Harvick wins at Richmond, Chase field determined
Amanda Vincent is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
Several drivers entered Saturday night’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race with a sense of urgency, trying to claim the final three spots in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup that will get underway Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway. That sense of urgency was evident, as the yellow flag waved a record-tying 15 times in the 400-lap event.
In the end, Kevin Harvick, who already had a Chase spot secured heading into the race, claimed the win, his fourth at the season, to place himself in a tie for first with Kyle Busch to start the Chase.
“We’ve got a little momentum now” Harvick said of his position heading into the Chase.
Also already locked into the Chase prior to Saturday night’s race, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon finished in the second and third spots.
“Kevin wouldn’t give me enough room to hit him,” Edwards said. “He stayed on the bottom because he knew I was going to hit him.”
David Ragan finished fourth, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Busch was also already locked into the Chase prior to the Richmond race.
Other drivers who came into Richmond with their Chase for the Sprint Cup spots secured were Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth. Brad Keselowski headed into the weekend already with at least a wild card spot into the Chase secured.
The drivers who headed to Richmond in Chase positions but not locked in were Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who were ninth and 10th in points, and Denny Hamlin, who was in position to take the second wild card spot.
All three secured positions in the Chase, as Stewart finished seventh, Hamlin 11th and Earnhardt 16th.
The second caution of the race came out early -- on lap eight -- when Clint Bowyer spun and cars piled up behind him, including Earnhardt and Hamlin.
With their Chase spots not yet secure, Hamlin and Earnhardt made multiple pit stops for repairs. Hamlin quickly went down a lap but eventually got back on the lead lap and worked his way back up near the top-10.
As a result of the extensive damage to his race car, Earnhardt fell off the lead lap multiple times during the race, but kept getting laps back. He ran much of the race outside the top-20 before finally being able to maintain a spot inside the top-20 late in the race.
“We just worked hard the rest of the night,” Earnhardt said of racing a car damaged in the lap eight crash.
Much of the night, Earnhardt looked to be on the edge of not getting into the Chase, as he ran between 25th and 30 while Keselowski made his way into the top-five, running second at times. Earnhardt had to stay within about 20 positions of Keselowski to hold on to his spot in the top-10. In the closing laps, though, Keselowski drifted back through the field and Earnhardt managed to keep his car in the top-20.