Kevin Harvick was indeed “the closer” Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.
On four fresh tires, Harvick charged from sixth to the victory over the final nine laps in the KC Masterpiece 400. He took the lead from Martin Truex Jr., who was looking for his third straight Kansas win, on the outside off Turn 4 coming to the white flag.
It was smooth sailing from there. Harvick picked up his fifth win of the season – in 12 races – after leading 79 laps.
“Man, that was a wild last few laps,” said Harvick of his third win at Kansas and 42nd of his career. “I think as you look at the end of the race there I was really tight on the bottom, so I just started driving it up top. I said, I’m either going to drive in the wall or win this race, and it started working and made up a bunch of ground.
“I’m out of breath; I was so pumped to hear those fans screaming and yelling and have a great race. Came down to restarts at the end … Everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, thank you. All the fans, we appreciate you watching, Man that was a heck of a race.”
As he’s been since the start of the season, Harvick was the class of the field throughout the weekend. While he didn’t win a stage Saturday night, Harvick started from the pole and was fastest in the only practice session.
Truex, however, was sitting pretty off the restart by easily clearing Joey Logano. The No. 78 was not a factor most of the night and only took the lead off a restart with 15 laps to go, having stayed on the track to gain the track position.
“I thought we were going to be all right there with three or four to go, my car just got real tight, and I chattered the right front [tire] off of Turn 4, and I was like, oh boy,” said Truex. “We had been so tight all night. I didn’t know where to go when he was getting there. If I go to the top he’s just going to pass me on the bottom I might as well run where I feel like I’m the fastest and I did, it just wasn’t enough.”
The finish was a dramatic conclusion to a race that had been flying by. Until three cautions broke out within a span of seven of the final 30 laps, the only stops in the action had been for the competition caution (on Lap 30) and the stage breaks.
Kyle Larson led the most laps, 101, but finished fourth. With 20 laps to go, contact with Ryan Blaney — for which Blaney took responsibility — damaged Larson’s car and brought him down pit road. He then had to pit a second time to tighten all the lug nuts. The subsequent cautions and restarts allowed him to make up the lost ground.
The top 10 were Harvick, Truex, Logano, Larson, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch.
Matt Kenseth was involved in a multicar wreck with 15 laps to go and finished 36th in his return.