Harvick emerges from fog to claim NNS victory at Richmond
Kevin Harvick was clearly in a class of his own during the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway in a rain-delayed NASCAR Nationwide Series race that began late Friday night and ended after midnight early Saturday morning.
Harvick dominated the race, leading 202 of the 250 laps en route to his first Nationwide win of the season and the seventh of his career at Richmond. It was his 41st career victory overall in the series.
While Harvick dominated the night, his young JR Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott was never far from his back bumper. The Texas and Darlington winner did not lead a single lap, but ran second to Harvick for nearly the entire race and finished there as well.
Although he missed out on his third-straight Nationwide Series win, the young rookie continued to impress. The runner-up finish by Elliott also gave the JR Motorsports organization the first one-two finish in its 10-year history.
"Chase is just a good kid,” Harvick said. “He knows how to drive a race car. He pushes us to be better by trying different things that we’ve kind of been in our groove to do through the years .. He’s as good as they get, and a lot of fun to be around."
Coming home second, Elliott apologized to his crew for not getting the win.
"We were just a little tight right in the middle of the corner and I just think he out-drove me a little bit, honestly," the 18-year-old rookie said. "Some of it was me. I kind of let him get too far in front of me there the first few laps, but I don’t know. Just need to get up on the wheel a little harder next time if we get in that situation again."
With Regan Smith finishing eighth, all three JR Motorsports cars finished inside the top 10.
The race finally got underway after a lengthy delay for severe storms, but once the green flag flew, teams were forced to deal with a heavy layer of fog that settled over the track.
The teams fought through the thick fog, tight short-track traffic and severe tire wear for much of the night. In all though, the race was slowed only five times for a total of 36 laps, and saw five lead changes among four different drivers.
The night saw three major incidents that brought out the yellow flag.
The first took place early in the going when Tanner Berryhill slowed on the backstretch, causing a stack-up behind him. Kevin Lepage got the worst of the deal, as his No. 87 was hit from the outside and sent hard into the inside wall.
Dylan Kwasniewski’s night went from bad to worse when contact from Ryan Reed sent him hard into the outside wall on Lap 189. Kwasniewski’s No. 31 Chevrolet had already been into the outside wall after racing hard with James Buescher earlier in the race, but the contact on Lap 189 ended the rookie’s night early.
"The first time, we got moved up into the wall by the 99 (Buescher). I don’t know why he drove us in there. We got damage from that," Kwasniewski said. "But yeah, (then) we got flat-out dumped. I don’t know what else to say. The 16 (Reed) just put us in the wall and then turned us back around. I knew we had a good piece … It’s a shame we get dumped like that, but no respect for the driver, that’s just what he drives like.”
The final caution of the night flew immediately after a restart on Lap 204, when Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith got together and spun entering Turn 1. Despite previous incidents during the 2013 season, Sadler chalked the wreck up to a chain reaction on the restart.
"I spun the tires a little bit and Kyle (Busch) put me three-wide," Sadler said. "I think Trevor (Bayne) got into the back of Regan and hit him, then he hit me and we all spun. Just lucky nobody hit us."
Next week the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway for the Aaron’s 312.