The No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick dominated early in the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. After getting caught by a yellow flag soon after a green-flag stop, Harvick used pit strategy to get back to the front and claim his third win of the season.
"These guys just did a great job all weekend," Harvick said of his crew.
The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet of Kurt Busch finished second and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon was third.
"It's just like there's five percent we're missing," Busch said of another finish near the front, just shy of a win.
Harvick led 80 of the first 81 laps of the race before being passed for the lead on lap 82 by the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson. Harvick headed down pit road for a scheduled green-flag stop just after losing the top spot. He, along with several others, wound up getting caution a lap down by a yellow flag soon after pitting. Johnson had already committed to pitting and was past the point of no return when the yellow flag waved. Instead of incurring a penalty, he opted to drive down pit road without stopping and then stopping when pit road was actually open.
"It was like driving two different cars," Harvick said of the differences in the way his car handled up front and out in draffic. "We got back in treaffic, and it just got too tight."
Johnson quickly drove back toward the front, and was joined in the lead pack by the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Matt Kenseth for much of the race. Harvick regained the lead by staying out during a caution on lap 136. The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch also stayed out to inherit the second spot. Busch had started the race in the back in a backup car after wrecking in practice and then spun on the first lap, attempting to avoid the wrecked No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Danica Patrick.
After running near the front for awhile, Kyle Busch's day ended early after an attempt to block the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet of Juan Pablo Montoya resulted in Busch wrecking hard enough to be retired from the race with just under 70 laps to go.
"I have no idea what happened on the last one (incident)," Busch said. "This is Kansas, isn't it?"
It was Busch's third-straight DNF at Kansas.
The No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Jeff Burton got off pit road first by taking fuel only during a yellow flag with 40 laps to go. But as soon as the race returned to green, Harvick reassumed the lead, and Gordon followed him by Burton to take second.
"Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys -- ever since the Chase started have just been giving me great cars," Gordon said. "We're really proud to finish third today."
Kurt Busch took second from Gordon on the final restart of the race that followed a caution with 25 laps remaining, but the lead and the win got smaller and smaller in his windshield as Harvick pulled away.
"I knew we were fast out front," Harvick said. "It was just a matter of getting back up there."
The No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Joey Logano finished fourth, and the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Johnson finished sixth, while the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Paul Menard took seventh. Finishing eighth through 10th were the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Marcos Ambrose and the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Aric Almirola.
With the win, Harvick moved up to third in the points standings. Gordon moved up to fourth, while Kyle Busch, previously third, dropped to fifth. With his sixth-place finish, Johnson closed to within three points of leader, Kenseth.
"I've been so incredibly spoiled this year," Kenseth said of his ill-handling car after finishing outside the top-10. "I wasn't used to driving a car like that."