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Pit strategy helps Harvick win in Kansas

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Kevin Harvick earned the win and Jimmie Johnson tightened the point standings in Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400.

Harvick claimed his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the year when he took the checkered flag in the at Kansas Speedway.

"These guys just did a great job all weekend," Harvick said of his crew.

Kurt Busch finished second, with Jeff Gordon third.

"Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys -- ever since the Chase started have just been giving me great cars," Gordon said. "We're really proud to finish third today."

Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Johnson were fourth through sixth, respectively, as Johnson reduced Matt Kenseth's lead in the championship standings from eight points to three.

Harvick started on the pole and led for all but one of the first 81 laps before losing the top spot to Johnson.

Soon after Johnson passed him, Harvick headed down pit road for his first green-flag pit stop, but the yellow flag waved soon after, catching him a lap down.

Harvick took a wave-around to get back on the lead lap, and his crew used pit strategy to get him back to the front by leaving him out on the track to reassume the lead during a caution that came out on lap 136. Harvick dominated the remainder of the race.

"It was like driving two different cars," Harvick said. "When we got back in traffic, it just got too tight. I knew we were fast out front. It was just a matter of getting back up there."

Kurt Busch, who was two laps down at one point in the race, recovered to finish second.

"It's just like there's 5 percent we're missing," Busch said of again coming close to a win but falling just short.

After Harvick got mired back in the field, Kenseth, Johnson and Kyle Busch spent significant time up front. throughout the race, though, each lost several positions during various cautions as strategies varied. Some drivers took fuel only, some took two tires and some four, and some stayed out on the track.

Kyle Busch had an eventful race after starting in the back in a backup car following a wreck in practice earlier in the weekend. He spun on lap one to avoid a wrecked Danica Patrick. After getting back toward the front, he wrecked with fewer than 70 laps remaining after trying to block a charging Juan Pablo Montoya to hold onto his position. He wound up retiring from the race and was credited with a 34th-place finish.

The DNF (did not finish) was Kyle Busch's third straight at Kansas.

"I have no idea what happened on the last (incident)," he said. "This is Kansas, isn't it?"

Johnson made his way up to fifth in the final laps of the race. He fell slightly off the pace, though, feeling a vibration in his car, with two laps to go. He managed to only lose one position to Edwards on the final lap and wound up sixth.

Paul Menard came in seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took eighth, Marcos Ambrose finished ninth and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10.

NOTES: Harvick's pole start was his first pole since 2006. ... Harvick is the only driver not with Joe Gibbs Racing to win on a 1.5-mile track in 2013. ... The win moved Harvick up to third in the championship points standings, 25 points behind Kenseth. ... Gordon moved up to fourth in the standings, 32 points off the pace, while Kyle Busch dropped to fifth, 35 points behind the leader. ... The 15 cautions in the race set a record for most cautions at Kansas Speedway and the most for any race in 2013.
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