Kevin Harvick scored a textbook win in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race on the giant Talledega superspeedway in Alabama. Over the closing laps he kept his nose within inches of Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray’s tail and pulled out to pass in the final quarter-mile. Harvick got McMurray’s car loose as he made the move and, during the resulting wobble, he eased by to win by about two feet, or 0.012 seconds. The move was perfectly timed, allowing Kevin to break a 116-race winless streak.
Harvick’s last victory was at the 2007 Daytona 500, while team owner Richard Childress last celebrated a win at Talladega in 2000 with the late, great Dale Earnhardt. Harvick replaced Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing (RCR) after Dale Sr was killed at Daytona in ’01, and he’s been the team leader since then. It was announced last week that Harvick’s sponsors, Shell and Pennzoil, are leaving RCR at the end of the year to move to Roger Penske’s NASCAR team, so last weekend’s win was particularly sweet.
“Everything played out perfectly for us today,” said Harvick. “We had a plan to ride in the back, wait for 50 laps and really push forward after that. It’s great to see a finish like that – and we broke [our winning] drought too.”
McMurray said of Harvick’s eleventh-hour pass: “I thought I was low enough that he couldn’t get underneath me. So I was guarding the outside and when he pulled to the left it pulled my car around. As soon as I realised he’d got underneath I was worried about side-drafting him to the line. You live for those moments. It was a great race. We’re just proud to finish second today.”
McMurray’s Earnhardt-Ganassi team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya battled for the lead near the end of the race but wound up third. Championship leader Jimmie Johnson crashed in the closing laps and was classified 31st, but retained his title lead by 29 points from Harvick. For the second race in a row Johnson was involved in a fender-bashing incident with team-mate Jeff Gordon. Late in the race Johnson moved down to block Gordon as the latter tried to steam past. Both cars lost momentum and fell back, triggering a multi-car accident.
“I got a huge push down the back straightaway and I was 10mph faster than anybody,” said Gordon. “The number 48 is testing my patience, I can tell you. It takes a lot to make me mad and I am p***** right now. I don’t know what it is between me and him.”
This was the first race run on a superspeedway in two years with a traditional NASCAR-style spoiler rather than the rear wing originally adopted for the ‘Car of Tomorrow’. The race featured a record 88 lead changes among no fewer than 29 drivers, prompting Gordon to say: “I thought it was a heck of a race. There were times when it got a little wild, but I don’t think you could ask for a better race. So I applaud the [decision to introduce the traditional-style] rear spoiler.”
In NASCAR, keeping it simple and a little antique is always the best solution.