|Harvick led just three laps|
Kevin Harvick lived up to his reputation as NASCAR’s premiere closer Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, blazing from seventh place to the lead in the final two laps to win the Toyota Owners 400.
With four laps remaining, the Richard Childress Racing driver appeared to be a beaten man, trailing Juan Pablo Montoya by three car lengths and showing no signs of being able to pull off a late pass. Then Brian Vickers slammed the Turn Three wall to bring out the caution flag, setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish and allowing Harvick to author his latest – and likely most dramatic – comeback win.
Harvick, Montoya and most of the frontrunners pitted for fresh rubber, while upset-minded RCR teammate Jeff Burton remained on-track, along with Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger. The ensuing restart was a veritable maelstrom of tire smoke and wrinkled sheet metal, and when the front six jammed-up behind Burton’s slower Chevy, Harvick blasted through a miraculously clear low lane to claim the lead before hitting the back straightaway.
"Everybody was going to be aggressive at that point, because nobody really knew (what was going to happen),” said Harvick afterward. “You had three cars that were going to be in the way compared to the guys on (new) tires, so we didn't know if there would be one green-white-checkered, or two. You had to be as aggressive as you possibly could, without taking yourself out of the race.”
“That was vintage Kevin Harvick,” said winning team owner Richard Childress afterward. “When they dropped the green, he found the hole, drove it through there and made it happen. He won the race.”
Harvick admitted that without the final caution, he had little hope of overhauling Montoya,
|Harvick (29) powers to the lead|
His 20th career Sprint Cup Series victory – and third at Richmond -- came on a night when Harvick led just three laps; the ones that counted. It also pushed him from 11th to ninth in championship points, 72 behind leader Jimmie Johnson, who finished 12th.
Clint Bowyer led 113 laps on the night en route to second place, and said the decision to pit for tires under the final caution rested solely with crew chief Brian Pattie.
"I had not made a decision," said Bowyer afterward. "Luckily for me, Pattie had made that decision; which is what he gets paid for. And it was the right one. I really feel bad for (Montoya)," he added. "He's had a couple of rough years in the sport and that was his race. He had it won."
Joey Logano finished third, followed by Montoya and Burton. Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., completed the Top-10 in a race that included on-track fireworks after the checkered flag. Kurt Busch bumped Matt Kenseth’s Toyota on the cool-down lap to express displeasure with final-lap contact between the two, while Tony Stewart did the same to Busch. The two former series champions also exchanged words after the race.