Rocketing ahead of the field on a green-white-checkered finish, Kevin Harvick powered to victory at Richmond International Raceway. Having pitted for fresh tires under the final caution of the race on Lap 394, Harvick charged from the seventh position to take his 20th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career win. He gained two positions in the championship standings and now ranks ninth overall.
South Florida resident Juan Pablo Montoya recorded his best finish thus far this year by bringing his car home in the fourth position. Montoya led 67 of the 406 circuits, but was unable to make his way back to the lead spot after pitting for tires during the final caution.
Montoya, who was trying to win for the first time since 2010, said he got caught in the outside lane on the final restart and could not get back to the front.
"It was a no-brainer to take tires," he said. "What hurt was starting on the outside. When you restart on the outside with people who have really bad tires, everything gets backed up and where are you going to jump?"
Montoya said he could not believe it when the caution flag flew with him leading with just a few laps remaining.
"(I was thinking) really? Really?" he said.
NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., continued his consistent pace with a 10th-place finish. He gained one position and moved to fourth in the overall point standings.
Jimmie Johnson, who was involved in a crash with Tony Stewart, rallied to finish 12th and continues to lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings by 43 points over Carl Edwards. Kasey Kahne is third, followed by Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
Richmond was the first win of the season for Harvick, who is expected to leave Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing next season.
"A lot of people thought we might lay down this year," Harvick said. "There ain't no way with that game, is there?"
Harvick was chasing down Montoya for the lead when a caution flag flew with six laps remaining. Harvick and Montoya then pitted for fresh tires, handing the lead to Jeff Burton and Jamie McMurray.
Harvick restarted seventh but flew through the field and quickly passed Burton for the lead.
Stewart’s slow start to the season only got worse when he got loose and spun into Johnson with about 75 laps remaining, causing them both to crash. He wound up 18th after late contact with Kurt Busch.
There were some hot tempers after the race as Kurt Busch, Stewart and Matt Kenseth all bumped and banged their way to the checkered flag. Stewart was not happy with Busch after the race, bumping him and running him up toward the wall on the cool-down lap. The two drivers then had words in the garage after the race.
Kurt Busch captured his third top-five finish of the season and came home ninth. Busch said he saw such an incident coming.
"You could tell, with a green-white-checkered, it was a free-for-all," he said. "I don't know what the 14 (Stewart) was upset about. I got hit from behind. I got hit every which a way. So did he. Kenseth moved me up out of the way; that's why I was upset with him. But it was just a free-for-all."
Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, May 5 (1 p.m. EDT, FOX, MRN Radio and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90)—Race 10 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 15-17). The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
Tickets for NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 15-17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale to the general public on May 1.