spin folded the right front fender in, but I'm not exactly sure what happened, other than the fact that we got hit by the No. 2 car and turned around. I don't think it was a deal where he was trying to crowd us. He probably thought he was giving me enough room and it wasn't enough room. So, we're just lucky that's all it did, lucky that nobody else hit us."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s run of bad luck came to an end this weekend. He finished fourth.
"We had a lot better car with 100 laps to go and we made some adjustments on that last stop," said Earnhardt who climbed to 17th in points. "Got it sliding around a bit. We held out and got a top five and I'm real happy with my team."
Dale Jarrett was fifth garnering his first top five of the season. The result moves Jarrett from 15th to eighth in points. It is the first time both Robert Yates Racing teammates have finished in the top five since Indianapolis in 2004.
"We certainly needed something good to happen," said Jarrett. "We had run OK I these first four races, but just a couple of things happened to us so we didn't have the finishes and the points to show for it. Today we made up for some of that. We stayed after it and stayed out of trouble."
As always at Bristol the cautions came early and often. The yellow's starting flying on the very first lap but the most significant wreck came on lap 333 when a multi-car crash caused by the spinning car of Ken Schrader affected the cars of Jamie McMurray, Dave Blaney, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., Jeremy Mayfield, Ricky Rudd, Kurt Busch, Mike Wallace, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon and Sterling Marlin. Eight of those cars were running on the lead lap at the time of the wreck.
"It was a big ol' wreck," said Martin. "I don't know. There was nothing we could do. We hit the guys in front of us, and the guys behind us hit us, so there was no way."
NASCAR had to red flag the event to clean up the debris.
Among the other noteworthy accidents was a wreck that eliminated Matt Kenseth while running second and a major crunch fest between Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch caused by Johnson that destroyed the No. 31 Chevy and No. 97 Ford.
"He's (Johnson) got to be better than that," said Burton. "He can't be doing that. And I won't put up with it. I know he didn't do it on purpose, but we're responsible for driving these race cars, and when something happens behind the wheel - it's his fault. I won't tolerate a lot of that."
Johnson looked poised to win when karma for the Burton-Busch incident called late in the race. Michael Waltrip forced the No. 48 into the wall causing damage to his hot rod. Johnson was forced to pit and fell to 13th place. In the end, he was only able to scramble back to sixth.
The top ten helps Johnson retain the lead in Cup series rankings. Greg Biffle (-94), Tony Stewart (-156), Carl Edwards (-157), Elliott Sadler (- 178), Kevin Harvick (-181), Kurt Busch (-200), Dale Jarrett (-224), Rusty Wallace (-224) and Mark Martin (-226) complete the top ten in standings.
There were 14 cautions for 111 laps and 14 lead changes among nine drivers.