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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



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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]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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