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.
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Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.