Kevin Harvick dominated early in the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City on Sunday, leading 80 of the first 81 laps before losing the lead to Jimmie Johnson and then getting caught by a yellow flag soon after making a green-flag stop. He got back to the front with pit strategy that included staying out during a caution later in the race.
“These guys just did a great job all weekend,” Harvick said of his crew.
Kurt Busch finished second after starting the race in the back and going two laps down at one point, Jeff Gordon was third.
“It’s just like there’s five percent we’re missing,” Busch said of another finish near the front, just shy of a win.
Johnson quickly drove back toward the front after getting mired back in the field by a caution on lap 87, and was joined in the lead pack by Matt Kenseth for several laps just before the midpoint of the race. Harvick regained the lead by staying out during a caution on lap 136. The Kyle Busch also stayed out to inherit the second spot. Busch had started the race in the back in a backup car after wrecking in practice and then spun on the first lap, attempting to avoid the wrecked No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Danica Patrick.
After running near the front for awhile, Kyle Busch’s day ended early after an attempt to block Juan Pablo Montoya resulted in Busch wrecking hard enough to be retired from the race with just under 70 laps to go.
“I have no idea what happened on the last one (incident),” Busch said. “This is Kansas, isn’t it?”
It was Busch’s third-straight DNF at Kansas.
Jeff Burton got off pit road first by taking fuel only during a yellow flag with 40 laps to go. But as soon as the race returned to green, Harvick reassumed the lead, and Gordon followed him by Burton to take second.
“Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys — ever since the Chase started have just been giving me great cars,” Gordon said. “We’re really proud to finish third today.”
Kurt Busch took second from Gordon on the final restart of the race that followed a caution with 25 laps remaining, but the lead and the win got smaller and smaller in his windshield as Harvick pulled away.
“It was like driving two different cars,” Harvick said of the differences in the way his car handled up front and out in traffic. “We got back in traffic, and it just got too tight. I knew we were fast out front,” Harvick said. “It was just a matter of getting back up there.”
Joey Logano finished fourth, and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Sixth through 10th were Johnson, Paul Menard, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola.
With the win, Harvick moved up to third in the points standings. Gordon moved up to fourth, while Kyle Busch, previously third, dropped to fifth. With his sixth-place finish, Johnson closed to within three points of leader, Kenseth.
“I’ve been so incredibly spoiled this year,” Kenseth said of his ill-handling car after finishing outside the top-10. “I wasn’t used to driving a car like that.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR