Full moons create wild things. That statement couldn’t be any truer as Kevin Harvick went from seventh to first in two laps to win the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The win was Harvick’s first win since 2011 and the 20th win of his career.
With 20 laps to go Juan Pablo Montoya seemed destined to get his long awaited win on an oval track. Something he has never accomplished in his six years racing in the Sprint Cup Series.
Kevin Harvick on the other hand had other plans for the evening gaining on Montoya in the closing laps of the race. With six laps to go, Harvick closed the gap to six car lengths just as a caution came out for Brian Vickers slamming the wall in turn three.
Under caution both Montoya and Harvick came down pit road for fresh tires and adjustments, a move many thought would ruin any chance they had at winning the race. After pit stops Montoya lined up 6th for the restart while Kevin Lined up 7th.
With two laps to go, Kevin Harvick mashed down the gas pedal, and took off during the restart taking advantage of having fresher tires then most of the field. Harvick ricocheted into turn two passing Carl Edwards and AJ Allmandinger for second place behind his teammate Jeff Burton.
With the rest of the field well behind him, Harvick overtook his teammate on the outside in turn three, and from their cruised on to victory. The win was also Richard Childress Racing’s first of the season and the fourth win for Chevrolet this season.
Juan Pablo Montoya led 64 laps and finished fourth. His first top five finish in two years. Jeff Burton ended the night in third place and moved up to 19th in points. Joey Logano also had a good night finishing fourth and moving up three places in the standing to 17th.
Kurt Busch also had an interesting night leading 36 laps, and finishing 9th. Busch would have had the race won if it wasn’t for Juan Pablo Montoya driving by him on a restart late in the race. Kurt Busch’s night did end with controversy as he, Matt Kenseth, and Tony Stewart raced hard in the closing laps of the race. With two laps to go, Kurt Busch forced the issue with Tony Stewart moving him up the track to secure a top ten finish.
When the drivers started their cool down lap, Kurt Busch drove up to the bumper of Kenseth to voice his displeasure at the way Kenseth raced Busch on the final restart. After Busch gave Kenseth a few shoves, Tony Stewart drove up behind Busch giving him a shove, and rubbed up against his car. Busch returned the favor pushing up against Stewart’s Bass Pro Shop Chevrolet angering Stewart who finished 18th and fell to 22nd in points
Later in the garage Stewart and Busch stood surrounded by crew members from both teams talking about what happened in the final laps. When asked in an interview with FoxSports about what happened with Stewart. Busch replied:
“There is rubber built-up in the outside groove, there are cars sliding up with old tires. So, I don’t know what the No. 14 (Stewart) was upset about. I got hit from behind (by Kenseth). I got hit every which way. So did he. Kenseth moved us up out of the way at the, so that’s why I was upset with him, but hey; everybody is a free-for-all. We got a top 10. But the biggest thing here is 10 laps ago, this car didn’t have a scratch on it and now it’s destroyed.”
The point’s leader Jimmie Johnson also had an interesting night. On lap 327 Stewart got loose, and hit Johsnon, sending both drivers sliding down the apron and right into a unsuspecting Kyle Busch ruining his night. Johnson and his team were able to drive back into the top 15 and finish 12th, retaining the points lead by 49 points. Kyle Busch however was never able to recover from the wreck finishing 24th.
Brad Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion finished 33rd, after an early spin into the turn two wall forced him to play catch up for the remainder of the night . Brad climbed back into the top 20 until a dropped cylinder ended any chance at a decent finish. Keselowski now finds himself 6th place in the point standings.
Matt Kenseth who was penalized by NASCAR on Tuesday for a engine rod being below the minimum weight of what NASCAR allows, started on the pole, and led 146 lap before finishing the night eighth. The top ten finish moved Kenseth up one spot in the standings to 13th, four points behind Jamie McMurray, who holds the final wild card spot. Dale Earnhardt Jr ended the day with a top ten finish, his first since the race at Fontana a month ago moving him up to fourth in points.
With 11 cautions, a surprise winner, and a post-race altercation that will have many people talking come Monday. The Toyota Owners 400 proved to be one of the best races this season. Next week the Sprint cup series heads to Talledega Superspeedway for some pack racing. Who do you think will take the checkered flag at the second restrictor place race of the year? Let me know in the comments below.