Kevin Harvick's NASCAR yarn has always had interesting twists and turns, but the fairytale storyline of winning the Busch and Cup series title in the same season just became a little more convincing. While momentum is the term being bandied...
Kevin Harvick's NASCAR yarn has always had interesting twists and turns, but the fairytale storyline of winning the Busch and Cup series title in the same season just became a little more convincing.
While momentum is the term being bandied about, domination may be the more descriptive word. Harvick owned New Hampshire International Raceway during the running of the Sylvania 300, as every other racer was reduced to playing a game of catch-him-if-you-can.
He led a race-high 196 laps on his way to his fourth win this season and ninth of his career. It was sheer validation for the No. 29 Chevy team who are enjoying a career-making season. He has ten consecutive top-15 finishes in Cup; he won both the Busch and Cup events at Richmond International Raceway last weekend; sat on the pole for this event; and leads Busch series point standings by such a wide berth that it would be nearly impossible for anyone to surpass him for that title.
"Just an incredible day," said Harvick. "I have to thank Reese's, just happy to get them to Victory Lane. Everybody at RCR and Chevrolet. We had a really good race car; we were really good on long runs. Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and the guys worked hard all day to keep us up front. We were a little bit tight in the beginning and made some really big adjustments.
"It's easy to be up front like we were because it is good for your car, good for your brakes, saves your tires and saves a lot of things. I tried to tear it up a couple of times today, trying to be a little too aggressive. All in all, I was worried about the 24 when he got around the 25, but restarts didn't hurt us at all; we just kept going forward."
Tony Stewart warded off his critics by grabbing a second place result. The reigning Cup series champion missed the field for this year's Chase after having a mediocre run last weekend at RIR.
"Solid day for our team," said Stewart. "We had to be careful starting 32nd and remain patient until we got into the top ten. We kept working our way to our front all day, there were really no dramas throughout the day, just a good solid run for us."
Jeff Gordon was third, "We were never good on restarts on new tires and cold tires. Harvick and the No. 31 (Burton) were unbelievable on new tires. But those long runs, we could really catch them. I am really happy with a third place. It's a great way for us to get this Chase started."
Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers complete the top five.
"It was an up-and-down day for us," Hamlin explained. "We hung around the top-10 for most of the day, right around the 10th spot. We just couldn't quite get this car going but Mike (Ford, crew chief) made a great call at the end to take two-tires. It worked out great for us."
Pole sitter Kevin Harvick led the field to the green flag but the action was stalled on lap three when Jeff Green spun making contact with Chase hopeful Kyle Busch. Harvick led until lap 27 when Jeff Gordon made the pass for the top spot.
Gordon led just two laps before the second caution fell on lap 29 when Joe Nemechek made contact with the wall. After a two-tire pit stop Denny Hamlin led on the restart on lap 34.
Shortly after the restart, a power move up the middle by Harvick between Jeff Burton and Hamlin allowed the No. 29 Chevy to reclaim the lead. Harvick and Gordon battled for the lead, swapping it round several times before Gordon settled in out front on lap 54.
The No. 24 Chevy led when the third caution waved for debris on lap 81. After service stops Gordon continued to lead on the restart on lap 85 but it took just one circuit for Burton to pass for the lead.
Championship favorite Jimmie Johnson who had been battling a struggling race car all day smacked the wall on lap 88 causing the fourth yellow. A caution for debris on lap 97 slowed the field for the fifth time but the leaders stayed out with Burton continuing to show the way. Burton was out front until 138 when Harvick wheeled past.
A cycle of green flag pit stops commenced on lap 182, when all was said and done, Harvick continued as the leader. A sixth caution for debris on lap 193 brought the leaders in for service with the No. 29 Chevy out front at the restart on lap 198.
Harvick didn't make much progress before Kyle Busch smacked the wall on lap 199 causing the seventh caution. The race restarted on lap 203 with Harvick continuing to lead the way.
Bobby Labonte was the eighth caution, smacking the wall on lap 208. Dave Blaney did not pit leading a lap on the restart before Harvick regained the number one position. By lap 250, Harvick had a one-and-a-half second advantage over second place Brian Vickers.
A caution, the day's ninth, came when the No. 10 car spun on lap 267. That brought many of the leaders to pit road but Harvick remained out keeping the lead. Once the race went back green, the No. 29 once again jumped out to over a second lead on the field.
With eight laps remaining the tenth caution waved when Kyle Petty lost an engine setting up a green/white/checker finish. Harvick had a great restart grabbing the win and the lead in Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship point standings.
This is the first time Harvick has led the point standings in his Nextel Cup series career. Denny Hamlin (-35), Matt Kenseth (-41), Jeff Gordon (- 50), Jeff Burton (-64), Mark Martin (-75), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-81), Kasey Kahne (-110), Jimmie Johnson (-139) and Kyle Busch complete the top ten.
There were 10 cautions for 47 laps and 17 lead changes among 10 drivers.