Harvick comes out on top of G-W-C finish at Richmond

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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.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”