KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Rebounding after a disappointing result at Charlotte Motor Speedway last Sunday, Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, leading 74 of the race’s 200 laps and locking himself into the third round of the Chase.
Harvick, who entered the event below the cutoff line for the top eight in the Chase, qualified 11th and found himself in the top 10 for most of the afternoon, but as the race came down to its late stages, the No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet came to life.
On the final restart of the event, he and Carl Edwards lined up on the front row and Harvick used his car to break the draft in the middle of turns 1 and 2, moving by the No. 19 for his fourth victory of the season and his second in the Chase.
“I just got two good restarts against the 19 (Edwards) and he didn’t have a car quite as close to him.” Harvick said. “I was able to break the draft right before I got into the middle of turn 1 and 2, so I was able to get away from him, so that was pretty awesome. I knew I just needed to go for it, that’s really the mindset we have coming into any race into the Chase was to go for it and we did.”
Harvick, who has never been eliminated under this current format, used a poor finish at Charlotte as motivation for the rest of the round.
“I think the best thing is, the fact that we prepare the same way every race. I try every week to find something to motivate myself and I know these guys do the same thing. It’s hard to keep yourself motivated and to keep yourself at a high level, so to be able to come out here and do it for three years now, it shows a lot about the character of this team and the things they do.”
Matt Kenseth picked up where he left off at Charlotte, showing speed in qualifying and winning the pole for the event. As the race got underway, Kenseth showed his muscle early, leading 116 laps before the handling of his No. 20 Toyota fell by the wayside.
Trouble struck some heavy hitting Chase drivers, including Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. as they fell victim to a bad day at the track.
Elliott, who was already reeling from a mid-race crash at Charlotte, lead in the middle part of the race, showing that his No. 24 had the pace to make a serious run for the lead. All of that pace however, would be all for naught, as his Chevrolet would have a tire let go after his green flag pit stop on lap 174.
“I don’t know if we got the left rear getting back up on the race track or something, or it got into the fender and cut it down,” Elliott said. “We had such a good car today, again. I don’t know what to do. We’ll just keep after it and we’ll just try to move on.”
Elliott finished 24th and sits 25 points below the cutoff line heading into Talladega, a must-win situation.
“We’ll go there and just race our hearts out and win, I guess. That’s all about we can do. We have something to be proud of but some things are just out of our control. I don’t know how to fix that stuff.
Keselowski, on the other hand, spun off turn 4 at lap 190 after he washed up in front of Denny Hamlin and slid into the grass, damaging the front end of his race car and ending his race.
“It’s an automotive war zone out here.” Keselowski said. “If my team keeps putting out this kind of effort, don’t worry about today. We’ll win Talladega, we’ll win other races and we will be fine.”
As for the accident that left Keselowski in the garage, the 2012 Cup series Champion said it may have been a little too eager.
“I don’t know what happened, I got in the grass I tore the nose off. I probably could have raced a little bit less hard, I had a good points gap coming in to today. With this format, it’s probably the smarter thing to do.”
While he acknowledges the fact that he could have taken it easier, Keselowski however, is willing to hang it all on the line.
“I don’t want to race like that. I want to race my guts out, I want to race for wins. I don’t want to points race, I don’t care what the damn format is, I’m going to go out and give it my best.”
Truex seemed like the favorite heading into the event after leading 172 laps in the spring. His car however, did not respond like it did in the spring, running with a respectable top five result until pit road mishaps took him out of contention.
Under two green flag pit stops, his crew couldn’t get the car full of fuel. The issue stemmed from a faulty nozzle at the end of the gas can.
Truex fared better than Elliott or Keselowski, coming home 11th and leaving Kansas 17 markers ahead of the cutoff line.
Up in the front, Edwards and Harvick showed no signs of fatigue or stress as the two traded the lead and battled hard for the victory.
In the final restart of the event with 29 to go, Harvick used his car to break the draft set between he and Edwards to take command off turn 2.
Edwards, try as he might, just couldn’t get back to Harvick’s back bumper and found himself fighting his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in a tightly contested battle for second.
Busch’s car however, faded in the closing laps, finishing in fifth as Harvick took the checkered flag.
Following Harvick across the line was Edwards in second. Joey Logano finished third, ahead of Charlotte winner Jimmie Johnson and Busch.
Austin Dillon was sixth ahead of Alex Bowman, who fought a stomach bug but came home with his career-best Cup finish.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to action at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 23, the final race in round two of the Chase playoffs.