In what can best be described as a total free for all, Kevin Harvick, “The Closer”, “Mr. Where-Did-He-Come-From?”, captured a statement win on the 3/4-mile Virginia short track.
You could feel what was going to happen as you watched. The first half of the race having to much calmness to it, you knew once things started to happen, it would be wild. You were not disappointed.
Like most Richmond night races, it was a tale of two races. The first half saw Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer lead each and every one of 253 laps. Then, as expected, Kyle Busch, winner of the previous four straight Richmond spring night races took the lead. Meanwhile, things stayed relatively calm, and mostly single file back through the field, with the only real incident being a flat tire putting Keselowski in the wall earlier, but he had recovered.
As the final 100 laps started things got dicey, and unfamiliar faces made their way to the front. Kurt Busch led for over 30 laps, in his best effort at getting back to victory lane since his downfall from the elite teams and Juan Pablo Montoya led for a considerable amount of laps, seemingly having his first oval win locked up until a final caution and Green-White-Checkered changed everything.
As the race started heating up in the last 100 laps, Kyle Busch, and many other had their fortunes change drastically. After having a pit road violation overturned, Busch dropped quickly in the field with some apparent issue, he was soon caught up in a wreck involving Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson. Stewart took blame for the incident, as he drove too hard into the corner, spinning and taking Johnson with him. Stewart recovered without an issue, but as Johnson spun he collided with Busch and both had their nights ruined. Johnson had been running up towards the front after recovering from a terrible qualifying effort.
It wasn’t much longer when Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin wrecked, collecting Brian Vickers. With 60 laps to go the action had started to get a bit more physical, and Kahne’s bumping and shoving of Martin after the incident was our first true sign of short track tempers. Kahne had been having an up and down race, having at one point driven up into the top 10, but then falling back to around where he started in the teens. Martin and Vickers had also been having a solid race in the first half, before dropping back into dangerous territory and being caught up in the 9th caution.
Just as the drivers got back up to speed after the caution, they were back under yellow. Martin Truex Jr., who was driving up front after working his way though the field, shut the door on Kurt Busch one too many times in a row and ended up sliding backwards into the wall from contact.
As the last 40 laps winded down, the race stayed green and Kevin Harvick stalked down leader Juan Pablo Montoya. Inside of ten laps JPM seemed to have managed to match Harvick’s lap times and looked poised to win his first oval race in NASCAR, having won two road courses. However, everything changed with three laps to go when Vickers wrecked in turn 3.
What followed was chaos. Three drivers, Burton, McMurray, and Allmendinger all stayed out to take the top 3 spots on the Green-White-Checker finish, while everyone behind them pitted. The 60+ lap tires of the top three held up all the drivers behind them, making a 3 and 4 wide, 2 lap dash to the finish. Kevin Harvick would manage to get out front and win for the first time this season, leading only 3 laps. “Happy” Harvick was very proud in victory lane, as he has been attempting to stop all talks of this being a “Lame Duck” season, his last at RCR.
For the drivers who stayed out, there were mixed results. Burton held on for 5th, while Allmendinger and McMurray fell all the way back to 14th and 26th respectively.
The final lap chaos included many drivers bouncing off each other and shoving. Most was forgiven, however, Stewart took exception to the nudge given to him by Kurt Busch, as it knocked him out of the top 5 and back to an 18th place finish. Stewart had had a rough night but managed to find himself near the front at the end, the incident continues his 2013 woes as he remains deep in points.
One driver who deserves a shout out is Aric Almirola in the #43, another very strong performance at Richmond saw him running in the top 10 almost the entire night and coming home 8th. Almirola is in the top 12 in points after 9 races.