Amanda Vincent / The Sports Xchange, Published March 02 2014
Harvick dominates for NASCAR Sprint Cup win
“Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions,” Harvick said of the victory in just his second points-producing event since joining Stewart-Haas Racing after 13 years at Richard Childress Racing. “It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys have put in, but what a race car.”
Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second. Brad Keselowski was third, Joey Logano fourth and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five.
“Yeah, we had a great car,” Earnhardt said. “Harvick was so fast all weekend. Congratulations to him and his whole team. They did an awesome job getting ready for this race and were just fast out of the gate. We got a little bit better. We leaned on our teammates and got the car a lot better.”
Harvick, Earnhardt and the Team Penske duo of Keselowski and Logano were mainstays in the top five through most of the race, often occupying the top four positions in the running order. Keselowski and Logano started the race first and second, and Logano took the lead on the first lap.
Harvick made his way toward the front from his 13th-place starting spot to claim the lead from Logano on lap 74. He was joined up front by Earnhardt when Earnhardt moved into second just a few laps after Harvick took the lead. Harvick led the rest of the way, with the exception of laps ran as the field cycled through green-flag pit stops.
After the yellow flag flew only once in the first half of the race, that being a competition caution on lap 35, the second half of the race was attrition-filled. There were seven cautions from lap 163 through the end of the race.
Harvick was the leader for all of those seven restarts, and each time, he managed to pull out front to maintain the lead.
Although Earnhardt was usually beside him on the front row for restarts, Logano was the one who had the leader concerned.
“The No. 22 (Logano) was able to time the restarts there, and I knew that what was going to happen was he was going to take a shot down low,” Harvick said. “So I tried to do the best I could. I’m just really happy and thank everybody at the Hendrick engine shop and all these cars sharing information. Dale Jr. racing there for second was a lot of fun.”
Meanwhile, Earnhardt usually had Logano to contend with, and the two battled for second as Harvick pulled away.
“We got running side-by-side there for second and just let Kevin get out there a little too far,” Earnhardt said. “I thought we were running him down those last few laps, but we were just too far away.”
On the last restart that followed a lap-297 caution, both Harvick and Earnhardt were able to get away from Logano, while Logano fell into the clutches of his Penske teammate, Keselowski. Keselowski passed Logano soon after the final restart to take the third spot, while Gordon got by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson as well as Ryan Newman in the closing laps to finish in the top five.
“That was everything we could do to get up there and get third,” Keselowski said. “Nobody had anything for Kevin. We did the best we could, and that was really all we had.”