Harvick holds off Kyle Busch in Bristol nail-biter

John Harrelson / Motorsport Images

Harvick holds off Kyle Busch in Bristol nail-biter


Harvick holds off Kyle Busch in Bristol nail-biter


Kevin Harvick’s march toward an appearance in the championship race continued with his ninth win Saturday night.

Harvick dominated at Bristol, leading 226 of the 500 laps. He and Kyle Busch battled over the final 82 lap green-flag run, with Harvick taking the top spot for good with 31 laps to go. It is his ninth win of the season and second in three playoff races, giving him 62 playoff points to start the second round.

Harvick is now a three-time winner at Bristol, with 58 career wins in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“To beat Kyle Busch at Bristol – I kind of got myself in a little bit of a ringer there, I hit a lapped car and got a hole in the right-front nose, but just kept fighting,” said Harvick. “We don’t have anything else to lose; we were here to try to win a race. I know how much Rodney (Childers, crew chief) really enjoys coming here.”

The reigning series champion had to come from the rear of the field after his car failed pre-race inspection twice. But Busch made quick work of the competition, climbing into the top 20 by the first caution on lap 27. After losing a few spots on pit road when he had to back up to get around Daniel Suarez, Busch began using the top of the racetrack to make up ground and finished the first stage (lap 125) in the second position.

Busch had a strong night with a win in Stage 2, and 159 laps led. But he found himself fighting from behind when Harvick took the lead on lap 281 and pulled away from the field by over six seconds. The final caution with 94 laps to go gave Busch a chance, and he took the lead with 41 laps to go before Harvick came calling 10 laps later.

“We had a really good car; it was fast and the team gave me a piece to contend with at least,” said Busch. “We definitely weren’t the fastest car. The 4 (Harvick) was definitely the fastest car. We made some adjustments there the last run and got closer and better. Just lapped traffic.

“Gotta go where they ain’t and man, where they are, you want to be. We got the lead from the 4 there on the last run and just got stuck with the 22 (Joey Logano), as usual, him being a ****head. Then the last lap, I don’t even know who the hell the black car was that just stopped on the backstretch. That’s it, we lost.”

Erik Jones finished third with Tyler Reddick fourth and Aric Almirola fifth. Clint Bowyer finished sixth.

There six cars on the lead lap at the checkered flag.

The rest of the top 10 were Chase Elliott (who won Stage 1) in seventh, Chris Buescher eighth, Ryan Preece ninth, and Michael McDowell 10th. McDowell was the first driver two laps down.

Ryan Blaney finished 13th, Matt DiBenedetto 19th, Cole Custer 23rd, and William Byron 38th.

Blaney, DiBenedetto, Custer, and Byron were the four drivers eliminated from the playoffs. All four entered the weekend below the cutline.

Byron was officially eliminated before the end of Stage 2 when he retired from the race. The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was heavily damaged when he ran into the back of Christopher Bell, who had slowed due to the slow lapped car of Josh Bilicki.

Neither DiBenedetto and Blaney were unable to overcome a points deficit that essentially demanded that they win the race. DiBenedetto fought all night but had two unscheduled pit stops for tire issues. Blaney also fell behind because of a tire problem.

There were 14 lead changes among eight drivers and five cautions.