Last week at the Auto Club Speedway, Kevin Harvick only led one lap on his way to victory.
This week, Kevin Harvick led six laps, including the last four, as he took his second win in a row at Goody’s Fast Relief 500 in Martinsville.
The win marks the 16th win of Harvick’s Sprint Cup career and his first ever at Martinsville Speedway.
“Just an awesome day,” Harvick said in victory lane. “I didn’t think we had the car to do that and we came back up through there. We took those two tires there and that seemed to wake up us.
“Everybody on this team has done an awesome job. When they told me I was the quickest, I didn’t believe them till I got up to the front there.”
Harvick took the win after passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead with four to go.
“It was fun racing Dale Jr. there,” Harvick continued. “I hate to be the bad guy, but we’re in it to win it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading the race after bumping Kyle Busch for the lead with 21 to go.
“I tried to put together some laps there but the back of the car wasn’t in the back of the track enough,” Earnhardt said. “The 29 was coming and there wasn’t much I could do. Got a little loose into one, wanted to do a little cross over move and when I got into three, I wanted to get the nose in there. I didn’t want to get into him too much as I got into Kyle already while we were racing for the lead. We came close, but we didn’t get there.
Earnhardt found himself in contention after taking two tires on an earlier pit stop while the leaders took four.
“We had a top 10 car there,” Earnhardt said. “Steve did some awesome strategy to get up there. That’s basically what got us there. We had a car that ran good for 15 laps and hopefully allowed me to get the jump there.”
Kyle Busch, meanwhile, finished third after being involved in the race for the lead all day.
“Just didn’t have a short run car today,” Busch said. “Unfortunate, as the car was awesome. Had a great car on the long run and we didn’t get a long run there.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, who got up there with the same strategy as Earnhardt, finished fourth while Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five. Matt Kenseth finished sixth, followed by pole sitter Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin.
Tire issues were seen throughout the day, involving David Gilliland, Dave Blaney, Hermie Sadler, and Trevor Bayne.
The major wreck of the day, however, happened on lap 221 when Martin Truex Jr. plowed into Kasey Kahne and the wall after his throttle hung up. The wreck resulted in a thirty minute red flag to clean up the wreck and fix the safer barrier.
“Our biggest problem is we got behind at the start,” Kahne said. “The handling went away as the track started to take rubber and we got caught back in there. Once I got hit, that was where I knew the throttle or something had stuck on Martin’s car as he drove me through the wall. Hopefully we can salvage something.”
“Again, thanks to NASCAR and all the guys who build safer barriers and everything,” Truex said. “10 years ago, I wouldn’t be here; so I’m thankful for that. The NAPA Auto Parts crew on working hard on this car as we were working at it today. Kasey helped my car slow down. It was kind of a blessing that he was there.”
Following the caution, two more cautions came out back-to-back involving multiple cars.
On lap 232, Harvick made it three-wide as Brian Vickers squeezes up into Kurt Busch, sending him flying into the curb and then into Bobby Labonte. Dave Blaney and Joey Logano spun behind them.
Then on lap 241, Paul Menard spun thanks to contact from Brad Keselowski, collecting Michael McDowell and Casey Mears.
With his third place finish, Busch took the points lead, five points over Carl Edwards and 12 points over Jimmie Johnson. Johnson fought back to 11th after a speeding penalty while Edwards finished 18th.