Richard Childress Racing (RCR) driver Kevin Harvick ground out his first Martinsville Speedway Sprint Cup Series victory by executing a Turn 4 bump-and-run move on Dale Earnhardt, Jr., that set up a Turn 1 race-winning pass with four of 500 laps remaining.
Harvick piloted his No. 29 to his second consecutive victory this season and the 16th of his career by 0.727 of a second after leading the event three times for a total of six laps and coming from three spots behind Earnhardt, Jr's No. 88 with 20 laps remaining.
"An awesome day, I didn't think we had the car to do that. It shows what we're made of again.
"We crashed and we fell back to the last car on the lead lap just about on the first run. We came back up through there, put those two tires on, I got back up to the front and everything woke up. We had something left there to race at the end. I didn't believe them when they told me it was fast, but when we got toward the front it was pretty cool.
"I had a lot of fun racing Dale, Jr. I hate to be the bad guy here, but we're in it to win it. Everybody on the RCR team has done a great job. We just keep fighting," Harvick said after advancing from ninth to fifth in the standings with his third top-five and fourth top-10 finish of the season.
Earnhardt, Jr., vaulted four spots in the series standings to eighth after nailing down his second top-five and third top-10 finish of the season by leading the race once for a total of 17 laps.
"I tried to put together some laps there, but the back of the car just wasn't into the track. The 29 was coming and there wasn't much I could do. I got a little loose down into Turn 1 and I wanted to do a little bit of a crossover move. I thought I had that, but I was just trying to keep the nose in there without turning him sideways and letting Kyle (Busch) into the mix. I don't know what I could've done different.
"We were a top 10 car but not a race winning car. We worked on it really hard but didn't make any gains, really. Steve did an awesome job with the pit strategy. That got us up there, that's all it was. The car was good enough for 15 laps to run past those guys to try to get out there and get a big lead. It just wasn't enough. I'm frustrated that I got close, was out there leading and I didn't win," he said.
Kyle Busch took over the lead in the series standings by bagging a third-place finish that marked his fourth top-five and fifth top-10 finish of the season in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) entry. Juan Pablo Montoya placed fourth in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing ride and Jeff Gordon knocked out a fifth-place finish in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24.
JGR driver Denny Hamlin finished the battle 12th in his home state and snapped his three-race win streak at the track.
Busch will hold a five-point championship lead over Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards entering the April 9 race at Texas Motor Speedway. Radio coverage begins at 7:00 p.m., on the Performance Racing Network and Sirius XM Radio 128. FOX starts its coverage at 7:30 p.m.
The series makes its historic Kentucky Speedway debut with the July 9 "Quaker State 400" as part of a NASCAR tripleheader that addtionally spotlights a 225-mile July 7 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series battle and a 300-mile July 8 NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
Click the links that follow for tickets and camping.
Story by Mike Schmaltz