BRISTOL, Tennessee – Kevin Harvick was in twenty-fourth when the green flag dropped on Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops/NRA 500. When it was all said and done nearly 23 hours later on Sunday, he wound up crossing the finish line ahead of the rest of the field.
Mother Nature wreaked more than her fair share of havoc on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The race was originally supposed to be run in-full on Saturday night, but after a short 31-lap green flag run, rain began to fall, and it didn’t let up.
The race ended up being delayed until Sunday at 4:45 p.m., when the green flag was finally displayed again.
The first 350 laps of the race belonged to Kyle Busch. The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota led 256 laps and had the dominant car until his luck changed. Something broke in the right rear of the car. Busch lost control going into Turn One and ended up getting damaged from other cars who couldn’t avoid him.
“Something was breaking obviously,” said Kyle Busch. “I don’t know. It’s a shame. It’s something we have to address and fix. I’m really tired of losing races here with [parts failures].”
The race then seemed to fall into the hands of Kyle’s older brother, Kurt Busch. Kurt shot out to the lead on the restart after Kyle’s crash, but got loose coming out of Turn Two and ended up spinning out in front the entire field. With nowhere to go, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and nine other drivers ended up getting involved.
“I think I just missed the bottom groove by a few inches, got loose and the wreck was on,” Kurt Busch said. “The way that our car was restarting it felt comfortable, it felt good. That inside with the rosin and the VHT, if you don’t hit it exactly right you lose a lot of time. I tried to make up for it and got loose. I feel really bad for the Monster Energy guys. We had a win in our sights and I just drove the car at 101 percent instead of that 99 that I probably needed to be at.”
Harvick, who had been consistently working his way through the field, then inherited the lead. With a strong Busch Beer Chevrolet, the Bakersfield, CA native was able to keep his nose out front for the final stretch of the race and crossed the finish line first.
“I’ve got to thank Busch Beer, Jimmy John’s, Chevrolet, and Mobil 1 and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing on this Chevrolet,” said Harvick. “We should have won a lot of races this year but we just had things not go our way. We made mistakes or whatever the case may be. But to get back into Victory Lane here at Bristol feels really good. We’ve had some good cars here over the last few years. And to have Busch Beer on the car; we’ve had crummy luck with these guys on the car and so I’m just really happy for Busch and Jimmy John’s and really proud of these guys on the No. 41 team.”
Sunday night’s victory was Harvick’s second at Bristol Motor Speedway and his second of the 2016 season. With only a few weeks left until the playoffs kick-off in Chicago, Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team seem to be gaining momentum after a somewhat lackluster season.
“Well, we knew we had the performance that we needed to have in the cars pretty much every week,” said Harvick after Sunday’s race. “And it’s been one of those deals where things have just not gone exactly right. But to have the win now and just try to get that momentum before we get into the Chase and get things rolling is really what we needed.”
Harvick’s car owner and fellow competitor, Tony Stewart, struggled in his final race at Bristol Motor Speedway, bringing home a thirtieth place finish. But a bitter night ended up turning sweet, as Stewart was able to take in his final laps around the half-mile before capping it off with a celebratory burnout with his winning teammate.
“I told myself the last 10 laps we weren’t racing anybody, there wasn’t anybody around us. Just enjoy the moment,” said Stewart. “Just savor the moment and think about it. That’s what I did.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, AJ Allmendinger, and Joey Logano rounded out the rest of the Top-10 finishers behind Harvick.