NASCAR » 28 April 2013
2013 Richmond NASCAR: Harvick surges through to steal win
NASCAR looked set to ruin Kyle's strategy by handing the #18 a drive-thru penalty for not meeting the rules about observing the commitment line on pit entry: "Leave it to NASCAR or someone else to make a bad decision on your behalf - right, Joe?" radioed Busch, referring to the beating that Joe Gibbs and his team had taken at the hands of NASCAR officials midweek. But it seems that miracles do happen after all: after listening to the team's arguments that no special instructions had been handed down in the pre-race driver's meeting, NASCAR rescinded the penalty - a practically unheard-of occurrence.
Others drivers including race leaders Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards preferred to nurse their track position advantage for the time being, and it turned out that there's was the wiser call: eight laps after the restart, Jimmie Johnson found himself in the middle of the pack, tangling with Tony Stewart. The #14 got loose in turn 2 and took it out on Johnson, who was tipped into a spin of his own.
"Sorry guys, it was 100 per cent my fault," Stewart radioed. "Would you please go down and tell the #48 I'm sorry?”
Kyle Busch, approaching the accident scene at some speed, sought to avoid the incident only to end up getting trapped against the inside retaining wall and hit hard by the #48. Johnson escaped with mostly cosmetic damage, but the #18 JGR car was more significantly wounded and had to make repeated calls to pit road for repairs.
While able to continue running, Kyle Busch soon went a lap down and only got the free pass back onto the lead lap in the very last caution of the race. That at least allowed him to salvage 24th place, but it was a disappointing outcome to one of his favourite, strongest venues - and an end to that four-race winning streak at Richmond in the springtime.
Most of the leaders who'd stayed out before now opted to pit, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick staying out to lead the field to the green flag; but it was a short run before the next caution, caused by a heavy crash between Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin on the backstretch that also caught up Brian Vickers. Harvick opted to pit this time around leaving Montoya in charge of things alongside Martin Truex Jr., but the latter driver got spun out at the restart by a nudge from behind from Kurt Busch that forced an immediate return to yellow once again.
"He had me hooked on the straightaway," said Truex later. "I was trying to stay up the race track, but he had me in the left rear and he was kind of driving me down the straightaway a little bit ... He had me jacked up the whole way.
"When he let off, my car got on the left rear and went straight and then I got up in the marbles and then I just had to spin it out," he continued. "It was either spin it out in the marbles or drive it straight in the fence. He just had us in a bad position and wouldn't let off the gas.
"I was going to give him the inside going into three - I had given him the whole inside the lap before that," Truex added. "I ran him hard, I ran him tight, but I gave him plenty of room. He didn't need to do that. He was driving in over his head trying to get a win I guess."
Finally the race got underway again with 51 laps to run, and Montoya was looking in top form as he started to pull away from Kurt Busch. It was easily the best performance from the Colombian in a couple of years - and not too shabby for Kurt either. However both men were nursing older tyres and vulnerable to someone making a late charge on fresher rubber. That man proved to be Kevin Harvick, who soon ousted Kurt from second spot and set his sights on hunting down the leader - but as the final laps ticked away it seemed that Harvick wasn't going to be able to make it. The biggest threat to Montoya was the prospect of a late race caution, since on his older tyres he would be easy prey at a tightly packed restart for any cars that had stopped later.
Montoya held his breath when Brad Keselowski slowed on the track with ten laps remaining: the Ford engine in the #2 had dropped a cylinder, just after the reigning Cup champion had managed to race his way back from that earlier puncture and hit against the wall. Fortunately for the Colombian, Keselowski's problems didn't bring out a yellow.
Tagged as: Brian Vickers , Kyle Busch , Marcos Ambrose , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Brad Keselowski , Juan-Pablo Montoya , Jimmie Johnson , Richmond
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