Kevin Harvick rolls to Nationwide win at Richmond

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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

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994