2011-09-15 / Sports

Harvick Triumphs At Richmond

By Gerald Hodges
THE RACING REPORTER


Kevin Harvick Kevin Harvick RICHMOND, Va. – Kevin Harvick won his fourth race of the season and the 18th of his career as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin claimed the final Chase spots they held provisionally entering the race, but not without some struggles.

Harvick beat Jeff Gordon out of the pits after the last caution on Lap 385 of the 400-lap race and drove away from the four-time champion. Carl Edwards passed Gordon for the second spot and challenged Harvick for the win, but Edwards ran out of time, finishing .139 seconds back.

“The guys on pit road had just a great last pit stop and were able to get us the track position,” Harvick said. “I struggled on the restarts getting going with the (gear) ratios that we had, so to be in control of that last restart I felt was pretty important, to get going.”

“That last run there, we were actually too tight – Carl was actually a little bit better – and then, with about three or four laps to go, I just locked it on the bottom and hoped for the best there. So it all worked out.”

Edwards led the most laps but the race ended before he could make a move on Harvick.

“We were still running third when the next caution came out (on Lap 384), and we still should have been able to win that race,” said Edwards. “I just didn’t get a good enough restart, didn’t get by Jeff to have a lap or two once I got to Kevin.”

Gordon ran third, followed by David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin.

This race had everything, far beyond the dash to the finish. It had a heroic effort from Hamlin, who recovered from a hard hit on Lap 8 to secure a spot in the Chase for the sixth straight year.

Dale Earnhardt damaged his Chevrolet during Lap 8, but fought hard to hang on to a position in the top10 in the standings—and succeeded when attrition turned the numbers in his favor.

“We just kept working it and trying to fix the car,” said Earnhardt, who finished 16th and wound up 10th in the standings. “It was tore up pretty bad in the front end, had a lot of camber, was really loose in (into the corners) and wouldn’t turn in the middle.”

“But we worked on it and worked on it. … I’m proud to be in the Chase. I feel like I’m a good enough driver to be in the Chase – my team is good enough to be there.”

Clint Bowyer was another driver that made a valiant effort, but it was not good enough. He was edged out by Denny Hamlin for the last spot in the chase.

There was a renewal of the Kurt Busch- Jimmie Johnson rivalry, as the two drivers took turns knocking each other into the Turn 2 wall. Busch got the better of the exchange by far, coming home fifth to Johnson’s 31st.

The 2012 Chase field is now complete. Points for the Chase drivers have been reset and the first of 10 races will be Sept. 17 at Chicagoland. 1. Kyle Busch- 2012, 2. Harvick-2012, 3. J. Gordon-2009, 4. Kenseth- 2006, 5. Edwards-2003, 6. Johnson-2003, 7. Kurt Busch- 2003, 8. Newman-2003, 9. Stewart-2000, 10. Earnhardt- 2000, 11. Keselowski-2000, 12. Hamlin-2000

Kyle Busch gets 51st Nationwide win

RICHMOND, Va. – Kyle Busch found a way to stay out front with a car set up for short runs and pulled away during the final greenflag run to win Friday night’s Nationwide race.

Busch got the opportunity for his career-best 51st Nationwide Series victory and his eighth of the season in 19 starts when Carl Edwards, who had dominated the race, lost three spots during the final round of pit stops under caution.

“Carl was certainly really, really good there, and I thought at first we were probably a third- or fourthplace car, and then kind of worked on it and made it a second- or third-place car,” Busch said. “We were keeping up with Carl, and then, on that final pit stop, my guys really put the pressure on, knowing how quick they’d been on pit road all night – and they did it once again.”

Edwards ran second, .696 seconds behind Busch. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. retained the series points lead with a third- place finish. Ryan Truex came home fourth, followed by Kenny Wallace, Elliott Sadler, Aric Almirola, Reed Sorenson, Justin Allgaier and Joe Nemechek.

Top-10 leaders after 27 of 34: 1. Stenhouse-950, 2. Sadler-934, 3. Sorenson-905, 4. Almirola-882, 5. Allgaier- 875, 6. Leffler-826, 7. K. Wallace 786, 8. S. Wallace-765, 9. Annett-744, 10. Scott-736

Rockingham gets truck race

Rockingham Speedway will host a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in 2012. After an eight-year absence, NASCAR will be back.

This is a big deal for the region. In fact, it is such a big deal that Gov. Beverly Perdue was on hand last Wednesday to make the announcement. The race will bring an approximate $7.5 million to the region, according to the governor. That’s people eating in local restaurants and staying in local hotels. That is a huge economic impact.

Rockingham Speedway President Andy Hillenburg has worked tirelessly over the last four years to get to a point where NASCAR could come back to the track and the last step was the investment of nearly $1 million for the installation of Steel and Foam Energy Reduction ( SAFER) barriers. The SAFER barriers are scheduled to be installed in two phases, with the first phase happening this month and the final sections in December.

It’s not often a track get’s a second chance like this, but now it’s time for race fans to step up and support it. Rockingham has about 34,000 seats, and hopefully, they will all be filled for this event.

Weekend racing: It’s on to Chicago’s 1.5-mile oval for all three of NASCAR’s major series.

Friday, September 16, Camping World Trucks Fast Five 225, race 18 of 25, starting time: 8 p.m.; TV: Speed.

Saturday, September 17, Nationwide Dollar General 300, race 28 of 34, starting time: 2:30 p.m.; TV: ESPN2.

Sunday, September 18, Sprint Cup Geico 400, race 27 of 36, starting time: 2 p.m.; TV: ESPN.

Racing trivia question: Which Cup team does Brad Keselowski drive for?

Last week’s question: How many drivers will be in this year’s Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship? Answer. Twelve.

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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