Kevin Harvick chugs a celebratory beer after winning the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway. It’s the 60th Cup win of his career.
What losing streak?
A week after snapping a 65-race winless skid in the NASCAR Cup Series, Kevin Harvick rallied for his second consecutive victory in Sunday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway.
Harvick, 46, held off the hard-charging Toyota of Christopher Bell for a 0.441-second victory.
“We’re just going to keep doing the things that we’re doing,” Harvick said after leading 55 laps. “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.”
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It was the 60th Cup Series victory for Harvick, who tied Kyle Busch for ninth all-time.
Next on the list? Dale Earnhardt (76), the driver Harvick replaced at Richard Childress Racing in 2001 when Earnhardt was killed on a last-lap crash in the season-opening Daytona 500.
“When you start mentioning the names that are on the top of that list, it’s pretty special to be a part of those names, and I don’t I don’t take that for granted,” Harvick said. “... It’s easy to say, I want to win 70-some races or be close, or win 60. And then you start doing this on a week to week basis. And that’s the hardest thing, especially I see it a lot in today’s world coming out of the Xfinity series and see these guys winning a lot of races.
“I tell Keelan [Harvick’s 10-year-old son], ‘You’re a go-kart racer. When you want to go big boy race, you go Cup racing.’ And it’s just a lot harder because everybody in this garage is just a killer, right? From the crew chief to the drivers to the guys changing the tires. It’s the best of the best, and it’s just not easy to keep your team and everybody within your organization competitive, keep yourself competitive.
“It’s just hard. So we work as hard as anybody. We put in a lot of time.”
Two weeks ago, as Harvick left Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he was on the outside of the 16-driver playoff field. Now, the 46-year-old driver enters the postseason with more momentum than anyone else.
Harvick slowly wore down the Ford of Joey Logano over the final stage before pulling to the outside to grab the lead on Lap 334. Logano led a race-high 222 laps but faded in the final 50 laps to finish sixth.
The weekend began with 15 drivers locked into the playoffs, and that remained the case with the repeat winner.
Ryan Blaney finished 10th and retains the final playoff spot by 26 points over Martin Truex Jr., with regular-season races at Watkins Glen and Daytona remaining.
Truex had won three of the past six races at Richmond, and he was hoping to do so again to punch his ticket to this year’s playoffs. However, his Toyota made contact during the second stage with the Chevrolet of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who misjudged the entrance to pit road during an attempted green-flag stop. The collision and accompanying damage knocked Truex off the lead lap. Though he was able to unlap himself and rallied to finish seventh, his best chance of advancing may have evaporated.
Rounding out the top five were Chris Buescher, Manchester High alumnus Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott.
Buescher reached the back bumper of Harvick while the Fords were navigating through lapped traffic, but he was never able to get around the winner.
Hamlin won his fourth race at his hometown track in April, but a recurring storyline kept him from a season sweep.
During the final pit stop, his jackman had to lift up his car twice because a front tire wasn’t fastened when the jack dropped the first time. Hallman rallied to finish fourth.
“I mean, I can’t go do it myself, and those guys are way more athletic and better than I am,” said Hamlin of his pit crew problems. His team entered the weekend with 31 pit-road penalties, most in the Cup Series. “It just takes time and reps, and I’ve got faith that my guys will get it figured out.”
Added Hamlin: “They’ve just got to clean it up. They’ve just got to get reps and, you know, the good news is we didn’t leave a tire loose there. I saw the hiccup happening, but it’s just big-time auto racing. I wish the bad pit stops would be early in the race instead of on the last stop every week, but it is what it is and we’ll just suck it up and go on to the next one.”
Sunday’s race encapsulated the season for breakout star Ross Chastain. The two-time winner this year won the first stage, but his on-track battle with Kyle Busch spun Busch’s Toyota and damaged Chastain’s Chevrolet.
Busch recovered to finish ninth, but Chastain finished two laps down in 18th.
Harvick was blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding behind him.
“Yeah, I don’t know what you’re referring to as far as the chippiness,” Harvick said when asked about it. “You know for us up front, we had good track position. ... I think we did have a couple of cautions where they’re running over each other.”
Then he quipped: “Okay, well, I’m glad we weren’t involved in that.”
Bubba Wallace, who had car co-owner Michael Jordan atop his pit box Sunday at Richmond, finished 13th. That snapped Wallace’s streak of top-10 finishes at four races.
The series heads to Watkins Glen International for Sunday’s road course race before ending the regular season at Daytona International Speedway.