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Harvick Wins Charlotte; Top Stars’ Championship Hopes In Trouble

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 12 2014

Kevin Harvick advanced to the Eliminator Round of the Chase on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Kevin Harvick, who has led a lot of laps and a lot of races in 2014 but has had trouble closing the deal of late, won the Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.

It was the third victory of the season for Harvick, but the first since the early spring race at Darlington.

It gave the Stewart-Haas Racing driver a free pass into the third round – The Eliminator Round – of the Chase playoffs, where he joins Team Penske’s Joey Logano, who won a week ago at Kansas Speedway.

“Everybody on our team has just continued to build better race cars and we know that we’ve had the cars to run up front and lead laps and do the things that we need to do,” Harvick said. “Things just haven’t gone right and we’ve made some mistakes; things haven’t gone right more than not.”

In Chase trouble as a result of poor finishes at Charlotte are Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as they find themselves in positions nine through 12 heading to Talladega for next weekend’s cutdown race.

Harvick, meanwhile, led 162 laps and survived a wild two-lap dash to the finish after the final caution.

He pulled away after a restart on Lap 333 of 334 and beat Jeff Gordon to the finish line by .572 seconds. In doing so, he earned himself the luxury of heading to Talladega with minimal stress.

“Yeah,” he said, “I won’t be anorexic and throwing up all week. I didn’t even know how we were going to prepare for next week without just being a total disaster because you just know that so much is out of your control going into Talladega, and really this is the round that we focused the most on in my opinion. We came here and tested. We knew Kansas was going to be crazy just because of the past history since the repave. Talladega is always crazy.”

Jamie McMurray ran third, followed by Joey Logano and polesitter Kyle Busch.

“I had some terrible restarts,” Gordon said. “But there at the end, four tires and good adjustments and good restarts and we were able to get right up in the thick of it. Kevin was tough. I knew when he got out in front it was going to be hard to beat him.”

Keselowski and Johnson got shuffled back to 16th and 17th after a restart with two laps left.

After the race, driver skirmishes broke out on the track, on pit road and in the garages. At the center of all the incidents was Keselowski, the Team Penske driver who was the 2012 Cup champion.

Keselowski clipped Hamlin’s rear bumper on the cool-down lap, then hit Kenseth’s Toyota with his Ford on pit road after the race.

Asked what started all the trouble, Hamlin said: Keselowski.

“There’s a corner there so you have to back off and he just plowed into us,” Hamlin said. “He’s just out of control. He’s desperate obviously and it’s either four or five of us are wrong or he’s wrong because he’s pissed off everyone. Just disappointing – but we’re trying to get in this deal. We’re sitting in a decent spot, but we’ve lost six spots or so with the last restart when he ran into us and knocked us up the track. That was unfortunate. Matt (Kenseth) was nearly out of his car and he just plowed into Matt (Kenseth) and then ran into Tony (Stewart) and then went in through the garage and cleared out transmissions and did burnouts in the garage. Just acting like a dumbass instead of a champion.”

Kenseth jumped Keselowski as he was walking between haulers, and the drivers scuffled before being separated.

“I had my HANS off and my seat belts off,” Kenseth said, “and he clobbers me at like 50 (mph). With the accidents and stuff that we’ve had around here — the race is over and we’re trying to come back to pit road. If he wants to come and talk about it like a man then go do that, but to try to wreck somebody on the race track and to come down pit road with other cars and people standing around with my seat belts off and drive into the side of me is just inexcusable. There is no excuse for that. He’s a champion and he’s supposed to know better than that. I don’t really know, I don’t have anything else good to say.”

The man with all the fingers pointed at him said it was all just part of racing.

“Through the whole sequence of events,” Keselowski said, “I think the 20 car (Kenseth) got in back of me on one of the restarts, it was just a racing deal and I wasn’t mad at him. But when the last yellow came out he got the wave around and when he came by he swung at my car and tore the whole right-front off of it. When we restarted fifth with no right-front on it, we fell all the way back to 16th and it ruined our day.

“That gave us a big Chase hurt, which is unfortunate, and then for some reason after the race the 11 stopped in front of me and tried to pick a fight. I don’t know what that was all about and he swung and hit at my car, so I figured if we’re gonna play car wars under yellow and after the race I’ll join too. Those guys can dish it out, but they can’t take it. I gave it back to them and now they want to fight, so I don’t know what’s up with that.”

Both Johnson and Keselowski head to Talladega on Oct. 19 in all probability needing a victory to advance to avoid elimination from the Chase. The same goes for Earnhardt, whose shifter broke early in the race and relegated the driver of the No. 88 to a 20th-place finish, one lap down.

