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Harvick dominates Nationwide night race at Richmond

Kevin Harvick claimed victory after leading for most of Friday night's Nationwide Series race, thwarting team mate Chase Elliott's hopes of a hat-trick.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings

Kevin Harvick claimed victory on Friday night - or more accurately, early on Saturday morning - after leading for all but one of the last 203 laps of the rain-delayed ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway. It was the 38-year-old's 41st victory in 307 NASCAR Nationwide Series races, but only his first of 2014.

"We got a little off on one set of tires with our adjustments but kept it up there," said Harvick in victory lane. "Thanks to Hendrick engines, JR Motorsports, [crew chief] Ernie Cope and all of these guys. It's been awesome all year."

It had been Joe Gibbs Racing's Brian Scott who led at the start, having won pole position in the afternoon qualifying session that was completed just before the rain storms arrived that forced the cancellation of the corresponding qualifying session for the Sprint Cup Series. The rain delayed the start of the Nationwide event for over three hours until the rain had stopped and the Air Titans successfully won the day and finished drying the three-quarter mile track in time to start the race shortly after 10pm local time.

There was an immediate yellow for Kevin LePage getting bumped into the inside wall while racing a pack of cars through turn 2 on lap 4, but once the race resumed it ran through to the planned competition caution on lap 42 without further incident, Scott maintained the lead through that period but Harvick has been inexorably climbing up from his ninth place grid position and was close to passing Scott when the scheduled yellow materialised; once the race returned to green flag conditions, Harvick quickly sealed the deal and took the lead on lap 48 with his JR Motorsports team mate Chase Elliott following him through and taking up second spot as his wingman.

That was effectively it as far as the battle for the race lead went: Harvick would only be away from the front for a single lap, during green flag pit stops on lap 132, but otherwise had the race sown up. For the most of that time Elliott remained glued to him in second place but hopes that the 18-year-old rookie would be able to extend his recent winning streak to a hat-trick were confounded by Harvick's total domination. The third member of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Nationwide team, Regan Smith, was also rarely away from the leading pack although he had drifted back to eighth place by the end of the 250-lap race.

The race ran for 104 uninterrupted laps following the competition caution during which time Harvick's lead over the rest of the field stretched to eight seconds before a yellow for debris in turn 4 on lap 151; after that there were two further cautions, the first on lap 189 for a turn 4 crash involving Dylan Kwasniewski following contact with Ryan Reed; and the second at the restart on lap 197 when a sluggish Elliott Sadler spun out after contact with Smith in turn 1.

None of this affected Harvick's grip on the race, and just under two hours after the race had finally been able to get underway it was time for the chequered flag to fall shortly after midnight and for JR Motorsport to claim its fourth win of the season and an emphatic one-two for Harvick and Elliott ahead of Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Brian Scott, with Sadler rallying from that restart misfortune to hold on to sixth place ahead of Chris Buescher.

"Honestly, Chase is a good kid and he knows how to drive a race car," Harvick said after the race. "He's as good as they get and a lot of fun to be around.

"He pushes us to be better by trying different things [from what we've been used to doing] through the years. The groove getting into Turn 1 - I had to change my groove tonight and change my car because it was different."

"I've just got to get up on the wheel a little harder the next time we're in that situation," said Elliott. "I think he just out-drove me a little bit. Honestly, I felt like some of it was me. I just let him get a little too far out in front of me there on the first few laps."

As the highest-placed Nationwide Series regular in the race, Elliott extends his lead in the championship standings to 19 points over Smith who saw his own margin over Sadler cut to just four points.

Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings



Related Pictures

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Air-Titan 2.0 track dryers run during a rain delay for the NASCAR Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway on April 25, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Brian Scott, driver of the #2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet, and Dylan Kwasniewski, driver of the #31 Rockstar Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway on April 25, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Tide Chevrolet, celebrates with team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway in the early morning hours of April 26, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
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