BRISTOL, Tenn. – After a nearly 24-hour wait, Kevin Harvick celebrated his second career win at Bristol Motor Speedway in classic old-school fashion Sunday evening.
To the delight of a hearty group of fans, Harvick executed a long burnout in conjunction with his car owner Tony Stewart on the front stretch before grabbing the massive trophy for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
“We should have won a lot of races this year, but we just had things not go our way,” said Harvick, who qualified 24th Friday. “We made mistakes, or whatever the case may be. But to get back into Victory Lane here at Bristol feels really good. We’ve had some good cars here over the last few years.”
The last win for Harvick at Bristol came in the 2005 spring race.
Harvick executed the move of the long day on lap 430, pulling off a daring pass of leader and two-time defending race champ Joey Logano. Harvick then dominated the final 71 laps.
Driving a tribute car to dirt racer Bryan Clauson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. held off Denny Hamlin to grab second place and tie his top career finish. Stenhouse will attend a memorial service for the popular Clauson, who died from injuries sustained in a crash during the Aug. 8 Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas.
“We really wanted to get this Bryan Clauson tribute car in Victory Lane. It just wasn’t meant to be today,” Stenhouse said.
In his furious charge to the front, Stenhouse somehow rallied from being two laps down.
“We missed some wrecks and gave it all we had,” Stenhouse said. “I thought we were matching the [Harvick] car there lap for lap, but he got away from us and we had to restart sixth there on that last restart.
“This place was pretty packed [Saturday] night. Thanks to all the fans that were able to stay around. I thought the track was really good. You could run the bottom. You could run the top. We just wanted one more spot.”
It was the fourth top-10 finish in eight races for Stenhouse at Bristol.
Austin Dillon and rookie Chris Buescher rounded out the top five. With his steady performance, Buescher improved his chances for nailing down one of the 16 spots into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I don’t know exactly where we’re at quite yet, but I know we had to get there,” Buescher said. “That’s Chase eligibility in one race out of the four we had to do it. Now, we have to hold onto it. We’ve got some really good tracks for us coming up. We knew Bristol would be a good one for us.”
After the race was postponed by rain late Saturday night, action was scheduled to resume at 1 p.m. Sunday. But another round of rain pushed the start time back to 4:42.
Kyle Busch took control from the green flag, opening a nearly two-second lead when action was halted for a competition caution. Busch was also in the lead when the race was stopped Saturday night.
Thirty-five cars were on the lead lap at the start of racing Sunday. But with Busch slicing through the field, that number dropped in rapid fashion.
After leading 256 of the first 358 laps, Busch spun out after something appeared to break in his Joe Gibbs Toyota. To make matters worse, Busch was then hit by the car driven by Justin Allgaier.
“Something broke in the rear,” said Busch, who flung his helmet through the driver’s side window. “It’s a shame. The last few times, we’ve been here we’ve had fast cars but we haven’t been able to finish. We’ll talk about it Tuesday.”
Busch directed most of his ire at Allgaier, who was filling in for the ailing Michael Annett.
“The biggest moron is the spotter and driver of the No. 46 [Allgaier] because I was spinning for half a lap,” said Busch, who finished 39th. “Let’s go home.”
Moments after the restart on lap 373, race leaders Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski ignited a 10-car crash after Busch spun out.
“Something happened where [Busch] got loose. By the time I saw it, I was already making contact,” Keselowski said. “It was kind of one of them Bristol things.”
Keselowski, who finished 33rd, said he was finding his comfort zone before becoming involved in the melee.
“It’s a bummer because the car was kind of coming to us,” Keselowski said.
Kurt Busch offered his side of the emotional story, which began when he was unable to hold his line on the bottom side of the track.
“I think I just missed the bottom groove by a few inches, got loose and the wreck was on,” Busch said. “The way that our car was restarting it felt comfortable. That inside with the rosin and the VHT, if you don’t hit it exactly right, you lose a lot of time.
“I tried to make up for it and got loose. We had a win in our sights and I just drove the car at 101 percent instead of that 99. We put things on the edge to try to win the Bristol night race, and just stepped over the line.”
Track officials earned rave reviews after managing to create a lower groove in Friday’s Xfinity Series race. After a long period of groove searching early Sunday, most drivers opted for the high lane Sunday but the lower lane remained in decent shape.
After another rain delay on lap 433 and a six-minute red flag period, Harvick embarked on his long-awaited victory ride.
“I’m happy for these guys,” Harvick said. “This is a hard place to win at. There are so many things that can go wrong. All it takes is one thing.”
The race included nine cautions for 106 laps. There were 20 lead changes among eight drivers.
Harvick now has a 27-point margin over Keselowski at the top of the Sprint Cup standings.