“We had a real bad vibration and broke a transmission shifter off,” Earnhardt said. “We only had third and fourth gear there and lost a lap trying to get off pit road on a green flag stop. We had a pretty good car; a top-10 car. The vibration issue was causing a lot of balance issues, and grip issues. But, we had a good enough car to run in the top-10. This isn’t what we need to do. I don’t know. We’ve had some phantom vibrations throughout the year and not really had those until the last year and a half, or two years. So it is hard to say.”

Rookie Kyle Larson ran sixth, followed by Chase drivers Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Hamlin and Kasey Kahne.

With the cut from 12 to eight Chase drivers looming at Talladega, Kenseth, Keselowski, Johnson and Earnhardt are the four drivers currently in positions 9 through 12 in the standings.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Bank of America 500

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Saturday, October 11, 2014

1. (7) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 334, $291248.

2. (2) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 334, $248111.

3. (18) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 334, $183639.

4. (13) Joey Logano, Ford, 334, $162366.

5. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 334, $196841.

6. (24) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 334, $145635.

7. (5) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 334, $110415.

8. (10) Carl Edwards, Ford, 334, $110365.

9. (3) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 334, $104140.

10. (19) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 334, $107115.

11. (11) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 334, $95640.

12. (26) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 334, $106273.

13. (20) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 334, $131001.

14. (23) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 334, $112423.

15. (16) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 334, $108773.

16. (17) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 334, $125898.

17. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 334, $131376.

18. (12) Greg Biffle, Ford, 334, $121565.

19. (22) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 334, $125726.

20. (9) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 333, $89890.

21. (4) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 333, $116423.

22. (15) Aric Almirola, Ford, 332, $116276.

23. (32) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 331, $78940.

24. (28) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 331, $114415.

25. (27) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 331, $105210.

26. (14) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 331, $85965.

27. (30) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 330, $91798.

28. (36) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 330, $77340.

29. (31) Michael McDowell, Ford, 330, $74015.

30. (33) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 330, $89938.

31. (29) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 329, $94112.

32. (37) David Gilliland, Ford, 329, $83840.

33. (35) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 328, $73215.

34. (34) David Ragan, Ford, 328, $81090.

35. (42) Corey LaJoie(i), Ford, 326, $72940.

36. (40) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 326, $72760.

37. (8) Brian Vickers, Toyota, Engine, 325, $105201.

38. (41) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 325, $67530.

39. (43) Blake Koch(i), Ford, 322, $63530.

40. (39) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 320, $67530.

41. (38) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 178, $55530.

42. (6) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, Engine, 134, $79444.

43. (25) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, Engine, 94, $83021.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 145.346 mph.

Time of Race: 03 Hrs, 26 Mins, 49 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.571 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 39 laps.

Lead Changes: 32 among 14 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Kyle Busch 1-13; J. Gordon 14-27; M. Annett # 28; D. Earnhardt Jr. 29; Kyle Busch 30-36; J. Gordon 37-74; Kurt Busch 75; D. Earnhardt Jr. 76; B. Keselowski 77-78; J. Gordon 79-97; D. Earnhardt Jr. 98-99; J. McMurray 100-104; K. Harvick 105-139; J. Gordon 140; K. Harvick 141-187; J. Gordon 188; B. Keselowski 189-190; K. Harvick 191-222; K. Larson # 223; K. Harvick 224-237; A. Dillon # 238-242; Kyle Busch 243-263; K. Larson # 264-267; B. Keselowski 268-271; D. Hamlin 272-293; K. Harvick 294-310; J. Gordon 311; Kurt Busch 312; A. Dillon # 313; R. Newman 314; C. Edwards 315; J. Allgaier # 316-317; K. Harvick 318-334.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick 6 times for 162 laps; J. Gordon 6 times for 74 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 41 laps; D. Hamlin 1 time for 22 laps; B. Keselowski 3 times for 8 laps; A. Dillon # 2 times for 6 laps; J. McMurray 1 time for 5 laps; K. Larson # 2 times for 5 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 3 times for 4 laps; J. Allgaier # 1 time for 2 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 2 laps; R. Newman 1 time for 1 lap; M. Annett # 1 time for 1 lap; C. Edwards 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Logano – 3,088; Kyle Busch – 3,082; K. Harvick – 3,081; R. Newman – 3,077; C. Edwards – 3,076; J. Gordon – 3,074; D. Hamlin – 3,073; K. Kahne – 3,057; M. Kenseth – 3,056; B. Keselowski – 3,038; J. Johnson – 3,031; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 3,031; A. Allmendinger – 2,142; G. Biffle – 2,127; Kurt Busch – 2,109; A. Almirola – 2,096.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 12 2014
One Comment

One Comment »

  • dog says:

    Wow! Harvick has the best shot at the championship, Keselowski gets BIG penalties,Hamlin is too emotionally unstable to be in a Cup car and Tony’s drop into reverse to punch the 2 will make it into a NY courtroom. Are we having at it now?