Harvick holds on for victory
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kevin Harvick lined up next to his Richard Childress Racing teammate for a two-lap sprint to the finish at Daytona International Speedway.
He and Clint Bowyer didn’t bother to talk strategy.
“It was every man for himself at that point,” Harvick said.
The Sprint Cup points leader sailed to his second win of the season, leading a strong RCR contingent in a wild night of racing at Daytona. There were a record 18 leaders, 47 lead changes, a 20-car accident and numerous angry drivers when it was over.
Harvick earned high praise from team owner Childress, who compared his driver to the late Dale Earnhardt, considered one of the best restrictor-plate racers in NASCAR history. Harvick also won at Talladega in April, and finished seventh in the season-opening Daytona 500.
“Kevin’s just becoming one of these guys, when it’s restrictor-plate racing, he’s kind of like Dale Sr. — you knew he was going to be a factor in it,” Childress said.
Harvick, who took over Earnhardt’s team following The Intimidators fatal accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, now has eight top-10 finishes in 19 starts at Daytona. He also won the 2007 Daytona 500.
“This has been a great place for us,” Harvick said. “Daytona has been one of those magical places for us ever since we started coming here.”
Harvick and his RCR teammates, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton, were poised to run away with the race before several late cautions interfered with a potential Chevrolet sweep.
A three-car accident moments before Bowyer took the white flag set up NASCAR’s version of overtime, and Bowyer and Harvick had to restart side-by-side for the final two-lap sprint. Harvick wasted no time sliding into the lead, while Bowyer got little help from behind as Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon swapped spots on the restart.
It left Bowyer all alone, and he slipped back into traffic and ultimately spun off the track. Harvick had clear sailing to the checkered flag.
“That really wasn’t the situation that we wanted to be in,” said Harvick, also the winner at Talladega in April. “I wanted to be behind him and be able to push him because it was looking pretty good for us, then that caution came out and we had to split up because of the double-file restarts. I helped him as much as I could, then we got split up and (Kahne and Gordon) split (Bowyer) and then that was it.”
Kahne was second in a Ford, followed by Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Burton in Chevrolets.
“If you come home with a top five at a restrictor-plate race, you ought to skip all the way home,” Burton said.
Earnhardt, who wasn’t good most of the race, seemingly lucked into the top-five finish but it was enough to move him into eligibility for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He’s 11th in the standings.
The start of the race was delayed almost 90 minutes by rain, and a 19-car accident with 12 laps to go stopped the action another 20 minutes.
Kyle Busch had a wild night: a loose wheel early in the race forced him to give up the lead, and after driving his way back to the front, contact with Juan Pablo Montoya while leading ended his night. Mark Martin had to be pulled from fire by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson’s crew members, and AJ Allmendinger had a heated conversation with boss Richard Petty after he wrecked out of the race.
Then there was Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch, who exchanged words after the finish but the topic was drowned out by the booming post-race fireworks.
It was all just par for the course, it seemed, at Daytona.
“I’m starting to get used to the fact that every race we go to is basically bumper cars at 190 mph,” Gordon said. “When it comes down to the end, you pretty much know that it’s not going to end like that, that you’re going to have cautions and double-file restarts. It’s just hold on tight.”
Edwards finished sixth and was followed by Kurt Busch, Reed Sorenson, Mike Bliss and Scott Speed.