Joe Jennings, NASCAR Correspondent
Kevin Harvick is accustomed to winning, but going into the Nationwide Series race at the Richmond International Raceway on Friday evening, the Californian had gone 30 races without a series win. But the winless streak was broken tonight when Harvick raced to victory in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250.
Leading 141 of the 250 laps around the .75-mile oval, Harvick steered the Armour Chevrolet to victory lane for the first time in 2012, the sixth time at RIR and the 38th time in his Nationwide career. The win tied him for third on the all-time list with Carl Edwards.
We had a conversation before the race about the performance of the car, and we ended up with a great car.
For much of the race, Harvick made it look easy as he steadily pulled away from his foes but in the late going, he lost the lead for a short spurt to Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. However, he wasn’t to be denied, bouncing back to regain the premier position and the eventual victory.
“All year we have led the most laps and run up front, but it has been one of those years where everything piles up and you can’t make it happen,” the victor said. “That’s totally against everything we’ve done over the years, and it has been a bit frustrating. We had a conversation before the race about the performance of the car, and we ended up with a great car.”
He went on to say that his car was even with those of Busch and Stenhouse but once he gained the go-ahead momentum, his car wasn’t to be denied.
Stenhouse passed Busch in the late going to gain the runner-up position in the Ford EcoBoost Ford.
The Mississippi native led 65 circuits.
“We weren’t as good as we thought we were going to be or thought we needed to be, but we kept working on it,” he said. “The guys made some good adjustments but not enough to contend for the win. I gave it all I had on the outside with Kevin (Harvick), and it was a lot of fun racing with him. They deserved this one and we got a good top-two finish.”
Earlier in the race, point leaders Elliott Sadler and Stenhouse came together while battling for second place with Sadler backing into the outside wall, forcing him into the pits for repairs.
Said Stenhouse about the incident, “We were racing hard, and he was trying to get by me. I let him get to the inside and he got a little bit loose and spun himself. It was just hard racing.”
Sadler recovered and over the course of the final laps, he charged back to12th place, to exit the race with a one point lead over Stenhouse.
“I got loose and wrecked the car,” Sadler said. “But we came back got back to 12th.”
Busch pushed the Monster Energy Toyota to a solid third-place finish after leading 25 laps.
“It was a solid night but not a great night,” Busch said. “We felt going into the day we wanted to try a different set-up, but when we bridged over to the set-up we won here with in May, it was the same but slower on restarts. It was like we had improved but we hadn’t.
“And when the track conditions changed and a little bit of this and that (happened), plus a brake vibration, these conditions wouldn’t allow me to get to the bottom of the track. I could get there, but there was a lot of feedback from the pedal. We were right on the ragged edge, and it was tough to race guys clean. If I hit it perfect, I could hold (Kevin) Harvick off, but if I was off by a fraction, he was right there. I pushed hard with him and got us behind.”
Denny Hamlin took fourth in a Toyota and Michael Annett earned fifth in a Ford.
Austin Dillon raced to sixth followed by Ty Dillon with Joe Nemechek, Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace rounding out the top-10 finishers.
Seven caution flags slowed the race for 45 laps. Also, a red flag stopped the race with 95 laps to go. It came about when Sam Hornish Jr. crashed hard and rookie Timmy Hill destroyed his car after making contact with Hornish. Debris was scattered everywhere and once the track was clear, the race could be restarted.
One caution came about when Danica Patrick wrecked.
Patrick was scored 29th and Hornish 30th.