"As I came down pit road for that first stop the track bar mount broke and the rear end basically without that track bar mount just flip-flops around, so I just tried to nurse it back to the garage," he described afterwards. "It's unfortunate because we had high hopes, but this is part of what happens when you race - things break."
Realising that pitting at this point would demote him deep into the field for no strategic advantage, Harvick had little choice but to tough it out at the front but his worn tyres made him easy prey for both Ambrose and Busch to pass him at the restart on lap 38; before anyone else could try it, the race was again under caution, this time for a multiple-car accident in the run up the hill to turn 4 that caught up Travis Kvapil, Ron Fellows, Tomy Drissi, Landon Cassill and Victor Gonzalez Jr. Not only was there a serious debris field, Gonzalez also went on to dump a load of fuel on the track to further extend the amount of clean-up required, which forced track officials to put out a 22 minute red flag; the cars still running were parked appropriately enough in the bus stop chicane while the clean-up ensued using a ton of quick-dry in the affected area.
Ambrose resumed in the lead ahead of Busch with Harvick pitting from third on lap 51, putting him back in 33rd place 45 seconds off the leader after the second of his off-sync stops. It wasn't long before the other leaders started to came in - Busch showing up on pit road on lap 59 - but that difference was still enough to keep Harvick outside the range of making it home without another splash and dash. However, things were about to get interesting: even as Busch was sauntering his way down to his pit stall, AJ Allmendinger was slow on track after pushing his fuel too far and RPM's Aric Almirola came to a more emphatic halt in the turn 5 tyre wall after suffering a blow-out, bringing out the fifth caution of the day.
"We just blew a right-front tyre," said Almirola. "A few laps before that the car in front of me ran off the road and kicked up some grass and I think some grass got on the grille and our brakes probably got hot and probably just melted a bead.
"We were getting ready to pit that lap, that's the unfortunate part," he added. "We had every intention of coming to pit road and the right-front tire blew. There's not much we can do about that."
Ambrose and Montoya were among those now having to wait and make their final pit stop of the day under caution now that the field had been closed up. Kevin Harvick also came in for that top-up he needed while the yellow was in the offing, and a number of drivers including Greg Biffle, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman were cited for pitting while pit road was still officially closed and duly sent to the back of the lead lap. That changed the complexion of the race which was turned on its head for the restart on lap 64, which saw the very fortunate Kyle Busch take point ahead of Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards, while Montoya beat Ambrose off pit road and took the green in 11th place.
A fierce and physical clash between the two Toyota drivers at the front of the field saw Busch hold on to the top spot, while Truex paid for his ambition by losing second place to Keselowski. "That was fun, interesting," said Busch of his battle with Truex. "I thought I could out-brake him, but then he broke the same as I did. I was like, well, this is going to be fun. We banged off each other a little bit there, but no harm, no foul, and kept going."
Further back, Montoya and Ambrose were finding it hard to work their way back through traffic, with Casey Mears proving particularly problematic until finally body-slammed by Ambrose through the bus stop chicane; Mears took out his frustrations by subsequently spinning the #31 of Jeff Burton out of 16th place on lap 74; that didn't bring out a caution, but a blown tyre for Kvapil on lap 78 did - much to the race leader's annoyance, Kyle Busch already looking marginal on fuel should the race go extra-distance in a green-white-chequered finish. The latest caution prompted many of the cars outside the top 12 to gamble on an extra fuel stop in precisely the hope that the leaders would run dry, although surprisingly Harvick wasn't one of those tempted to come in for a extra gas and fresh tyres.
When the race resumed on lap 71 there were just ten regular laps remaining and Busch led Keselowski, Truex, Bowyer, Edwards and Kurt Busch to the line, but the green lasted only a matter of seconds before the caution flags were out again: Matt Kenseth had been battling Marcos Ambrose for position and had tapped the #9 before then making heavier contact with Kasey Kahne, who spun in the Esses as a result and got viscously collected by his Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. before also involving Jeff Burton, Alex Kennedy and David Ragan in the aftermath.
"The #20 was going after the #9 and missed him or got him a little bit," sighed Earnhardt. "I don't know if the #9 ended up wrecking or not, but ended up knocking the #5 out of the race and knocked ourselves out of the race and a couple of other guys."