A shocking decision to pit for fresh tires with four laps to go proved to be the right one for Kevin Harvick, who charged from seventh to the Toyota Owners 400 win in a green-white-checkered finish at Richmond International Raceway.
With six laps remaining in the race, Juan Pablo Montoya was on the verge of claiming his first victory since Watkins Glen in 2010 until Brian Vickers found the wall to bring out the caution. With the race going into G-W-C, both Montoya and second-place Harvick elected to go to pit road for fresh tires to use in the frenetic finish; they would line up sixth and seventh respectively behind Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, A.J. Allmendinger, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart when the final restart began.
But that didn’t stop Harvick from cutting through the traffic ahead of him and making the race-winning pass on his teammate Burton (who was on older tires) with one and a half laps remaining.
“Sprint Cup racing is something where you have to take chances, and the guys that stayed out took chances, and we had to take chances,” Harvick told Fox Sports of the call to get new Goodyears with four to go. “We’ve been beat by tires a couple of times this year and I thought it was the right thing to do. [Crew chief] Gil [Martin] did the right call and it all worked out.”
Clint Bowyer led 113 laps on the night, but wound up settling for a runner-up finish ahead of Joey Logano, Montoya and Burton. Edwards, pole sitter Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the Top 10.
The close racing at the end triggered a spat between Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, who drove down pit road practically connected to each other after the checkered flag. The two drivers then continued their disagreement in the hauler area, where TV cameras caught them having it out verbally before walking away.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix has been red flagged for debris following a chaotic sequence of laps that saw three safety cars be deployed following multiple incidents, leaving the track covered in debris.
The first safety car was called after Daniil Kvyat stopped out on-track, with the marshals able to recover it with relative ease, but the bunched field on the restart soon descended into chaos.
Debris from Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari caused a second safety car period to be called within a lap, but the marshals were again able to clear this easily, allowing Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to lead the field away for the second restart.
Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel made contact twice behind the safety car, leaving debris on-track at Turn 15, with both drivers blaming each other for the incident.
The greater clashes came on the first lap of green flag running as Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashes at Turn 3, the latter bumping Perez into the wall. Both were required to pit for repairs, and while Ocon could get back out, Perez was less fortunate, retiring from the race.
A third safety car was called, with the stewards then deciding to throw a red flag to allow the debris on the track to be cleared.
More to follow…
A weekend that has been dominated by Chevrolet and Team Penske so far saw Honda jump to the top during morning warmup. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest for Andretti Autosport, followed by Max Chilton for Chip Ganassi Racing. Hunter-Reay’s teammate Alexander Rossi ended the session third, making it a Honda 1-2-3 in the morning warmup.
Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was the quickest of the Chevrolet camp in fourth, followed by A.J. Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz in fifth.
Only 19 of the 21 drivers turned laps during the session, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato failing to put laps in. Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda was suffering from fuel pressure problems that kept it in the garage, while Sato was feeling under the weather during the morning, and the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda team elected not to go out.
Coverage of the Kohler Grand Prix begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
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Norman Nato picked up his first win of the 2017 FIA Formula 2 season on Sunday after a post-race penalty denied Charles Leclerc a weekend double in Baku.
Ferrari junior Leclerc took an emotional victory on Saturday just days after the death of his father, and charged from P8 on the reverse grid to take the lead from Nato late on.
However, the Monegasque driver was denied the first perfect weekend in the category (including GP2) in eight years when he was hit with a 10-second time penalty for failing to slow under yellow flags.
Despite the penalty, Leclerc was still classified second behind Nato, with Nicholas Latifi completing the podium for DAMS.
Jordan King took fourth place for MP Motorsport, while Sergey Sirotkin was fifth on his stand-in weekend at ART Grand Prix ahead of fellow Russian Artem Markelov.
Nobuharu Matsushita took seventh ahead of Luca Ghiotto, while Ralph Boschung and Sergio Sette Camara rounded out the top 10.
With second place, Leclerc extended his F2 championship lead to 42 points after chief title rival Oliver Rowland retired after leading the early part of the race.
The F2 season resumes in two weeks’ time in support of the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.
Formula 1 legend and Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda was quick to heap praise on Lewis Hamilton after qualifying in Azerbaijan on Saturday, saying he had “never seen anything like” the Briton’s Q3 pole lap.
Hamilton charged to the 66th pole of his F1 career at the Baku City Circuit on Saturday after a last-ditch effort took his four-tenths of a second clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton was overjoyed by the lap, having struggled to tame the Baku circuit during its inaugural race in 2016, and three-time world champion Lauda was equally as impressed.
“We had some problems on Friday, but the team really did a fantastic job to set the car up in the right way. And Lewis with his lap today… I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lauda said, as quoted by the official F1 website.
“It was not plain sailing at all, but a lot of thinking, digging, back to the factory, and in the end the improvement the engineers and mechanics did to the car is outstanding.
“And then Lewis, what he did today, no one else I think can do that.
“He’s fantastic, especially thinking about his lap time here, because the difference he makes to everybody – it’s only Lewis.”
Hamilton will go in search of his fifth win of the season in Baku on Sunday, with coverage of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET.