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 and Xfinity Series visit Richmond, Virginia this weekend for a pair of events under the lights at the 0.75-mile short track. Richard Childress Racing has nine Cup Series wins at Richmond Raceway, along with six victories in the Xfinity Series.
This week, we look back at the Cup Series race from September 2011 in which Kevin Harvick dominated the final race before the start of the Chase, securing his fourth win of the season with the No. 29 Chevrolet.
Starting from the seventh position, Harvick survived a wild start to the Wonderful Pistachios 400 that saw five cautions fly before the field completed 55 laps.
As the race reached the 75-lap mark, Harvick began to take command of the race in his black-colored No. 29 Chevrolet. However, caution after caution set up a battle between the RCR driver and Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards.
By the 200-lap point of the race, Chase drivers Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch were trading jabs on the track and Edwards was able to capture the lead away from Harvick.
When the second-to-last caution of the night flew on Lap 310, Harvick was able to pounce on the ensuing restart and retake the lead. His battle with Edwards was far from over, though.
While he had a fast No. 29 Chevrolet, it was the RCR pit crew that made the difference at the end of the day. On that caution, Edwards stayed on the track while the rest of the field came down pit road for fresh tires and fuel.
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On the restart, Harvick went three-wide on the bottom into Turn 1 to get by several cars on a different pit strategy and then set his sights on Edwards for the top spot, moving by the No. 99 with 86 laps to go.
Harvick’s drive to Victory Lane was not yet secure. Instead, he had to deal with four-time champion Jeff Gordon in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. With less than 25 laps to go as they hit lapped traffic, Gordon made the move on the outside of Harvick to take the lead. As the laps clicked away, Gordon’s car began to pull away from Harvick’s, but a spin by Paul Menard brought out the final caution of the day and bunched the leaders up and sent them to pit road for the final time of the night.
Thanks to a quick stop by the RCR crew, the No. 29 Chevrolet raced off pit road ahead of Gordon and Edwards, putting Harvick back in front of the field as the team celebrated on pit road.
On the restart, Harvick held off a charge to the bottom by Edwards and was able to clear the field off Turn 2 with 12 laps to go. The No. 29 Chevrolet remained in front of the field for the final laps of the event, despite another hard charge by Edwards’ No. 99 in the closing laps.
Harvick took the checkered flag by 0.139-seconds over Edwards, who slid his car through the curved frontstretch in a last-ditch effort to take the win. Instead, Harvick and the No. 29 crew celebrated their fourth win of the season and entered the Chase for the championship tied for the lead with Kyle Busch.
"Everybody did a great job, and the guys on pit road had just a great last pit stop and were able to get us the track position. I struggled on the restarts getting going with the races that we had, so to be in control of that last restart I felt like that was pretty important to get going," said Harvick.
"Our car was really good all night on the restarts, and that last run there we were actually too tight and Carl was actually a little bit better, and then with about three or four laps to go, I just locked it on the bottom and hoped for the best there, so it all worked out," he said.
"The pit crew come alive when we needed them, and the momentum, you start building into the Chase and get those extra points to put us right up there," said Childress. "Last year that was one thing we were short in the Chase was some wins, and now we’re right up there with them. So, it’s up to us to keep it up."
Harvick and the No. 29 team would go on to finish third in the championship point standings at the end of the 2011 season.