Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin are both convinced that they wouldn’t have won last night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway without the caution that came out with five laps remaining.
Harvick had moved into second place in the final laps but it looked like he’d be unable to reel in and pass Juan Pablo Montoya for the victory. However, a crash by Brian Vickers scuttled what appeared to be a sure win for Montoya, and after Harvick pitted for fresh tires with four laps to go, he raced from seventh on the green-white-checkered restart to his first win of 2013.
Still, both Harvick and Martin believed that if the race hadn’t gone into overtime, they would’ve been forced to settle for runner-up.
“I think I had a better shot to win starting seventh [on the final restart],” said Harvick. “I don’t think I was going to catch Montoya because he had a little bit better drive up off the corner at that point.”
Martin himself noted a tendency of cars on the move being unable to keep the momentum going once they got closer to the cars in front of them. For that reason, he indicated that it was Montoya’s race to lose — until Vickers’ accident changed everything.
“Within five car lengths of anybody, seems like the advantage you had went away or diminished as soon as you got close to them, then you would have to stay on them for several laps,” Martin said. “The laps were winding down so fast; Montoya was going to have to make a mistake for us to get by him at that point.”