He may have lost the Daytona 500 because of multiple green-white-checkered finishes, but Kevin Harvick got his in return Sunday at Talladega. After being conservative for much of the day, Harvick took advantage of three GWC attempts to make a last lap pass to score the win over Jamie McMurray.
On a day in which there were a record-breaking 88 lead changes among a record-breaking 29 drivers, Harvick led only two laps. Shoving McMurray around the 2.66-mile track on the final lap, Harvick waited until they rounded the tri-oval to make his move. As McMurray bobbled coming to the line, Harvick dove to the inside and was able to beat him to the line by just 0.011 seconds.
“We knew we needed to be the second car pushing coming to the start-finish line because you can make that one swipe pass there coming to the finish line,” Harvick said. “It was just a matter of timing. Our day worked out really well for us. We planned on riding around in the back to miss the wrecks and racing with about 50 to go. All of that worked out and we were able to work our way there and have the move that we planned on trying to be in position to make at the end of the race.”
Nearly on his way to his third-straight superspeedway victory, McMurray could do little to hold off Harvick’s charge to the inside.
“It’s hard to explain to you guys that aren’t in cars, but when there’s someone directly behind you and they pull their car out of line really fast, it’s like you pull a parachute in your car,” McMurray said. “It literally feels like you lose three or five miles an hour immediately, and when that happens, the car that’s doing the passing just has the momentum.”
With less than 10 laps to go, Jeff Gordon got a huge push from Ryan Newman on the low side down the backstretch. Driving into turn 3, Jimmie Johnson shut the door on his teammate, sending him down on the apron and stacking the field up behind him. As the field shuffled around the corner, Mike Bliss stuck his nose to the outside of Jeff Burton. The two made contact, triggering a five-car wreck to set up the first GWC attempt.
McMurray led the field with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya lined up two cars back. Racing into turn 3, Newman attempted to go four-wide with Joey Logano behind him. Pushing the No. 39 into the corner, Logano turned Newman down into Elliott Sadler, Bobby Labonte and others. In all nine cars were involved.
Lined up for the final attempt at a GWC finish, McMurray led with Montoya to his outside and Harvick tucked up behind him. With a big push from Harvick, the two-car tandem drove away from the pack. Coming through the tri-oval, Harvick used a move to the inside to score the victory.
Ironically, it was McMurray who took advantage of the multiple GWC attempts to win the Daytona 500 over Harvick. This time the roles were reversed.
“I remember Gil [Martin, crew chief] being kind of down in the dumps and telling Mike Helton, he said, that rule sucks,” Harvick said. “Mike patted him on the back, and he said it’ll all come full circle. And today it’s all worked itself out and we were able to finish it off.”
Behind Harvick and McMurray, Montoya finished third, tying his best finish of the season so far. Denny Hamlin finished fourth and Mark Martin rounded out the top five. David Ragan was sixth in the UPS Ford while Clint Bowyer was seventh. Kurt Busch came back from a lap down to finish eighth, while Kyle Busch and Bliss, driving the No. 09 that Brad Keselowski used to win this race last year, rounded out the top 10.
The race had eight caution flags that took up 32 laps. Because of the three GWC restarts at the end of the race, the event was extended by 12 laps (32 miles). The average speed was 150.590 mph.
Next week the series heads to the ¾-mile short track in Richmond for the Crown Royal 400.