Toyota Owners 400 at RIR
Kevin Harvick dominated during a two-lap green-white-checkered finish and won the wild Toyota Owners 400 Sprint Cup race Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
Harvick shot to the lead with fresher tires and easily controlled the front over the final two laps as the race was extended from 400 laps to 406. It was his first win of the season and the 20th of his career.
“That was vintage Kevin Harvick,” crew chief Gil Martin said. “That was a really, really good restart. It was exciting to watch.”
The win appeared to sit in Juan Pablo Montoya’s hands, but a late-race caution spoiled his strong run. He had the lead over Harvick with four laps left when Brian Vickers crashed in turn three, causing a caution.
The leaders dropped to pit lane for tires even though the end of the race loomed.
Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger were in front for the final green flag, but they were on much older tires, and Harvick shot to first quickly as cars – and tempers – collided in the following pack.
“You knew you had three cars up front that didn’t pit – three cars that were going to be pretty much in the way,” Harvick said. “You didn’t know if there would be one green-white-checkered or two. You had to go and be as aggressive as you thought you could be without taking yourself out of the race.
“The guys on no new tires were sitting ducks. I drove it in there and hoped for the best. By the time we got to the backstretch, everything had cleared out.”
Finishing behind Harvick were Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Montoya and Burton.
Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled on the track on the last lap and on the cool-down lap, and they had a tense discussion about those moments after the race. Busch also irritated Matt Kenseth with a bump in the closing rush.
Montoya took charge in the closing portion of the race and appeared ready to win an oval-track event for the first time. He led a total of 67 laps before the Vickers caution changed the landscape of the race.
Kyle Busch took the lead from Matt Kenseth, the race’s early strongman, on lap 254 and stayed out front for 40 laps.
When Busch grabbed the lead from Kenseth, he ended what had been stunning dominance by Kenseth and Bowyer. They paired to lead the race’s first 253 laps.
Busch dodged a bullet with 80 laps left in the race when NASCAR made the unusual move of reversing a penalty call. Officials had tagged Busch, Vickers and Landon Cassill for commitment-line violations entering the pits. Busch’s team argued that Busch was in the correct position before he pitted, and, after reviewing videotape, NASCAR agreed. The decision allowed Busch to stay in eighth place instead of dropping to the back of the field.
Seconds later, the game changed for Busch again, however, as he became the innocent victim of a crash.
Stewart lost control of his car entering the first turn and slid into Jimmie Johnson. Their cars slid to the inside of the track, blocking the lane as Busch arrived. Damage to Busch’s car caused him to lose a lap in the pits.
Stewart admitted that he had made a mistake and apologized to Johnson’s team.
On lap 338, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin collided, starting an accident that also enveloped Vickers.
Seven laps later, Kurt Busch bumped Martin Truex Jr. as they battled for second place, and Truex slid through turn two, causing the 10th caution of the night. “A little disappointed, but that’s the way it goes on short tracks, I guess,” Truex said. “I’ll remember if we get in that position again what I’ll do to Kurt.”
A long green-flag run ended on lap 231 when Greg Biffle, who struggled much of the evening, lost control of his car and slid along the frontstretch.
That caution sent everyone to the pits, and Kenseth barely edged Kurt Busch for first place as the top cars returned to the track.
Kenseth led the first 36 laps of the race and later returned to the front to lead laps 43-111.
With Kenseth and Bowyer dominating action at the front, there was little wrestling for first place in the first half of the race. For the first 200 laps, there were only two leaders – Kenseth for 105 laps and Bowyer for 95.
Two potential contenders suffered problems in the first part of the race. Biffle pitted with a broken shock, and Brad Keselowski blew a tire and slapped the wall on lap 160. Both stayed on the lead lap.
The race’s first caution flew on lap 42 when Cassill bumped Josh Wise into a slide.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.