NASCAR Cup: Kevin Harvick wins delayed Bristol race
Kevin Harvick celebrates in victory lane at Bristol Motor Speedway after winning the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night race on Aig. 21, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway was interrupted multiple times by rain, with the race, originally scheduled as a Saturday night affair, ran mostly on Sunday and was completed almost 24 hours after the scheduled start.
When the checkered finally waved after 500 laps, Kevin Harvick did a dual burnout with retiring teammate and car co-owner Tony Stewart and headed to victory lane to celebrate his second win of 2015 and his second-career win at Bristol.
“We should have won a lot of races this year, but we just had things not go our way,” Harvick said. “We made mistakes, or whatever the case may be. But, to get back into victory lane here at Bristol feels really good. We’ve had some good cars here over the last few years. And to have Busch Beer on the car, we’ve had crummy luck with these guys on the car, and I’m just really happy for Busch and Jimmy John’s and really proud of these guys on the No. 4 team.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took runner-up honors, while Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon finished third and fourth.
“It wasn’t from ma lack of hard work and being lucky a few times,” Stenhouse said of falling short of the win. “We really wanted to get this Bryan Clauson tribute car in victory lane. It just wasn’t meant to be today. We made our car a lot faster throughout the race and came from two laps down to get back on the lead lap. We missed some wrecks and gave it all we had. I thought we were matching the 4 car, there, lap for lap, but he got away from us, and we had to restart sixth, there, on the last restart, but it was an honor to drive this car.”
Chris Buescher finished fifth, and with the top-five finish, climbed into the top-30 of the points standings with three races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup gets underway. If Buescher remains in the top-30 for the remainder of the regular season, his win at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway on Aug. 1 will get him into the Chase.
“That was a lot of fun,” Buescher said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve come to the race track and enjoy it like that. We had some awesome speed out of our Love’s Ford Fusion. I’m really proud of the team. This thing was good from the start of the weekend. We kept working our way up towards the end and got to the top-five and almost got one there at the end, but I love Bristol. I absolutely love this race track.”
Kyle Busch dominated the first half of the race after first taking the lead on lap 23 Saturday night. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Carl Edwards started the race on the pole, but lost the lead to another JGR teammate, Hamlin, on lap one. Chase Elliott also led laps before Busch took his first lead of the race.
Busch was up front when the call came to postpone the race until Sunday because of rain after the completion of 48 laps.
Rain and lightning had already delayed the start of the race by 50 minutes. Precipitation returned on lap 31, bringing out a caution. The red flag waved, stopping the race because of the rain, after the completion of 38 laps.
Nearly and hour-and-a-half later, cars returned to the track under yellow as drying efforts were being completing. But rain returned before the race could return to green. And after 40 laps, NASCAR threw in the towel on resuming the race Saturday night.
Busch continued to run up front on Sunday and led a race-high 256 laps before a wreck around lap 360. Busch had reported a shock issue to his team and was heading to the garage for repair. The incident collected the cars of Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, and Justin Allgaier, who was filling in as a substitute driver for the ill Michael Annett in the No. 46 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet.
“It’s a shame,” Busch said. “The last few times we’ve been here, we’ve had really fast M&Ms Toyota Camrys, and we haven’t been able to finish,” Busch said. “We’ve been having parts failures here, so something we’ve got to address and fix. I’m really tired of losing races here with parts falling apart, so they’ll hear about it on Tuesday. But the person that’s really the biggest moron out there is the spotter of the 46 and the driver of the 46. I’ve been wrecking for half a lap, and they just come on through and clean us out. That’s stupid, so I don’t know — frustrating day.”
Larson already had suffered through a pit road speeding penalty before being involved in the wreck. He was collected in another wreck a few laps later when Kurt Busch spun and collected four cars, including Larson’s.
“I think I just missed the bottom groove by a few inches, got loose and the wreck was on,” Busch said. “The way that our car was restarting, it felt comfortable; it felt good. That inside with the rosin and the VHT, if you don’t hit it exactly right, you lose a lot of time. I tried to make up for it and good loose.”
Harvick took his first lead of the race on lap 286, but Kyle Busch beat him off pit road during a caution just past lap 300 to retake the lead.
Hamlin was nabbed speeding on pit road during the same caution. It was his third speed penalty of the season, most of any other Sprint Cup driver. As a result of the penalty, Hamlin restarted the race 22nd. His problems were compounded a few laps later when he had to return to pit road because of a loose wheel a few laps later. He wound up two laps down.
“We had a great car,” Hamlin said. “We definitely got it a lot better, there at the end and proud that we’re able to come back from two laps down and get a good finish out of it, but still a good, overall, day for our FedEx Express Camry. Just came up a little short.”
After Busch wrecked out of the race, Joey Logano led several laps before Harvick took over again with about 100 laps remaining. By that time, Hamlin had gotten back on the lead lap and beat Harvick off pit road to take the lead under caution a few laps later. Harvick quickly returned to the lead a few laps later and led a total of 128 laps by the checkered flag.
The yellow flag waved one final time, the eighth time of the race, with 66 laps remaining. The final caution was for more rain, but this time around, the rain was light and brief, and the race quickly resumed with Harvick up front and Hamlin in second.
Dillon temporarily took second from Hamlin as Harvick pulled away. A few laps later, though, Stenhouse and Hamlin both got by Dillon to take second and third.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, A.J. Allmendinger and Logano. Jeff Gordon finished 11th, his best finish in his four races as a substitute driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.