Kevin Harvick is not only in NASCAR’s Championship conversation, he’s now the talk of the Playoffs

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - AUGUST 14: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on August 14, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Not only has Kevin Harvick entered the championship conversation, but he’s also now being heard loud and clear. A week after breaking a 65-race winless streak, Harvick took the lead with 48 laps to go at Richmond Raceway Sunday and held off a spirted run by first Chris Buescher, then a late charge by Christopher Bell to score back-to-back wins for the first time since 2020.

It was his fourth win at Richmond, the last one coming in 2013, and the 60th of his career.

“It’s like I said last week,” Harvick said. “The cars have been running good week in and week out, and you see that we have a lot better understanding of what’s going on with how we adjusted on the car after the first run and were able to get our car handling a lot better.”

Behind Bell, Buescher held on for third, with Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott rounding out the top five.

“Just burned the rear tires up,” Buescher said. “Ultimately that’s on me. Lap traffic didn’t do us any favors, either, but ultimately just got to keep the rears under us a little bit better so we can have a little bit better shot there to get after him for the win. “

Much of the early part of race belonged to Ross Chastain who started second and took the lead on the first lap and going on to lead the first 80 laps and winning Stage 1. Joey Logano took the lead at the start of Stage 2 and went on to win Stage 2 and lead a race high 222 laps.

Cloud cover over the track changed the surface however, changing the complexation of the race and slowing Logano. When it was over Logano had to settle for sixth.

Bell overcame a spin and a pit road penalty taking tires late in the going to make a late charge.

“Well, I knew he was coming,” Harvick said. “But I forgot to shift down the front straightaway the last time. I was not paying attention and he got closer than he should have. I made a mistake there a couple laps doing the same thing. I wasn’t shifting on the back, and I was shifting in the front. There was a lot going on, and made a couple mistakes, let him get too close.”

In the end Bell came up short by .441 of a second. He finished sixth here in the spring.

“I got held up a little bit there on the front side,” Bell said. “And I guess when you’re splitting hairs like that, that probably cost me the race.

“That’s two races in a row here at Richmond. At the beginning of the year, we kind of had that same strategy and barely missed fifth coming to the line, and today it was the win.”

The battle for the final Playoff spot was the focus for much of the race as Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney swapped spots with Truex falling off the lead lap at one point and falling below the cutoff line by nearly 40 points. When the checkered flag fell however, Truex finished seventh, Blaney was 10th.

Blaney however, finished higher in the Stages, sixth in Stage 1, fifth in Stage 2, while Truex finished 10th in Stage 1 and outside the points in Stage 2. Blaney scored 11 Stage points to one for Truex and ended the day 26 points above the cutoff line; Truex 26 below.

In between Truex and Blaney, Aric Almirola finished 8th, while Kyle Busch overcame a meeting with the wall and a spin to finish 9th.

Polesitter Kyle Larson finished 14th; Ty Gibbs subbing for Kurt Busch once again had mechanical issues that forced him to the garage on lap 180.

With two races to go in NASCAR’s Regular Season Elliott, Chastain, Logano, William Byron, Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, Harvick, Larson, Bell, and Kyle Busch are all locked in.

Alex Bowman, who finished 20th Sunday, along with Daniel Suarez (19th), Austin Cindric (12th), and Chase Briscoe (23rd) are close to clinching Playoff spots. Kurt Busch has missed four races after suffering concussion like symptoms after a qualifying crash at Pocono but has been granted a waiver by NASCAR should he be cleared to race in the coming weeks.

The Cup series heads to Watkins Glen next Sunday where Kyle Larson is the defending winner. The following week with be the Regular Season finale at Daytona followed NASCAR’s Playoffs which will have Kevin Harvick now as one of the favorites.

“We’re just going to keep doing the things that we’re doing,” Harvick said. “I think we just have to keep an open mind about things and keep progressing and keep understanding the car, understanding what we could have done better today, understanding what we could have done better in qualifying yesterday and do the same thing over and over. “

Photos: NASCAR at Richmond Raceway Sunday Aug. 14, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Federated Auto Parts 400

Richmond Raceway

Richmond, Virginia

Sunday, August 14, 2022

  1. (13)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 400.
  2. (21)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 400.
  3. (18)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 400.
  4. (3)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400.
  5. (23)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400.
  6. (17)  Joey Logano, Ford, 400.
  7. (6)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400.
  8. (32)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 400.
  9. (29)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400.
  10. (10)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 400.
  11. (4)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 400.
  12. (33)  Austin Cindric #, Ford, 399.
  13. (11)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 399.
  14. (1)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 399.
  15. (8)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 399.
  16. (12)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 399.
  17. (22)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 398.
  18. (2)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 398.
  19. (24)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 398.
  20. (5)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 398.
  21. (27)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 398.
  22. (20)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 398.
  23. (15)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 397.
  24. (19)  Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, 397.
  25. (30)  Harrison Burton #, Ford, 397.
  26. (7)  Cole Custer, Ford, 397.
  27. (16)  Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 397.
  28. (31)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 397.
  29. (34)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 395.
  30. (25)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 395.
  31. (26)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 394.
  32. (35)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 393.
  33. (36)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 392.
  34. (28)  Cody Ware, Ford, 391.
  35. (9)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, Accident, 240.
  36. (14)  Ty Gibbs(i), Toyota, Engine, 180.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  98.11 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 3 Mins, 27 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .441 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 28 laps.

Lead Changes:  16 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 0;R. Chastain 1-80;J. Logano 81-123;K. Larson 124;R. Blaney 125;C. Custer 126-127;R. Stenhouse Jr. 128-133;J. Logano 134-172;C. Elliott 173;J. Logano 174-234;K. Larson 235-244;J. Logano 245-294;D. Hamlin 295-304;J. Logano 305-333;K. Harvick 334-340;D. Hamlin 341-352;K. Harvick 353-400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Joey Logano 5 times for 222 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 80 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 55 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 22 laps; Kyle Larson 2 times for 11 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 6 laps; Cole Custer 1 time for 2 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap; Chase Elliott 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 1,11,5,6,24,12,22,48,41,19

Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,5,11,4,12,10,17,9,14,18

Greg Engle