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April 28, 2013

Harvick wins Richmond on dramatic restart

RCR/HHP Photo RCR/HHP Photo

Author: Reid Spencer
Date: April 28, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. -- Kevin Harvick sped away on fresh tires to win Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 in a green-white-checkered finish at Richmond International Raceway, leaving a group of drivers with widely divergent emotions in his wake.

Harvick beat Clint Bowyer to the finish line by .343 seconds to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season, his third at Richmond and the 20th of his career.

Joey Logano ran third, Juan Pablo Montoya came home fourth after leading until the final caution and Jeff Burton finished fifth after staying out on old tires for the final two-lap run that took the event six laps beyond its posted distance.

Harvick came to pit road for tires on Lap 396, after Brian Vickers slapped the wall in Turn 3 to cause the 11th caution of the race. Harvick’s No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet made short work of the three drivers who had stayed out after the race restarted on Lap 405.

Though Montoya lost the chance to break a 94-race drought since his Cup victory at Watkins Glen in August 2010, Montoya was elated just to get a top-five finish after struggling mightily for more than a year.

Not so elated were Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, who repeatedly swapped shots with their Chevrolets on the cool-down lap. Stewart was fifth on the final restart but dropped to 18th at the finish after Busch rubbed him out of the racing groove during a two-lap free-for-all that saw prolific contact throughout the field.

Harvick, however, was all smiles when he climbed out of his car in Victory Lane.

“My car launched, and I was able to drive it in the first corner and hope for the best down there,” said Harvick, who surged into the lead through Turns 3 and 4 after establishing his position in the first corner on the final restart. “I figured four, eight, 12 ... (however) many tires that were on the outside of me would be better than none. It all worked out, and here we are."

The decision to come to pit road for tires under the final caution was a no-brainer, as Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin saw it.

“When the tires fall off almost two seconds, you've got to come in and get tires,” he said. “There's not very many guys that stayed out. It all worked out tonight. We've been on the other side of it this year, so to be in Victory Lane is great."

Bowyer led 113 laps but didn’t have a car that could stay with Harvick at the end.

“We had a good car -- we just didn’t have a great car,” Bowyer said. “It seemed like we were just too tight on the throttle. … It really got wild there at the end. I was just lucky enough to be on the bottom (for the final restart).

“They started making holes up there in front of me, and the seas parted, and I just followed suit behind Harvick. It was a good run.”

What was a two-man battle for more than half the race evolved into an unpredictable nexus of varying strategy and unexpected attrition.

To read the story as it appears on NASCAR.com, click here.

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