NASCAR Cup: Kevin Harvick secures Chase advancement with Kansas win
Kevin Harvick celebrates in victory lane after winning the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 16, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Kevin Harvick joins Jimmie Johnson as drivers needing not to worry about NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup advancement to round three as the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for the Oct. 23 race regarded as the ultimate wild card race of the Chase and the elimination race of round two. Harvick joined Johnson as round two race winners on Sunday with his win of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway near Kansas City, Kan., locking-up his slot in the third round of the Chase.
“Well, the first thing I want to do is thank everybody on the No. 4 team — everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch, Mobil 1, Ditech, Outback, Chevrolet, Morton Buildings, Bad Boy Buggies, everybody at the Hendrick engine and chassis shops for everything they do,” Harvick said. “These races are so hard to win, and these guys are so good at the details. You put their backs against the wall, and they get better. Really proud of them.”
Carl Edwards was the leader on the final restart with about 30 laps to go in the 267-lap race, but when the race restarted, Harvick took his final lead, leaving Edwards to battle Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch for second.
“That bottom line got a good run and they got in front of me,” Edwards said. “And then, I got choked up and raced Kyle for a long time and that set us back. But, man, we had a really good car, so it’s frustrating to come home second here. But, Kevin and those guys did a really good job. They didn’t have that fast of a car; they just made the most of that restart and then took off.”
Busch got by Edwards to take the spot but then gave it back to Edwards. He also gave up spots to Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps, winding up fifth at the finish.
Matt Kenseth dominated the first half of the race after starting from the pole. He led all but 10 of the first 125 laps before Harvick became the first driver to make an on-track pass for the lead on lap 126. Nine of those laps were led by a handful of different drivers during a cycle of green-flag pit stops just past lap 80. The other was led by Kurt Busch early in the race when he stayed out one lap longer than his fellow-competitors to score a bonus point for a lap led during the first caution of the race that came out for debris on lap 29.
Chase Elliott took the lead from Harvick with just under 100 laps remaining and led four laps before suffering a tire issue during a cycle of green-flag pit stops that began on lap 172. As a result, he fell off the lead lap. Elliott eventually got back on the lead lap but wound up having another tire problem and finished the race 31st.
“We really don’t know (what happened to the car),” Elliott said. “I don’t know if we got the left-rear getting up on the race track or something, and it got into the fender and cut it down. I don’t know what to do, man; we were trying as hard as we can. We had such a good car today, again, and I don’t know what to do. Just keep after it and try to move on.”
Another Chaser, Brad Keselowski, also had problems at Kansas. A left-rear tire problem resulted in a wreck on lap 190, sending Keselowski to the garage. He returned and ran one lap before blowing the engine, taking him out of the race for good. He wound up with a 38th-place finish.
“The guys busted their butt to get me back out,” Keselowski said. “They put a whole new front end (on the car). There must have been some kind of damage to the engine from the spin. It was running fine before that. I think it is just unfortunate. I am not going to say for sure what happened to cause the spin. We will move forward. If we keep getting the effort like they did to fix this thing, we will be fine.”
Nearly simultaneous to Elliott’s initial tire issue came a slow pit stop of nearly 20 seconds for Harvick. Despite the slow stop, Harvick was still in the top-five for a restart that came after a lap 177 caution. Edwards, meanwhile, restarted with the lead.
Harvick got up to second soon after the restart and challenged Edwards up front before taking his final lead.
Austin Dillon finished sixth, and Alex Bowman was seventh in his substitute role for the still-sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr. A.J. Allmendinger finished eighth, Kenseth was ninth, and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-10.
Chaser Martin Truex Jr. finished 11th after running in the top-five throughout the early stages of the race before encountering a fueling issue that prohibited his crew from getting his car full of fuel on multiple pit stops.
Other Chase drivers finishing outside the top-10 included Kurt Busch in 13th and Denny Hamlin 15th.