Harvick denies Earnhardt Jr. at Martinsville|
Martinsville, VA (Sports Network) - Kevin Harvick won his second straight
Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, but it wasn't to the delight of the
estimated crowd of 60,000 on hand for the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at
Harvick, who won last weekend at his home track in California, prevented Dale
Earnhardt Jr. -- NASCAR's most popular driver -- an opportunity to end his
winless streak that dates back to June 2008 at Michigan.
Earnhardt Jr. passed Kyle Busch for the lead with 21 laps remaining in the
500-lap affair at the flat, half-mile Virginia track. But Harvick took over
the top position with four laps to go when Earnhardt Jr. got loose, allowing
Harvick to squeak by him.
Harvick dealt with a loose car and fell back in the field in the early going,
but he patiently made his way to the front in the late stages. He crossed the
finish line 0.7 seconds ahead of Earnhardt Jr. to become the first repeat
winner in the series this season.
"I didn't think we had the car to do that," said Harvick, who led just six
laps. "I had a lot of fun racing with Dale Jr. I hate to be the bad guy here,
but we're in it to win it."
Last Sunday at California, Harvick passed Jimmie Johnson and led only the
final lap for the victory.
It was Harvick's 16th career Cup win, but his first at Martinsville. He also
gave team owner Richard Childress his first victory here since Dale
Earnhardt's win in the fall 1995 race.
Earnhardt Jr.'s winless drought now stretches to 99 races.
"[Harvick] was coming, and there wasn't much I could do," a disappointed
Earnhardt Jr. said. "I got a little loose coming into [turn] one, and I wanted
to do a cross-over move. I thought I had that."
Busch dominated during a series of long green-flag stretches in the second
half, but the final caution for an incident involving Regan Smith occurred 34
laps away from the finish. That allowed Earnhardt Jr. to chase down Busch for
the lead just after the last restart.
"We just didn't have a short-run car today," Busch said. "We were really good
on the long runs, but it just wasn't a long-run race there at the end."
Busch led the most laps with 151, but ended up in third.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth, while Jeff Gordon, a seven-time
Martinsville race winner, took the fifth spot.
Matt Kenseth, pole sitter Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer and Mark
Martin, who made his 800th career Cup start, completed the top-10.
Five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson was in contention to win
until he was slapped with a pit-road speeding penalty during the final round
of stops. Johnson, who has won at Martinsville six times, settled for an 11th-
Denny Hamlin, who had won the last three races at Martinsville, led a total of
89 laps, but faded in the second half en route to a 12th-place run.
The race featured a track-record 31 lead changes, as well as 11 cautions --
including one for a vicious accident involving Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey
Kahne on lap 221.
The throttle in Truex's car became stuck, causing him to hit Kahne, therefore
sending both drivers straight into the wall.
"When you usually get hit here, you spin out because somebody is mad," Kahne
said. "I knew that the throttle had stuck on Martin's car, because he drove me
through the wall."
Truex's battered car briefly erupted into flames. Both drivers were not
injured in what is being considered one of the hardest crashes to occur at
NASCAR's oldest and shortest track on the schedule.
NASCAR halted the race for 25 minutes to allow track personnel to repair the
SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) barrier on the outside wall.
"I was thinking, 'Oh man, this is going to hurt,' but it didn't hurt at all,"
Truex said. "I want to thank NASCAR and everybody who built the SAFER barrier
and these cars; they're unbelievable. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have been
After the sixth race of the season, Kyle Busch took over the points lead. His
advantage is five markers over Carl Edwards, who finished one lap behind in
04/03 19:04:15 ET