Stats on green-white-checkered finishes; Almirola on the move; plus more
When a race runs into overtime, Kevin Harvick shifts into overdrive.
The Richard Childress Racing driver did it again, winning a green-white-checkered finish in the April 27 Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. It marked the sixth time Harvick has won when a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race has been extended beyond its scheduled distance.
Harvick bolstered his series-leading percentage of quality passes -- passing a car running in the top 15 while under a green flag -- to 76.9 percent.
Harvick’s surprising charge to the front –- he was seventh when the green flag appeared for the final two-lap shootout -- capped a furious late-race shuffle that saw some unexpected names up front contending for the win. Not so unexpected was the close-quarters, roughhouse racing that resurfaced on the 0.75-mile track.
“When you can leave a race track and there's people in tears because they won and (people) in tears because they got crashed, you know, that's what brings us to the race track,” said runner-up Clint Bowyer. “That kind of racing and determination and passion.”
Win totals by Sprint Cup drivers in green-white-checkered finishes:
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2|
• Dependable: Although Juan Pablo Montoya hadn’t posted a top-five finish in his previous 74 starts (dating back to 2011), the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver appeared en route to his first victory on an oval at Richmond. A crash by Brian Vickers with five laps remaining altered the Colombian’s fate, however. “I don’t believe we can win it staying out,” Montoya told crew chief Chris Heroy when the yellow flag waved. “I know we want the win, but we need the points. … You make the call.”
Heroy brought his driver to pit road for four tires, a move that put Montoya sixth on the final restart when three drivers elected to stay out and two others opted for only two tires. Montoya improved two spots during the two-lap shootout and ended the night with a well-deserved fourth-place finish.
• Gamblin’ man: Jeff Burton, one of three drivers that didn’t pit under the final caution, inherited the top spot for the final restart. Without fresh tires, though, Burton found himself being passed on the left and the right as the final two laps unfolded. Still, the Richard Childress Racing driver held on for fifth, his first top-five since last year’s July race at Daytona. “Luke (Lambert, crew chief) made a good call there, and obviously new tires (were) a lot better,” Burton said. “We were going to maybe finish sixth without the caution so to pick up a spot from it was worth a shot."
• Spring streak snapped: Kyle Busch, winner of four consecutive spring Cup races at RIR, lost his shot to extend the streak to five when he was collected in an accident involving Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson on Lap 327. The 24th-place finish came on the heels of a 38th-place result the previous week at Kansas.
4: Races missed by Denny Hamlin while recovering from a back injury. Tenth in points before his injury, Hamlin is now 28th and 71 outside the top 20. Only drivers 20th or higher in points are eligible for one of the two Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Wild Card positions.
3: Consecutive top-10 finishes for Aric Almirola and the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team. Almirola, 11th in points, has improved nine positions in the last five races.
2: Finishes outside the top 10 for defending series champion Brad Keselowski in 2013. The Penske Racing driver struggled to a 33rd-place result at Richmond. Earlier this year, he finished 23rd at Auto Club Speedway.
1: Lead-lap finishes for Landon Cassill and No. 33 Circle Sport team. Cassill finished 25th Saturday, one of 26 drivers to complete all 406 laps.
Still in the picture: The 50-point penalty levied against Matt Kenseth dropped the Joe Gibbs Racing driver outside the top 10 in points; however, his win at Las Vegas keeps him in contention for one of the two Wild Card positions. Kenseth improved to 13th with a seventh-place finish at Richmond.
Battle at the bottom: Competition at the lower end of the top 10 in the standings continues to remain tight. Harvick’s victory launched the RCR driver into the top 10 (he’s now ninth) while teammate Paul Menard’s 13th-place run dropped him from ninth to 10th. Less fortunate was Jamie McMurray, whose late-race fall pushed the EGR driver from 10th to 12th in points.
Wild-Card hopeful: Kurt Busch took a big step forward for one of the two Wild Card spots with his ninth-place run, a result that pushed the Furniture Row Racing driver into the top 20 in points. Busch will need one or more wins to solidify his Chase hopes, but given the speed the team showed at Richmond, it might be wise to keep an eye on the 2004 Cup champion.
Fresh is best: Harvick was running second to Montoya when crew chief Gil Martin called Harvick to pit road with less than five laps remaining. Seventh on the restart, Harvick used his inside position and four fresh tires to jump under Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger and eventually Jeff Burton to grab the lead and drive away for the win. “That restart … that was vintage Kevin Harvick. That was a really, really exciting,” Martin said afterward.
Quote of the week: “I think the penalties are grossly unfair. I think it's borderline shameful.” | Watch video
-- Matt Kenseth, responding to NASCAR’s laundry list of penalties for the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team.
Runner-up: “I'm going to have to see if @SparcoOfficial can sew cups into my racesuits to protect my jewels.”
| Watch Video
-- Nationwide Series driver Brian Scott on Twitter after getting kicked in the groin by Nelson Piquet Jr. during a post-race altercation.
Honorable mention I: “I did not piss anybody off tonight. Holy crap.” | Watch Video
-- Joey Logano, on surviving a typically wild night of racing at Richmond without incident.
Honorable mention II: “A little bit disappointed, but that's the way it goes on short tracks I guess. I'll remember if we get in that position again what I'll do to Kurt."
-– Martin Truex Jr., after contact with Busch while batting for second took the Michael Waltrip Racing driver out of contention on Lap 345.
NASCAR Cup teams head to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for the season’s second restrictor-plate race. Keselowski is the defending race winner. Kenseth was surprisingly strong on the plate tracks a year ago, but now that he has joined JGR, can he continue that impressive showing? Or will points leader Jimmie Johnson, who began the year with a victory at Daytona International Speedway, continue to excel?
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