BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kevin Harvick passed Denny Hamlin for the lead with 70 laps to go and held to win at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, ending a two-day, water-logged ordeal.
Harvick led 128 laps for his second NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the season and his second at the high-banked, half-mile concrete bullring. Fittingly for a race halted because of Saturday night storms, Harvick had to sit out one last rain delay before easily pulling away on the restart and cruising to victory.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Harvick said over the radio as he crossed the line.
Harvick enticed his car owner — and retiring driver — Tony Stewart to do burnouts with him to celebrate the three-time champion’s last race at Bristol.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second, followed by Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Chris Buescher.
Kyle Busch led 256 laps, but was knocked out in a crash.
Busch clearly had the strongest car, leading a race-high 256 laps. But he spun on Lap 373 when a part broke and Justin Allgaier, driving in relief of Michael Arnett, hit the No. 18 car flush to end the defending series champ’s race.
Busch was angered by his equipment failure and said the race shop “was going to hear about it Tuesday.” He also blasted Allgaier and his spotter, saying they should’ve seen Busch’s spin and moved clear instead of hitting him. “I don’t know. Frustrating day. Let’s go home,” Busch said.
Allgaier apologized to Busch. “That is the worst possibly scenario when the leader spins out and you hit them,” Allgaier said.
That was the sentiment of many at Bristol. The end was a welcome relief for race teams, track officials and those who came back out after last night’s soaking rains.
It was the second time in three races — Pocono’s Sunday race ended on a Monday three weeks ago — that rain impacted a Sprint Cup race and only a fraction of the 160,000 in the stands Saturday night returned for the conclusion.
The finish also meant Bristol could begin the massive conversion of its race track to a football field for No. 9 Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech, an event that track GM Jerry Caldwell expects will draw in excess of 155,000 fans.
To do that, the track must turn the infield into a football over a detailed, step-by-step, 19-day, step-by-step plan that’s already behind — the work was planned to start in Sunday’s early hours once the last NASCAR hauler had left the property.
Mother Nature, though, had different plans.
WHO’S HOT: Austin Dillon, the surprise winner of the Xfinity race here Friday night, found himself competing for the victory on the final restart with 51 laps to go. He got as high as second before finishing fourth. The result was a boost to Dillon’s Chase chances, too, who came in as one of the drivers qualifying on points and left with that intact.
WHO’S NOT: Tony Stewart was hoping to lock up his Chase spot — he’s got a win but stands 26th in points — with a strong Bristol finish. Instead, he went behind the wall with a vibration just past the halfway point. Stewart finished 30th.
THEY SAID IT: “The person that’s really the biggest moron out there is the spotter of the 46 and driver of the 46 (Justin Allgaier). I’ve been wrecking half a lap and they just come up and clean us out. That’s stupid,” said Kyle Busch, who wrecked on lap 373 after leading 258 laps.
THE BIG ONE: It came on lap 373 on a restart after Kyle Busch was knocked out by an accident. Kurt Busch slid up and was hit by Brad Keselowski, touching off a 10-car wreck that caught up contenders Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth. Keselowski said Kurt Busch got loose “and by the time I saw it, I was already making contact. It was one of those Bristol things.”
UP NEXT: Michigan International Speedway, Aug. 28. Matt Kenseth is the defending champion.