Even the sprinklers couldn't rain on Kevin Harvick's parade, as he came out with the win at Richmond International Raceway in the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday.
In the end, it all came down the final pit stop. A caution led to what is essentially overtime in NASCAR, the green-white-checkered finish. Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kurt Busch were in the top three and all chose to pit before the race restarted. As a result, they dropped back in the field.
Harvick ran marvelous after the restart. He was in seventh but managed to maneuver himself into the lead over the final laps. He only led three laps the entire race, but Harvick made those laps count.
In terms of race strategy, he was second to none. Harvick and his crew timed his pit stops perfectly, as he had a very good car, even toward the end. Before the caution, he presented a huge threat to Montoya, who was leading at the time. His tires were 30 laps fresher, and his laps were slightly faster.
For most of the race, Harvick hovered around the lead without actually getting out in front. He eventually made his move late, when it would have the biggest impact.
Montoya also ran a great race, leading 67 laps. Had the race not had the final caution, he would have won the race.
Credit Montoya for managing to hold off Harvick until that final caution.
Bad luck has plagued Montoya all season, but everything seemed to click Saturday night. His car was fast, and he avoided any major problems. That bad luck reared its ugly head late in the race, though. The announcers had said he was carrying 100/1 odds coming into the race. It's easy to see why considering he had never before had Montoya won on an oval track.
Much of the race was dominated by the Busch brothers. Kurt and Kyle Busch found themselves near the top of the leaderboard quite often. There was a chance it would be the first time the brothers would finish first and second in the same race.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
Late in the race, it looked like Kyle Busch was going to get knocked for a commitment violation as he was heading into the pits. Upon further review, it was determined there was in fact no violation and he retained the sixth spot.
He was lucky to get back in the race, but shortly thereafter, his luck ran out.
Busch took the brunt of a wreck between Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart and eventually fell a lap down as his pit crew repaired his car.. A wreck with 63 laps to go allowed him to get back on the lead lap, but there was no way Busch was going to win his fifth straight spring race at Richmond.
With Richmond being a short track, there were bound to be plenty of cautions. In all, the yellow flag was brought out on 11 occasions.
There was also a surreal moment in the middle of the race, as the sprinklers in the infield began going off. A caution was called. Much of the entertainment came with the track officials driving out to the sprinklers and trying to figure out what to do.
Leaderboard (You can check out the full leaderboard at NASCAR.com)
|2.|| Clint Bowyer|
|3.|| Joey Logano|
|4.|| Juan Pablo Montoya|
|5.|| Jeff Burton|
|7.|| Matt Kenseth|
|8.|| Aric Almirola|
|9.|| Kurt Busch|
|10|| Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
NASCAR on SPEED added the sprinkler mishap to the weird occurrences of the season already:
NASCAR on SPEED @NASCARonSPEED
Add to the list of firsts we've seen this year, it appears some of the lawn sprinklers have come on in the Infield at @RIRInsider! #nascar4/28/2013, 12:59:27 AM
Jeff Owens of TheSportingNews.com believed the fix was in for the Toyotas in the race:
Jeff Owens @jowens_SpursUp
Interesting that Toyotas are the cars to beat in the Toyota Owners 400. Just saying. #nascar4/28/2013, 12:36:13 AM
No recap would be complete without a Danica Patrick update. Jeff Gluck of USA Today told you all you need to know. Patrick ended up finishing 29th:
Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck
Poor performance for Danica Patrick tonight. She just went four laps down and is in 34th place.4/28/2013, 1:49:08 AM
The Orange Cone pointed out the irony for Kyle Busch. Had he received the commitment violation, he probably wouldn't have been involved in the wreck:
The Orange Cone @TheOrangeCone
Suddenly @KyleBusch is wishing he actually did get that commitment line violation.4/28/2013, 2:21:43 AM
Hunt Brothers Pizza, Harvick's sponsor, congratulated him on a great race:
Great run by @KevinHarvick tonight! So proud to be on that car! http://t.co/TSKoeTRFem4/28/2013, 3:14:49 AM
Next Sunday, the drivers will descend upon the Talladega Superspeedway for the Aaron's 499.