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It’s Still 2020: Harvick Wins, Busch Does Not

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 20 2020

Kevin Harvick emerged with the victory Saturday night at Bristol.

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kevin Harvick edged Kyle Busch Saturday night in a torrid duel in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway to sail through the first round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs with two victories in three races.

Harvick opened the playoffs with a Darlington victory and then secured his third Bristol win two weeks later. His ninth victory this season leaves him ninth on the all-time win list with 58. It’s a team performance that has amazed crew chief Rodney Childers due to the conditions in which they have operated. 

 “I haven’t had one team meeting since February,” said Childers, who readily admits that Bristol is his favorite track. “I haven’t gotten my guys together. I haven’t had to tell anybody what to do. I haven’t had to tell somebody they need to work harder; they need to pay more attention to details.

“I have the best group that I’ve ever been around. We haven’t talked about how to get better.  We just all do our jobs. We expect to be the best.  Sometimes you are, sometimes you aren’t, and when we’re not, we take it on our shoulders and we go home and we try to get better. We’ve just learned so much. 

“I was always the guy that I thought that had to be at the front door and unlock the door every morning or turn the lights on and set my alarm for 4 (a.m.).  I look back on that and it was dumb. I look back on so many things that probably I was doing wrong. I was completely wore out by lunch time every single day. I could barely hold my eyes open, and now I’m just completely focused all the time. All I do is think about how to make the cars go faster.

“It’s just a whole different mentality. I never thought that a pandemic and the things that we’ve went through in the world would change our team and the way that we think about things, and it really has.”

In Saturday night’s race, Harvick led four times for 226 laps, but it will be the final 60 in the 500-lap race that the 30,000 fans in attendance will remember. The race’s fifth and final caution flag set the stage for the nail biting dual that occurred between Harvick and Busch. At the time, green-flag pit stops were in progress and Harvick was about to pit when Austin Dillon and James Davison tangled in turn two on lap 407. Harvick’s spotter told his driver, who was about to turn onto pit road, to remain on the track. The 44-year-old driver cited that moment as the race’s “biggest turning point” because it kept numerous contenders a lap down. 

When the race restarted on lap 419 Harvick was leading with Busch second. With 60 laps remaining, the two ran low in the first and second turns, then high in turns three and four. Harvick had punched a hole in the nose of his Ford at one point, causing the car’s handling to become tight. The two cars’ maneuverability through lapped traffic played a major role in the waning laps as they constantly darted from the low to the high grooves.

Tonight you could race all over the race track,” Harvick said. “When you had a lap car high, you could shoot to the bottom, and when you had somebody low you could shoot high. You had a lot of options, and as a driver that’s really what you want.”

 At one point, Harvick became trapped behind a lapped car and Busch shot into the lead on lap 459. A few laps later Busch ran up on Joey Logano, who was a lap down. Logano refused to give Busch the high line. That slowed Busch’s Toyota just enough to allow Harvick to regain the lead for good with 32 laps remaining.

He’s nobody’s friend for a reason, so there you have it,” Busch said about Logano.

Busch’s frustration with lapped traffic wasn’t limited to Logano.

“Some of them dipshit kids don’t know what the hell they’re doing or where they’re at and can’t stay out of the way,” said the frustrated Busch, who remains winless this season. “Nothing like a (Joey) Gase and a (Garrett) Smithley.” 

Even though Busch advances to the playoffs’ second round that begins next weekend at Las Vegas, he doesn’t see his team progressing past the Round of 12, which includes races at Talladega and The ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Four drivers were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday night. They were Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto, Cole Custer and William Byron. They finished 13th, 19th, 23rd and 38th, respectively. 

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NASCAR Cup Series Race – 60th Annual Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol, Tennessee
Saturday, September 19, 2020

  1. (4)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 500.
  2. (9)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 500.
  3. (20)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 500.
  4. (17)  Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 500.
  5. (10)  Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 500.
  6. (11)  Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 500.
  7. (6)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 499.
  8. (23)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 499.
  9. (22)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 499.
  10. (26)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 498.
  11. (2)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, 498.
  12. (5)  Austin Dillon (P), Chevrolet, 498.
  13. (14)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 498.
  14. (19)  Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 498.
  15. (13)  Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 498.
  16. (8)  Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 498.
  17. (24)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 498.
  18. (28)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 497.
  19. (16)  Matt DiBenedetto (P), Ford, 497.
  20. (31)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 497.
  21. (7)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 497.
  22. (27)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 497.
  23. (12)  Cole Custer # (P), Ford, 497.
  24. (3)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 496.
  25. (25)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 496.
  26. (29)  Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 495.
  27. (37)  Gray Gaulding(i), Ford, 488.
  28. (18)  Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 487.
  29. (33)  Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 483.
  30. (32)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 479.
  31. (36)  Joey Gase(i), Ford, 463.
  32. (40)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 436.
  33. (30)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, Steering, 419.
  34. (1)  Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 412.
  35. (35)  James Davison, Chevrolet, Accident, 401.
  36. (34)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Electrical, 317.
  37. (38)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Steering, 313.
  38. (15)  William Byron (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 232.
  39. (39)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 53.
  40. (21)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 28.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  95.911 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 46 Mins, 43 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .310 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 50 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   B. Keselowski (P) 1-17;K. Harvick (P) 18-34;B. Keselowski (P) 35;M. DiBenedetto (P) 36-42;B. Keselowski (P) 43-106;C. Elliott (P) 107-129;C. Bell # 130;K. Busch (P) 131-236;D. Hamlin (P) 237;K. Busch (P) 238-280;K. Harvick (P) 281-411;A. Almirola (P) 412;K. Harvick (P) 413-458;K. Busch (P) 459-468;K. Harvick (P) 469-500.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kevin Harvick (P) 4 times for 226 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 3 times for 159 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 3 times for 82 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 23 laps; Matt DiBenedetto (P) 1 time for 7 laps; Aric Almirola (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Christopher Bell # 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,18,4,88,95,1,2,24,22,43

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,4,9,22,1,88,10,14,20,3

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 20 2020
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