With the 2019 season serving as the 50th anniversary of Richard Childress Racing, we plan to dip into the archives to present the stories of iconic moments, race wins, championships and much more as part of our weekly Throwback Thursday series.
The NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series head to the Finger Lakes region of New York for this weekend’s races at Watkins Glen International.
The second and final road course of the season for the Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric in the Cup Series, this marks the first of three road courses in the next four weeks for Tyler Reddick in the Xfinity Series.
RCR has always shown strength on the road courses and Watkins Glen is no different. In 73 Cup starts, the organization has earned two victories, eight top-five, 21 top-10 finishes and three pole awards. In 40 Xfinity Series event, RCR has one win (Kevin Harvick, 2007), eight top-five and 21 top-10 finishes.
Dale Earnhardt earned the team’s three poles in 1990, 1993 and 1996, but it was in 2003 when Robby Gordon scored RCR’s first Cup win at The Glen, sweeping that season’s road course races.
In 2006, Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 team won the organization’s second race by leading 28 of 90 laps.
With five races left before the start of that year’s Chase, Jeff Burton was third in the standings, 375 points out of the lead, while Harvick was fourth, 391 points back, and Bowyer was 17th, 388 points behind the 10th and final Chase spot. Harvick entered the weekend on a streak of four-straight top-five finishes.
Talking with NBC prior to the race from his No. 29 Chevrolet, Harvick was confident the RCR team would have a strong day but he knew there was work to be done.
“I think right now, keep everything on track and keep everything together and make a couple of pit stops,” Harvick told NBC during pace laps. “Other than that, the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet has been pretty good all weekend – you just need to take care of the brakes.”
The start of the race was wild from the drop of the green flag, as pole-sitter Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne mixed it up at the front of the field and aggression was ramped up from the start.
Harvick was a victim of that aggression, as he made contact with Jimmie Johnson entering Turn 1 on Lap 2. That contact damaged the left front fender of the No. 29 Chevrolet and caused a tire rub just two laps into the 90-lap event.
Harvick’s first stop of the day came 18 laps into the race, where the pit crew gave him four tires, fuel and made no changes to the No. 29 Chevrolet.
On Lap 54, Harvick and Burton hit pit road under green for their final stop of the day. The teammates got a big break as Joe Nemechek brought out the caution flag just as they were exiting pit road.
Busch had dominated the first half of the race, leading 38 of the first 53 laps, but was hit with a penalty because he pit right as the lights came on to close pit road. When the rest of the field came to pit road under caution, the RCR teammates were able to cycle to the front of the field, with Harvick restarting in second.
Harvick took the lead for the first time on Lap 58, getting around Reed Sorenson for the top spot. He would pace the field for the next 24 laps.
A caution bunched the field up for a restart with nine laps to go, putting Tony Stewart and a hungry pack behind Harvick’s back bumper. Stewart took the top spot from Harvick on the restart, but the caution came back out with eight laps to go for an incident involving Michael Waltrip, which gave Harvick another shot at the lead.
Restarting with five laps to go, Harvick kept the pressure on Stewart and made his move off the final corner coming to three laps to go. Clearing him for the lead into Turn 1, the No. 29 Chevrolet set sail out front for the final three laps to score the victory by 0.892 seconds.
The victory was Harvick’s first road course victory, second of the season and would kick off a strong finish of the year for the No. 29 team in which they would go to Victory Lane three more times.
“I didn’t think it was over because our car was pretty good in the long haul, but we weren’t as good in the braking zones,” crew chief Todd Berrier told NBC when asked about losing the lead to Stewart late in the race. “We just had a new engine package we brought here for the first time that had a lot more torque and we passed the man off the corner so that was obviously a big deal today.”
Harvick smoked the tires with donuts and a burnout before driving to Victory Lane to celebrate with the team.
“This GM Goodwrench Chevrolet was a lot of fun to drive today, it was really good, it got the fenders caved in early and just never gave up,” Harvick said after climbing from the winning car. “Lots of fun racing with Tony there. I don’t know how he passed me in the chicane, still. My car was really good getting into Turn 1 and we were able to get back by.”
Harvick went on to thank his teammates and owner Richard Childress for “sticking with us and giving us what we need to be better.”
“This means a lot, a road course win,” he said. “This has a lot to do with the driver and the team, and they gave me the opportunity and track position to do so. Thanks to Todd and the guys, it was a lot of fun.”