TALLADEGA, Ala.—In a race that set NASCAR Sprint Cup Series records for the number of leaders (29) and lead changes (88)—and fanned the flames of the increasingly combustible rivalry between teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon—Kevin Harvick broke a 115-race winless streak in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Less than a week after sponsor Shell/Pennzoil announced its departure from Harvick's No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet at the end of the season, Harvick won his first points race in the series since his first event in Shell colors—the 2007 Daytona 500.
In the third and final attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish, Harvick pushed 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray for all but the final quarter-mile of the final lap before surging past McMurray to the inside and beating the No. 1 Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevy to the line by .011 seconds.
“It really played out perfect for us today,” said Harvick, who won for the 12th time in the Cup series and for the first time at Talladega. “We had a plan to ride around in the back, wait 'til 50 laps to go and really push forward after that.
“Our sponsor's leaving us, and the best part about it is that they can leave while we're winning. That's the best part of the whole thing.”
The victory, in a race extended 12 laps beyond its scheduled distance of 188 laps, was the first for RCR since Jeff Burton won Oct. 11, 2008 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Juan Pablo Montoya, who like McMurray was short on fuel at the end of the race, finished third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin.
The first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish ended early when Joey Logano turned Ryan Newman while bump-drafting in Turn 3 and ignited a nine-car accident. The second attempt eliminated Johnson and took a major bite out of his lead in the series standings after he turned across the nose of Greg Biffle's Ford and careened into the inside wall.
The real buzz, however, centered on a Lap 182 incident that, for the second straight week, saw Johnson and Gordon bang fenders and enflame emotions.
The accident started when Johnson blocked Gordon in Turn 3, and contact between the cars forced Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet onto the apron below the yellow line that delineates the no-passing zone at restrictor-plate superspeedways.