Kevin Harvick rolls to Nationwide win at Richmond

2 Comments

JR Motorsports got its third consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series win tonight at Richmond International Raceway, but it didn’t come from its heralded young gun, Chase Elliott.

Elliott entered tonight’s ToyotaCare 250 – which was delayed by more than three hours due to rain – coming off back-to-back wins at Texas and Darlington.

But neither he or anyone else had an answer for his JRM teammate and Sprint Cup veteran Kevin Harvick, who earned his seventh career Nationwide win at RIR.

Harvick first assumed the lead on Lap 49 and would not let go for essentially the remainder of the 250-lap race, ultimately pacing 202 laps in a dominant performance.

After the race crossed the halfway point, Harvick was unable to fully shake Elliott like he’d been able to earlier in the race. But following what proved to be the last restart of the night with 54 laps left, Harvick was able to slowly build up an insurmountable gap to the 18-year-old rookie.

However, in Victory Lane, Harvick talked about how Elliott’s been able to make the team better.

“Chase is just a good kid,” he said to ESPN. “He knows how to drive a race car and he pushes us to be better by trying different things than [what] we’ve kind of been in our groove to do through the many years.”

As for Elliott, he admitted that Harvick simply was quicker in the final laps.

“We were just a little tight in the middle of the corner,” Elliott said of his final green-flag run. “I think he just outdrove me a little bit and honestly, I feel like some of it was me. I kind of let him get a little too far in front of me there in those first few laps [after restarts], but I don’t know.

“I need to get up on the wheel a little bit harder next week or next time we’re in that situation again….I feel like we came a long way from where we started practice, so it was cool to finish 1-2 for JRM.”

Kyle Busch earned a third-place result, followed by Kyle Larson in fourth, and pole sitter Brian Scott in fifth. Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith recovered from late contact with one another to finish sixth and eighth respectively, with Chris Buescher splitting them in seventh. Ryan Blaney and James Buescher completed the Top 10.

Elliott now holds a 19-point lead in the NNS standings over Smith as the series heads for Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES – ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond
Unofficial Results
1. Kevin Harvick, led 202 laps
2. Chase Elliott
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kyle Larson
5. Brian Scott, led 45 laps
6. Elliott Salder, led one lap
7. Chris Buescher
8. Regan Smith
9. Ryan Blaney
10. James Buescher
11. Trevor Bayne
12. Ryan Reed
13. Landon Cassill
14. Ty Dillon
15. Cale Conley
ONE LAP DOWN
16. Mike Bliss
17. Dakoda Armstrong
18. J.J. Yeley
19. Daniel Suarez
20. Brendan Gaughan
TWO LAPS DOWN
21. Blake Koch
THREE LAPS DOWN
22. Jeremy Clements, led two laps
FOUR LAPS DOWN
23. Joe Nemechek
24. Jeffrey Earnhardt
25. Josh Wise
26. Ryan Sieg
FIVE LAPS DOWN
27. Mike Wallace
28. Derrike Cope
29. Eric McClure
SIX LAPS DOWN
30. Josh Reaume
31. Joey Gase, 11 laps down

32. Dylan Kwasniewski, Lap 187, Accident
33. Mike Harmon, Lap 112, Vibration
34. Derek White, Lap 58, Rear Gear
35. Tanner Berryhill, Lap 27, Transmission
36. Tommy Joe Martins, Lap 11, Suspension
37. Matt Dibenedetto, Lap 6, Electrical
38. Jeff Green, Lap 5, Vibration
39. Kevin Lepage, Lap 2, Accident
40. Jimmy Weller III, Lap 1, Engine

Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
Leave a comment

You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski