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Harvick thrives while Johnson and Kenseth merely survive

Kansas can be a make-or-break Chase race: this year Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch came out on top, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth escaped serious harm, but Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman took big hits.
Kevin Harvick led the field to the green flag for the start of the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday afternoon, and three and a half hours later he crossed the finish line over a second clear of Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon to clinch the chequered flag, having led for over half the race and for more than twice as long as anyone else managed in the 267-lap event.

Draw a straight line between those two moments and you might think this was a dull affair, with Harvick dominating throughout and little happening all day. That would not, however, be an entirely accurate picture.

"It was just a crazy day," was Jimmie Johnson's view. "There were weird restarts, wacky restarts, a lot of chaos there. Then caution after caution for who knows what."

The drivers had arrived at Kansas knowing that things might get a little interesting, thanks to a fast, slick track that was repaved just last year, and an innovative new tyre compound design from Goodyear designed to help make racing on the 1.5-mile speedway more interesting. It certainly did that, right from lap 1, when Danica Patrick found that her services were no longer required after she lost control of the #10 in turn 2, collecting the cars of David Reutimann and Cole Whitt in the process.

"All I can say is, I didn't try to do anything. I just found myself sideways in the middle of the corner and that was it," she said. "I just was looking forward to having a good day and it's over with within a matter of feet," she sighed, adding: "I'm really sorry. I'm really bummed."

Also involved in the incident was Kyle Busch, who had been forced to start at the back of the field on Sunday after a practice crash forced him into the backup car. His brother Kurt was in the same position, but the Furniture Row Racing #78 avoided the first lap accident which forced Kyle to dive low onto the apron leaving him concerned about splitter damage which needed to be checked out on pit road.

The race resumed on lap 10 and Harvick continued to lead through to the second caution on lap 43 for a tyre going down on Michael McDowell's car. Harvick won the race off pit road which saw everyone opt for two tyres, and took point once more at the restart on lap 48 followed by a trio of Hendrick cars consisting of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Eventually they wore down the leader and Harvick was passed first by Johnson and then Earnhardt before the next caution on lap 88 for debris in turn 3.

This was not good news for Harvick who had just made a pit stop under green, or for Johnson who was just inches from pit road when the caution came out and who as a consequence now found himself down in 17th position for the restart which saw Matt Kenseth edge past Earnhardt to take the lead. Harvick meanwhile was mired in in the pack, the dominating pace the #29 had shown while out in front for 80 of the first 82 laps now completely absent, leaving him fearing for the worst.

"In traffic, the car was tight," he said. "[The crew] kept me calm because I was starting to get a little wound up because I knew we had a real fast car out front. It was just a matter of getting there because track position was so important.




Related Pictures

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Kevin Harvick, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #29 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kurt Busch, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finished 3rd Sunday, October 6, 2013 in the Hollywood Casino 400 race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Harvick is 3rd, Busch is 7th, and Gordon is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #29 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won Sunday, October 6, 2013 in the Hollywood Casino 400 race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Harvick is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Cole Whitt, driver of the #30 Swan Energy Toyota, David Reutimann, driver of the #83 Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota, and Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 13th Annual Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 6, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
The #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet of Danica Patrick is towed to the garage after an on-track incident on the first lap of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 13th Annual Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 6, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 13th Annual Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 6, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, races to the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 13th Annual Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 6, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brian Scott. (Picture Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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)
Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Team battled back from a bad re-start after the first caution of the race to finish 17th in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo Credit: Campbell Marketing)
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)
A general view as cars pit during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via 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)

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