Eight days ago the main storyline surrounding Kevin Harvick’s story was that he had been on the longest winless streak in more than two full seasons and that he was very close to winning, even though only 13 laps leading throughout the season. However, it took just eight days to allow Harvick to totally change that narrative, and maybe even make himself among the top risky drivers in NASCAR currently.
After gaining the lead from the dominant Joey Logano, Harvick paced the field in the final portion of Sunday’s race. He utilized his tire strategy in a perfect way to take the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, scoring his second straight win. Harvick was able to fend off a tough fight by Chris Buescher on the final green flag race after which he fought off a challenge from Christopher Bell — who was running fresher tires to hold on and beat Bell by a car length.
Harvick’s victory is the 60th win of his career and is tied alongside Kyle Busch for ninth on NASCAR’s list of all-time wins. This is also the fourth time he’s won at Richmond and follows previous victories in 2011 and 2006 as well as 2013.
Federated Auto Parts 400 unofficial results
#4 - Kevin Harvick #20 - Christopher Bell #17 - Chris Buescher #11 - Denny Hamlin #9 - Chase Elliott #22 - Joey Logano #19 - Martin Truex Jr. #10 - Aric Almirola #18 - Kyle Busch #12 - Ryan Blaney
Like it was in the spring the race on Sunday came down to pitting and tire strategies at the conclusion. Chris Buescher made his final pit stop right before Harvick’s pit stop with 60 laps remaining and allowed Buescher to fill in the gap and try to take the lead before slipping away. However, Christopher Bell pitted about a dozen laps after Harvick, allowing him to beat Harvick and both the top two drivers in the last 10 laps.
In a similar race back in the month of April Harvick finished just a tad behind Denny Hamlin. However, this time, he managed to hold on, even when Bell was able to come from a few seconds behind to chase him to the finish line continuing his rapid rise in the direction of a second playoff race.
“We’re going to continue doing the same things we’re doing, isn’t it? I believe that we have to be open about the situation and continue to improve and keep learning about what’s going on in the vehicle,” Harvick told NBC Sports. “Understand the things we could have accomplished better today, comprehend the things we could do better in qualifying yesterday, and then do the same thing over and over again.”
As Sunday’s race began it was clear that there was an amount of attention paid to the fight for the final place during the championship race with Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. However, instead of either competing for the title each driver ended end up facing a possible nightmare scenario, with an unexpected winner emerging, the two drivers falling off the cutting line and almost playing out in the final laps.
Chris Buescher, 23rd in points at the start of Richmond and was able to see his car explode in the final 100 laps when clouds rolled into the race and created cooler conditions. After running down Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano during a lengthy green flag race, Buescher ran down Harvick for the lead with the same tires and was close to making the move to lead while Harvick and Buescher raced in lapping traffic.
Unfortunately, for Buescher as well, fortunately, the two of them Blaney and Truex the outcome was not to be. Buescher was to fade and finished third. great performance by the driver hailing from Prosper, Texas, but not one that would assist him in the bigger image of the championship race.
“I find it a bit easy to think that third place isn’t important however it’s great to be on the same page and continue to improve as we’ve progressed through all summer long,” Buescher told NBC Sports. “Really nice to come out this, and I’m really happy for everyone.
“Just damaged the tire on the back of the car. It’s all on me. The sluggish traffic did us any favors and, in the end, we were able to make sure the rears are under it more to give us an opportunity to take on them to victory.”
After averting a crisis on the front Truex Blaney and Truex Blaney were both able to achieve top-10 results in the race, with Truex coming in seventh place while Blaney 10th. But, Blaney was able to earn the stage points needed to increase his advantage over Truex -He finished fifth in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2. Blaney was in the sixth position on Stage 1 and fifth in Stage 2He now has an advantage of 26 points to secure the last playoff position, with two races remaining for the rest of the year.
Ross Chastain vs. The World
After beginning on the outside of the pole Ross Chastain looked like the driver to beat throughout the event, running around 80 laps as well as winning Stage 1. However, once again Chastain’s race was to be defined by his contact with another driver.
In the Lap 240 restart, Chastain moved up the track to make room for Ty Dillon on the bottom however, he fell to Kyle Busch on Chastain’s outside. Busch spun out, and Chastain was also spun by collision with the other driver, Erik Jones. Four cars were recovered all in all The only one to be rescued was Jones suffering a fatal injury.