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Harvick wins night of high drama and tempers

Kevin Harvick bounced back from a flat summer to claim his fourth win of the season, on a night of nerve-wracking tension as Chase positions were fixed and tempers flared.
Kevin Harvick claimed victory in the "Wonderful Pistachios 400" Saturday night race at Richmond International Raceway - with perhaps just a little conveniently timed help from his Richard Childress Racing team mate Paul Menard.

David Reutimann had qualified in pole but when it came to the green flag at just before 8pm, it was Jamie McMurray who got the better start off the front row to take the lead. It was a short-lived run before Andy Lally hit the wall on turn 4 on the second three-quarter mile lap. Fortunately it didn't collect anyone else: the last thing any of the tense contenders for undecided Chase positions needed at this point was to get involved in a huge multi-car wreck that could see them written out of the battle.

But a huge multi-car wreck involving Chase contenders was exactly what happened at the next restart on lap 8: and it was Clint Bowyer, the driver who desperately needed a win to have a chance of a wildcard spot, who sparked it when he spun while running side-by-side with Reutimann. Another Chase contender on the knife-edge, Dale Earnhardt Jr., then ploughed into Bowyer; and another driver in an even more precarious Chase position, Denny Hamlin, then slammed into the wall trying to avoid the situation. In total, 13 cars got caught up in the wreck.

Somewhat miraculously, none of the Chase hopefuls were actually written off by the crash - not even Hamlin, who had sustained the most damage. "This car is absolutely destroyed," said Hamlin. "Any other race track, we would be down 20 laps, but they just worked on it. It's amazing how fast they got this car, considering the circumstances." Hamlin was helped by the extended yellow for the clean-up, and then three rapid cautions coming between lap 27 and 51.

The first of these was for Kasey Kahne hitting the wall; the second involved Dale Earnhardt Jr. again, this time with the #88 getting into the rear of Marcos Ambrose; and then on lap 51 it was back to Kahne as he had an even more emphatic encounter first with the outside and then with the inside wall, after running three-wide with Ambrose and Kahne's Red Bull team mate Brian Vickers. Vickers made the team sentiment about where the blame lay clear when he then proceeded to exact retribution on the #9 under the ensuing caution by wrecking him and then blocking his entrance onto pit road.

"What can I say? The #9 wrecked us. Both of us," said Vickers.

Kahne didn't even see what had happened to end his day. "I just know that I was on the outside going into the straightaway and then I just started to turn in and then the #83 hit me pretty hard,” he said. "He got hit by someone else, but I haven't seen it so I don't know what exactly happened. It was kind of a weird deal."

"Not a good day for the Red Bull cars," added Vickers.

All of which had been music to Hamlin's ears, as it gave him enough caution laps to get the car duct-taped back together again, and he also benefited from a free pass to get back onto the lead lap. Meanwhile, McMurray had lost the lead to Jimmie Johnson on lap 20, who kept it through to the pit stops under the latest caution which allowed Matt Kenseth to take to the front. He kept the lead at the restart after a battle with Kurt Busch, while behind them the fight for third was between Brad Keselowski, David Ragan and Kevin Harvick. Harvick won that battle and then made his way to the front on lap 74, and he kept the lead for the next 82 laps.

That period included two more cautions - one on lap 116 for Mike Bliss hitting the wall after a tyre went down, and another on lap 152 when Earnhardt delivered some street justice on Travis Kvapil for some earlier contact, sending the #38 into the wall at turn 2. Saved from being lapped again, Earnhardt was nonetheless still a lap down and should have received the free pass at this point, but having triggered the caution he was not allowed to benefit from it.

"I think we were racing for the Lucky Dog, and two or three times I got a run on him on the outside - obviously the hard way to pass- and he chopped me a couple times," said Kvapil, explaining the events that led up to the wreck. "So I gave him a tap at the start-finish line, and next time by he let me go and then he just wrecked me. It's just frustrating. Obviously neither one of us was having a very good night, so it just made both of our night's worse."

"The [expletive] deserved it, and he knows it," was Dale's succinct summary of the situation.


by Andrew Lewin



Related Pictures

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Coors Light Pole Award winner David Reutimann (#00) leads the field to the American Ethanol Green Flag at the start of the final race before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway. [Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Leading 122 of the first 200 laps, Kevin Harvick puts Dale Earnhardt Jr. a lap down during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Wonderful Pistachios 400 on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway. [Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images]
Jimmie Johnson spins out after being tapped by Kurt Busch before the midpoint of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway. [Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kevin Harvick takes his fourth win of the season as Carl Edwards gets sideways for second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Wonderful Pistachios 400 on Saturday at Richmond International Raceway. [Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
A 13-car accident in Turn 4 brought out the second caution of the night on lap 9 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway. [Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images]
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, lead a group of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, climbs from his car after being involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 6, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #98 Carroll Shelby Engine Ford, and Elliott Sadler, driver of the #11 SportClips Toyota, spin out during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Gilliland, driver of the #38 Love`s Travel Stops Ford, poses with Ms. Coors Light, Rachel Rupert, after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 4, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS, qualified fifth Friday, July 4, 2014 for Saturday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Johnson is 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Gilliland smiles in his garage on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. after turning the fastest lap in final practice for Sunday`s Daytona 500. Gilliland turned a lap of 200.138 mph. [Picture Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR]
David Gilliland at Daytona on February 17, 2014 (Photo Credit:  NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Kroger/P&G Chevrolet, lead the field on a late restart during the NASCAR Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Kroger/P&G Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Kroger/P&G Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Kroger/P&G Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, left, talks with Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway on June 27, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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