Right now, it seems as though it’s Kevin Harvick’s world and the rest of the NASCAR Cup series is just living in it.
Harvick staged another dominating performance Saturday night leading 226 of the 500 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway for his series-best ninth victory of the season.
Harvick took the lead for the final time with 32 laps to go and held off Kyle Busch in heavy traffic to win by .31 of a second.
Harvick also won the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway to open the playoffs. Unlike that opening race however, Bristol had 30,000 in attendance as Harvick climbed from his car at start-finish line.
“Bristol, baby!” Harvick shouted over the cheers of the fans lining the fence. “I was so jacked up when we started this race because of you guys. To beat Kyle Busch at Bristol … just kept fighting, we didn’t have anything to lose. Just trying to win a race.”
The win came at the expense of Busch who remains winless this season. It was however one of Busch’s better outings as he led 159 laps and won Stage 2.
The final laps came down to a battle among Harvick and Busch navigating through lapped traffic. With only six cars on the lead lap at the end both drivers had to weave through the slower cars with Busch briefly taking the lead on lap 459 thanks to Harvick getting trapped by a slower car. Busch was able to hold the top spot for only 9 laps though until Harvick was again able to charge by for the final time.
“To beat Kyle Busch at Bristol, I kind of got myself in a little bit of a ringer there,” Harvick said. “I hit a lapped car and got a hole in the right-front nose, but just kept fighting. We don’t have anything else to lose. We were here to try to win a race.”
Second place was an impressive showing given that Busch was forced to start at the rear when his Toyota was one of three Joe Gibbs Racing cars to fail pre-race inspection.
“Just didn’t have enough there at the end,” Busch said. “Lapped cars were definitely a problem. It’s part of racing. You have to try to get around them where you can and there was just no room for me to do what I needed to do with a couple of those opportunities to get past them.”
Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola rounded out the top five.
Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott, who won Stage 1, Chris Buescher, Ryan Preece and Michael McDowell completed the top 10 finishers.
While the race up front was back and forth, the race for the final spots in the Round of 12 in the Playoffs was equally as chaotic. With only five cautions, two for stage breaks and one for a competition caution, much of the race was a green flag affair leaving little room for error.
One of the two cautions for a crash came when William Byron who was running 10th, ran into the back of Christopher Bell on lap 234. Bell had slowed to avoid Joey Gase, who stopped in the middle of the straightaway.
“I had literally nowhere to go. You can’t stop in the middle of the straightaway,” Byron said. “I’ve got to go back and watch that because that was kind of ridiculous.”
Matt DiBenedetto needed a win to advance but had to pit under green on lap 187 for a loose wheel and came out 29th three laps down. He was able to get his laps back and ran as high as sixth, but a flat tire again forced him in on lap 483 and left 19th, three laps down at the end.
Ryan Blaney needed 15 stage points to have any chance to advance on points. He struggled early in the going finishing outside top 10 in Stage 1 leaving a win as his only hope to move on. He did run fifth at one point but never had the speed to contend. He was lapped on lap 353, then pitted on lap 358 just before the final caution of the night for dust up between James Davison who was spun by Austin Dillon after Dillon nearly ran into the back of Harvick who had slowed to pit under green. Dillon slid up into Davison while Harvick was able to pass the entrance of pit road and continue in the lead as the caution came out.
Blaney was trapped however, and finished 13th, two laps down.
Another Playoff driver, Cole Custe,r was never a factor. The rookie finished 23rd three laps down.
Harvick and Brad Keselowski had already clinched spots in the next three-race set in the 10-race postseason, on the basis of wins earlier in the Round of 16. Keselowski had power steering issues that sent him to the garage. And while he did return, he finished 34th 88 laps down.
Denny Hamlin was already in the Round of 12 based on points and finished 21st Saturday night. Joey Logano (11th), Elliott, Busch, Austin Dillon (12th), Alex Bowman (16th), Martin Truex Jr. (24th), Bowyer, Almirola and Kurt Busch (15th) also advanced on points.
The NASCAR Cup Series’ next race, the first of three races in the postseason’s Round of 12, is the South Point 400, scheduled for next Sunday at 7:00 p.m.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
Bristol Motor Speedway
Saturday, September 19, 2020
1. (4) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 500.
2. (9) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 500.
3. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 500.
4. (17) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 500.
5. (10) Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 500.
6. (11) Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 500.
7. (6) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 499.
8. (23) Chris Buescher, Ford, 499.
9. (22) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 499.
10. (26) Michael McDowell, Ford, 498.
11. (2) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 498.
12. (5) Austin Dillon (P), Chevrolet, 498.
13. (14) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 498.
14. (19) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 498.
15. (13) Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 498.
16. (8) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 498.
17. (24) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 498.
18. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 497.
19. (16) Matt DiBenedetto (P), Ford, 497.
20. (31) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 497.
21. (7) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 497.
22. (27) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 497.
23. (12) Cole Custer # (P), Ford, 497.
24. (3) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 496.
25. (25) Ryan Newman, Ford, 496.
26. (29) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 495.
27. (37) Gray Gaulding(i), Ford, 488.
28. (18) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 487.
29. (33) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 483.
30. (32) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 479.
31. (36) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 463.
32. (40) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 436.
33. (30) Corey LaJoie, Ford, Steering, 419.
34. (1) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 412.
35. (35) James Davison, Chevrolet, Accident, 401.
36. (34) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Electrical, 317.
37. (38) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Steering, 313.
38. (15) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 232.
39. (39) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 53.
40. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 28.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 95.911 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 46 Mins, 43 Secs. Margin of Victory: .310 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 50 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: B. Keselowski (P) 1-17;K. Harvick (P) 18-34;B. Keselowski (P) 35;M. DiBenedetto (P) 36-42;B. Keselowski (P) 43-106;C. Elliott (P) 107-129;C. Bell # 130;K. Busch (P) 131-236;D. Hamlin (P) 237;K. Busch (P) 238-280;K. Harvick (P) 281-411;A. Almirola (P) 412;K. Harvick (P) 413-458;K. Busch (P) 459-468;K. Harvick (P) 469-500.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kevin Harvick (P) 4 times for 226 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 3 times for 159 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 3 times for 82 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 23 laps; Matt DiBenedetto (P) 1 time for 7 laps; Aric Almirola (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Christopher Bell # 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,18,4,88,95,1,2,24,22,43
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,4,9,22,1,88,10,14,20,3
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