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.
This weekend the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the half-mile Martinsville Speedway for a 500-lap race around the paperclip-shaped short track. With Ridgeway, Virginia located 70 miles from the RCR campus in Welcome, North Carolina, Martinsville has always been considered a home race for the Richard Childress-led organization.
Over the years, RCR has earned seven Cup Series, one Xfinity Series and three Truck Series wins at Martinsville Speedway, the last coming in 2011 with Kevin Harvick edging Dale Earnhardt Jr. by less than a second.
RCR’s lone Xfinity Series win at Martinsville also came at the hands of Harvick, but that day it was 1-2 finish for the team with Clint Bowyer finishing a close second.
The Xfinity Series, then the Busch Series, raced at Martinsville Speedway a total of 34 times, but the series had not returned to the Virginia short track since 1994. This would also be a one-off return, as the series has not raced at Martinsville Speedway since that July 22, 2006 event.
The race was run on the same weekend as the Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway, with multiple drivers – including Harvick and Bowyer – running double duty. That meant they had to travel back and forth from Pocono, Pennsylvania to Ridgeway, Virginia to make it all work.
Both Harvick and Bowyer made it back to Martinsville early on race morning to qualify their cars, with Bowyer putting his No. 2 AC Delco Chevrolet on the pole. Harvick would start from the sixth position in his No. 21 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet.
The event was plagued by 19 cautions for 87 of the total 250 laps, and it did not take long for the first of the yellow flags to fly on Lap 4. The two RCR entries were able to keep their noses clean and avoid the trouble that so many others were caught up in. Instead, Bowyer and Harvick dominated at the front of the field for the majority of the day.
Collectively, Harvick and Bowyer combined to lead 207 of the 205 laps, with Harvick’s No. 21 Chevrolet out front for the final 127 circuits. Despite a multitude of late-race cautions and tight restarts, Harvick was able to hold off his teammate and deliver a 1-2 finish for RCR, earning one of nine victories that season.
“It was a good race. I knew I had to keep it on the bottom. On the restarts, I couldn’t get going like I needed to, and those guys could,” Harvick said after climbing from the winning Chevrolet on the frontstretch.
“After about five laps, this ol’ U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolet could get out there and draw a couple of car lengths. Good day and good pit calls. I knew it was going to be all about track position.”
The Martinsville victory gave Harvick a daunting 348-point lead over Carl Edwards after the 21st race of the season, a lead that would grow to 824 points by the end of the year, delivering the second Xfinity Series championship for Harvick and RCR.