Joliet, Ill. - Kevin Harvick used the entire racing surface at Chicagoland Speedway Sunday afternoon in notching his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory this season at the Tropicana 400. Harvick spun out while making a daring move to pass several...
Joliet, Ill. - Kevin Harvick used the entire racing surface at Chicagoland Speedway Sunday afternoon in notching his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory this season at the Tropicana 400.
Harvick spun out while making a daring move to pass several cars from the flat lower apron of Turn One on Lap 198 of the 267 lap race. While Harvick was able to keep his #29 GM Goodwrench Chevy from hitting the wall, several cars had to make evasive action to avoid his car as it slid around into Turn Two.
"It was a pretty stupid move in my opinion," said second-place finisher Jeff Gordon, "but unless they put that out of bounds down there, guys will dive down there and make up positions."
"Jeff Gordon got second," Harvick offered. "Maybe if he could've been a little braver he might have won. I thought it was a pretty cool move. [I just] got a little greedy with our fast racecar and spun the thing out.
"At that point the race car was so fast that while the tires were fresh, I was trying to get everything I could," Harvick continued. "I thought that Kurt would clear the guy on the outside of him. And when I came back up, there wasn't a whole lot of room to go because when you come off the apron you need to go straight up. I tried to go into the corner and up onto the race track and all at once if just felt like somebody popped both the rear tires. [I] just lost it and it's fortunate that nobody hit us."
Harvick's excursion onto the apron was an initially successful attempt to pass the cars of Kurt Busch and Dave Blaney. The melee that was caused by his Harvick's spinning and the consequent smokescreen led to three other cars' having incidents behind him. Jimmy Spencer drove one of those vehicles. "I don't even know what you want to call [his move]," Spencer said. "It caused an accident up there, and we got in it and it took us out. It was uncalled for. He still drives like an idiot, but what are you going to do?"
After Harvick managed to regain control of his sliding car, he pitted on the ensuing caution period, and his team replaced all four tires on his car and refueled it. His fuel situation was so close that he was not able to pilot his car back into Victory Lane after his celebratory burnouts.
"I think we would be where Harvick is [in Victory Lane] if we didn't have to pit for fuel," Stewart said. "We had some kind of fuel pick-up problem today and it shortened up our fuel runs by about six or eight laps."
Harvick is two-for-two at Chicagoland and remains the only driver to win a Winston Cup race here. Last year he picked up his second career Winston Cup victory during the inaugural race weekend in Joliet, but this is his first win since. Harvick started today's race from the 32nd position and won by a margin of .812 seconds.
"It was just a matter of track position," Harvick said, "and once we got it, it was pretty much it was lights out." Harvick, the 2001 Winston Cup Rookie-of-the-Year, effectively flipped the switch on the restart after the last caution period.
"He got a good restart and drove his heart out and won the race," Gordon said. "Even if I could have caught him, I was on him on the restart when the tires were cool, and I got up on him, but as soon as I got into the corner, the thing just started really pushing, so I couldn't do much."
Other young drivers besides Harvick also turned in good performances in the Tropicana 400. Jimmie Johnson was the top finishing rookie for the 11th time this season, coming in fourth behind Gordon and Stewart. "We passed more cars than anyone all day long," said Johnson, who started in the 37th position. "[We] were the fastest in a lot of segments but just didn't have the track position."
The only other rookie in the race, Ryan Newman, finished directly after Johnson in fifth position. Newman started from the pole and led the most laps in the race. He recovered well from a cut tire that cost him the lead with less than 30 laps to go.
Kurt Busch, a standout rookie last season, finished sixth after moving up through the pack from a 40th position start. He qualified second on Friday, but was forced to start at the back of the pack because of a blown engine in practice Saturday. Busch's charge back towards the front found him in the top ten by Lap 85, and he hung around the top of the pack for the rest of the race.
The race featured 19 lead changes among eleven drivers. There were seven cautions for 35 laps. The circuit travels to Loudon, New Hampshire next weekend.
Points Update - Today's race jumbled the Winston Cup points standings. After his best qualifying effort of the season, fourth, Winston Cup points leader Sterling Marlin finished a lap down in 16th-place but retained his points lead. Mark Martin narrowed the gap by 28. Marlin received a pit penalty during the caution period caused on lap 139 by Michael Waltrip's blown motor. Marlin now has 2483 points and leads Martin by 49 with 18 races to go. Johnson is in third followed by Gordon and Stewart. Only 157 points separate Marlin from fifth-place Stewart.
The Muppets take Chicagoland - Ten characters from The Muppet Show decorated cars in today's race as part of that television show's 25th anniversary celebration. The Swedish Chef, who rode along with seventh-place finisher Bill Elliott was the top finishing Muppet. The Chef was not available for comment. In addition to the characters' adventures today, some of the Muppets will also be riding along with drivers in the National Hot Rod Association and World of Outlaws over the next month-and-a-half.