Richmond, Va. – In a thriller at the Richmond International Raceway, Kevin Harvick pounced in overtime to win the Toyota Owners 400, the ninth race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Starting seventh on the 403rd lap and running on fresh tires, Harvick shot past the leaders to gain the lead quickly to score his third Sprint Cup win at RIR and the 20th of his Sprint Cup career.
For Harvick, he won for the first time in 2013 and it was only his second top-10 finish of the season. He led only three laps.
“We were frustrated (with our performance), and although we’ve had speed, the points and results weren’t where we wanted them to be. A win goes a long way, and we have a real busy testing schedule coming up,” Harvick said. “With winning, the guys won’t be so aggravated with all they’ve got to do over the next month.”
Harvick trailed leader Juan Pablo Montoya in the late going but couldn’t narrow the gap until a yellow flag on the 396th lap bunched the field, setting the stage for the exciting finish. “I don’t think I could have caught him without the yellow, as my car had lost its drive off the corners,” Harvick said. “But since our car had been so good on restarts, I had a lot of confidence going into the final restart. The car would do all the things I wanted it to.”
Regarding the late race pass for the lead and the victory, the winner said, “You had to go and be aggressive as you could be. I had a great restart and the seas parted, and I didn’t know how those guys were going to take off on two tires. They didn’t get a good restart and my car launched, and I was able to take it three wide. Then I got the next two and I only had one to go when I hit the backstretch. We’ve had a lot of fast cars this year, and this probably wasn’t my best car but we got the win.”
Said crew chief Gil Martin, “We probably made more adjustments on the car tonight than we have made in a couple of years. From those who have been around here for a long time, that restart by him was vintage Kevin Harvick and it was exciting to watch.”
Team owner Richard Childress expressed his delight with the outcome. “We have been there all year long with fast cars but we couldn’t get things to go our way. Tonight, that was vintage Kevin Harvick. When they dropped that green, he found a hole and made it happen. It was a good night for RCR.”
The winner drove the Bell Helicopter Chevrolet.
Clint Bowyer, who started ninth in the overtime action, bolted past the contenders quickly to gain second place, chasing Harvick across the finish line. The runner-up drove the Toyota Care Toyota owned by Michael Waltrip Racing.
Said Bowyer about the finish, “It was a solid weekend, but we were just too tight. The thing had a tremendous drive in it, but I couldn’t get it to turn and rotate. Man, we were lucky enough to be on the bottom when all hell broke loose on the restart. When (Jeff) Burton brought us to the line so slow, I thought this is going to be even worse. But I love this sport and this new car. It was a fun weekend.”
Bowyer held the lead for 113 rounds of competition.
Third place went to Joey Logano in the Shell Pennzoil Ford. The young driver had not been a contender until the late going when he made his presence felt.
“My guys never quit,” he said. “Our car was decent in race trim but our qualifying trim was terrible. They threw the kitchen sink at it, and we got a decent spot out of it. At one point, we were 20th but fought back to top-10. We were sixth or seventh on the last caution, and we got lucky when we started on the inside lane at the end. Had we started on the outside lane, it would have been a whole different story.”
Montoya, who led 67 laps, ended up fourth. He held the lead in the late going, but running on worn tires, he knew he was doomed when the final caution came out with three laps remaining in regulation.
After pitting for four tires, he lined up sixth on the restart but didn’t have enough car left to regain the top spot.
Burton was one of four drivers that didn’t pit when Montoya and the others did and although he had the lead on the final restart, he was quickly shuffled out of the lead. He ended up fifth.
Carl Edwards took sixth after starting 24th.
Fast-qualifier and early leader Matt Kenseth finished seventh after leading 140 laps.
Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top-10 finishers.
Jeff Gordon had a frustrating run, to end up 11th, one spot ahead of teammate Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson and Tony Stewart bumped and spun with 70 laps to go, but no damage was done and they continued on.
Stewart lined up fifth on the final restart but got shuffled back soon. During the final go-around, he came together with Kurt Busch, and the two exchanged pleasantries afterward.
In Sprint Cup points, Johnson leads Edwards by 43 with Kahne and Earnhardt 46 back. Bowyer is fifth 53 behind with champion Keselowski in sixth 59 back. Harvick is ninth 72 off the pace.
The Sprint Cup Series races at the Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday.