Driver Kevin Harvick celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., on Sunday. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kevin Harvick won a wreck-filled race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, keeping out of trouble all afternoon and making a big move in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Harvick pulled away from Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon on a restart with 19 laps to go for his third win of the year. It came after Harvick sat on the pole for the first time in 254 races.
The last time he qualified first, at New Hampshire in 2006, he also won the race.
“These guys just did a great job all weekend,” Harvick said. “To have a car fast enough for me to qualify on the pole says a lot about how fast this thing is.”
Harvick was chased across the line by Busch and Gordon. Joey Logano finished fourth, Carl Edwards was fifth, and Jimmie Johnson finished sixth despite a slight hiccup with his engine on the final lap that cost him one spot on the track.
Matt Kenseth held onto his lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with an 11th-place finish. Johnson narrowed the gap to just three points, while Harvick moved into third place, just 25 points out of first with six races left in the season.
Kyle Busch was the big loser after crashing for the third straight time at Kansas Speedway, dropping from third in points to fifth, 35 adrift of the lead.
There were 15 cautions in the race, breaking the record of 14 for a Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway. The first came when the race wasn’t even a lap old and Danica Patrick slammed into the wall, and most of them occurred when cars got loose coming out of Turn 2.
Busch and Kenseth both called the race “treacherous,” pointing to the combination of a repave last year and Goodyear’s new “multi-zone” tires that made it seem as if they were skating across a smooth, glasslike surface most of the afternoon.
All of it was compounded by temperatures in the 50s at the start of the race, more than 30 degrees cooler than testing and practice earlier in the week.
“It’s all about restarts and making sure you can gain spots, but it’s treacherous,” Busch said. “You had to have a lot of give and take.”
One of the major story lines coming into the race involved Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, who got together in the Nationwide race on Saturday.
Keselowski said that Busch intentionally dumped him and seemed to indicate that he would retaliate in the Sprint Cup race. Keselowski even asked NASCAR President Mike Helton in the prerace driver’s meeting about the line between hard racing and intentional wrecks.
It turned out that Busch kept going for spins without Keselowski’s help.
The first one came down the front stretch when he appeared to squeeze Juan Pablo Montoya, sending Busch sideways across the track. The second spin came after a restart a moment later, and this one sent his No. 18 Toyota head-first into the Turn 1 wall and ended his day.
“I have no idea what happened, but it’s Kansas. It’s what we do here, we just crash,” Busch said. “The racetrack is the worst racetrack I’ve ever driven on. The tires are the worst tires I’ve ever driven on, and track position is everything. You can’t do anything.”
Harvick didn’t seem to have a whole lot of trouble with track, or the tires.
He was fast from the moment he unloaded this weekend, and then turned heads with his fast qualifying run. Harvick got off pit sequence early in the race and was shuffled to the back of the pack, but he was fast every time he got into clean air.
That was the case at the end, when he pulled away for an easy victory.
“The car was just really tight and then we got better as the cloud cover came over and we found that middle line,” Harvick said. “Track position was so important. It was a good day, and just happy as heck for everybody on this team.”