Kevin Harvick notches second Cup Series win in eight days at Richmond
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
Now he has two victories in the past eight days.
Harvick led the final 48 laps Sunday at Richmond Raceway to become the first back-to-back winner of the NASCAR Cup season as he rode the momentum from his Michigan victory a week ago.
The victory came thanks to a late surge that had Harvick’s car coming to life and foiling strong days by Joey Logano (222 laps led), who faded to sixth, and Christopher Bell and Chris Buescher, who threatened but settled for second and third.
"The cars have been running good week in and week out, and you see that we have a lot better understanding of what's going on with how we adjusted on the car after the first run and were able to get our car handling a lot better," the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said.
Here are three takeaways from Richmond:
Buescher, Bell and Hamlin come up short
Buescher’s previous best at Richmond was 15th, yet there he was, challenging Harvick for the lead with about 35 laps remaining. He ran so hard that his tires faded near the end of the race, and he wound up third.
Buescher entered the race needing to win one of the three final regular-season races to make the playoffs.
"It's a little easy with this format to feel like third place doesn't matter, but it's nice to be close and to keep progressing and getting better as we've gotten through the summer," he said.
Bell was coming fast with a little bit fresher tires but couldn't catch Harvick, and Denny Hamlin was fourth after a slow final pit stop.
"They’re all great athletes, and most of them are veterans," Hamlin said of his pit crew. "They had a 90 percent day. Nine out of 10 stops were great. It was just the last one that we needed to be good was the extra long one.
"You lose by 3.8 seconds, and you have a pit stop four-to-five seconds too long, that’s the difference between winning and losing."
Blaney holds serve on Truex
With Harvick being a repeat winner, there have been 15 winners with two races left in the regular season (Watkins Glen and Daytona). That will leave, at most, one spot in the 16-driver playoff field for a winless driver on points.
Ryan Blaney, who is second overall in the standings but winless, finished 10th Sunday but was strong enough in the first two stages to increase his points total over seventh-place Martin Truex Jr. from 19 to 26.
Richmond generally would have been considered Truex’s best chance among the final three races to win.
"You never know what can happen," Blaney said. "You could have a bad day next week or the next two weeks. You could have a new winner one of those weeks. You just never know. I don’t feel better or worse about it.
"It’s just one race down. I’m proud of the effort we had, and then try to do the same thing next week."
Elliott still confused
Chase Elliott started 23rd and finished fifth Sunday.
Where did he improve from where he was in qualifying to where he finished the race? Elliott wasn’t so sure.
"We started the race, and our car actually drove really good," Elliott said. "I was pretty pleased with it. Our car started driving worse there toward the end, and we kept moving forward. So I’m just confused here. I don’t understand what it takes to go fast and be successful at this racetrack."
Elliott needs to earn four points in the next two races (a 33rd-place finish is four points) to clinch the regular-season title.
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!