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Harvick Finally Closes One Out At Bristol Short Track

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 22 2016
Kevin Harvick ended his victory skid at Bristol in Sunday's rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at the Bristol half mile. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Kevin Harvick ended his victory skid at Bristol in Sunday’s rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at the Bristol half mile. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Every year Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Rodney Childers circles the races at Bristol Motor Speedway on his calendar as the ones he especially wants to win due to his background in short-track racing.

sprint-logo-08Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race driver Kevin Harvick delivered the coveted trophy to his crew chief, taking a 1.933-second victory over Ford’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It was the first Chevrolet victory in the tough track’s night race since 2004 and the first Chevrolet sweep of the Bristol night races since 1999. Austin Dillon won the Xfinity race in his Chevrolet Friday night.

For Harvick, it was his first Bristol victory in slightly more than a decade and it was one that took two days to acquire. The race began an hour late Saturday night due to rain; then had to be halted after 48 laps due to the persistent inclement weather. It was scheduled to resume at 1 p.m. on Sunday, but faced another 3 ½-hour rain delay before finally receiving the green flag.

Once the weather broke, Kyle Busch quickly emerged as the favorite. Busch eventually led six times for 256 laps before a broken part led to a spin on lap 358 and a subsequent hit by Justin Allgaier eliminated him from the event.

“I’m really tired of losing races here with parts falling apart, so they’ll hear about it on Tuesday,” said an angry Busch, who was the race’s top lap leader. “But the person that’s really the biggest moron out there is the spotter of the 46 and the driver of the 46 (Allgaier). I’ve been wrecking for half a lap and they just come on through and clean us out. That’s stupid.”

Once Busch exited the event, the race boiled down to a contest between Harvick and Joey Logano, winner of the last two Bristol night races. Harvick claimed the lead for good shortly before the last 6:57-minute red flag for rain and maintained it after the race restarted, leading the final 71 laps. Overall, Harvick led four times for 128 laps in the race that was slowed by nine caution flags for 106 laps.

“Our strong point was the top groove in (turns) three and four,” Harvick said. “Our weak point was being a little bit too free on restarts.”

Harvick, who came from the 24th starting position for the victory, noted that his 2005 Bristol win came after he started 43rd even though he qualified 13th. He celebrated his 33rd career victory with team co-owner Tony Stewart, who finished 30th in his final Bristol race.

“We weren’t racing anybody and there wasn’t anybody around us so I told myself to just enjoy those last 10, just savor the moment and think about it,” Stewart said. “So that’s what I did. I really thought about what I was doing those last 10 laps and just soaked it all in.”

Harvick and Stewart executed donuts together on the frontstretch after the event. Once they stopped, Harvick received the checkered flag from the NASCAR flagman and then walked over to Stewart’s car. They talked and shook hands. Harvick then climbed back into his car and drove to victory lane. Stewart took his car to the garage.

“He says, ‘Get into my car and go to victory lane with me,’” Stewart said about Harvick and their conversation on the frontstretch. “He said just leave your car here. I said, ‘I can’t just leave my car here.’”

After the race, Harvick cited two issues that were the key to his victory: His crew’s performance and the rosin track officials added to the low groove in the turns to provide grip.

“I think we’ve been confident in our cars, just not confident in closing everything out,” said Harvick, whose only other victory his season came in March at Phoenix.

Childers echoed Harvick’s sentiments.

“As the night was going on and we became the dominant car and started to lead the race, that’s when everybody’s nerves get up and we started having mistakes,” Childers said. “I got them all together behind the pit box, which I don’t normally do. They all looked me in the eye and I could tell as soon as I turned around that they were ready to do this and we were going to win a race tonight. It’s all about confidence.”

When it came to the track’s condition, Harvick applauded speedway officials for the action taken to regain the low groove.

“The part that kind of caught me off-guard was how rough it was,” Harvick said. “I don’t know if that was from the rosin and the application or if it was from the grinding, but it seemed to get better as the race went on, on the bottom of the race track with the roughness.”

Harvick noted Speedway Motorsports Inc., Bristol’s parent company, possessed a little more insight about creating grip on concrete due to hosting the NHRA at several of their tracks. The drag racers use concrete launch pads.

“I think it definitely has opened everybody’s eyes to saying, ‘All right, that worked pretty darn good,’ because the last few years we’ve been here you get on the bottom of the race track and you are three- or four-tenths slower,” Harvick said. “Tonight, you could hold your ground; you could get past lapped cars. It gave everybody an option to do something different and as a driver, that’s what you want. You want options.”   

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 22 2016
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