How the race was won
Harvick Kevin Harvick, who had been running well all day, vaulted himself to the front by pitting just before a caution came out with about 35 laps to go. Tony Stewart passed him late, but Harvick made a bold move back around Stewart a few laps later and drove away to his first career road course win.
Story of the race
The late battle between Harvick and Stewart.
Some Chase hopefuls having devastating days, being caught up in the many incidents that plagued this road race.
And Kurt Busch. More on him later.
Give 'em credit
Harvick. Sure, he got a little lucky when that caution came out, but it appeared his shot to win was gone when Stewart passed him (or when his car began to spew fuel all over the track). Not so.
Speaking of Stewart, it didn't take him long at all to recover the track position lost when that ill-timed (for him) caution came out.
Might Jamie McMurray still be able to save his ride? Sure, if he logs more performances like Sunday's.
Speaking of, nice recovery and finish for Elliott Sadler in what could be his last start for Robert Yates.
Robby Gordon (typical day at the road office), Carl Edwards (too little, too late?), Scott Pruett (no surprise), Reed Sorenson (strategy helped, but still a nice showing), Ryan Newman (no big surprise) and Kyle Busch (heck of a comeback).
What were they thinking?
Kurt Busch's crew chief Roy McCauley. Or NASCAR. Hard to tell. Joe Nemechek spins, but the caution doesn't immediately come out. Busch's team is aware of the spin, and apparently already scheduled to pit, instructs Busch to do just that. The caution finally flies just before Busch crosses the commit line, resulting in a penalty that stole away a likely win or at least a top-five. That yellow flag needed to fly sooner, or Busch's team needed to react more quickly. This didn't appear to be a matter of Busch trying to dive into the pits to take advantage of the caution, but rather just a regularly scheduled pit stop. If indeed that is the case, the No. 2 team simply got hosed. But if it was a last-minute decision to pit (which some reports, perhaps incorrectly, indicated), it ended up being an awful one.
Nextel Cup road races had been getting better and better in recent years as many drivers became more comfortable turning both right and left. But is it possible that the newfound confidence leads to overagressiveness? Now these drivers are getting themselves into too much trouble. Bold moves are commonplace, as track position is crucial. But having some position actually on the track rather in the sand or garage seems to also be slightly important.
Better luck next time
Busch A win would have kept Busch's Chase hopes alive. Now they are all but gone. And after his win in Saturday's Busch race, Busch could have claimed a spot alongside (or just behind, really) Stewart, Jeff Gordon, etc., as one of NASCAR's best on the roads. He still might do that.
Greg Biffle. Again. Despite their early struggles, it still seemed Biffle and Edwards would make the Chase. Barring a miracle, guess not.
Boris Said. He banged and spun early but came back to score a top-10 – only to have a postrace penalty knock him back into the 30s. Brutal.
Those involved in that late crash – or any of the many others throughout the day.
Kasey Kahne. The Sadler of '06?
Jeff Gordon. Ill-timed caution, then a spin. He recovered reasonably well but was robbed of a chance to better-secure his spot in the top 10.
Ken Schrader almost worked out another decent finish. Almost.
By the way …
Are tracks like Watkins Glen and Bristol placed too close to the start of the Chase? They are such wild-card events, it almost seems unfair to a would-be Chase contender to have to deal with such a crap shoot while trying to secure a spot in the top 10. Then again, these drivers have plenty of time to build a points cushion heading into those tough events. There is some irony, however, in that there are so few cookie-cutters in the races leading up to a Chase that is filled to the brim with them. Maybe it's time to swap one out of the Chase and into the lead-up events?
It's amazing how many top Chase contenders more or less spit the bit on Sunday, only to lose little to no ground in the points. The guys on the bubble or the outside looking in, however …
Grading the race
This race had a wild start, and most of the subsequent restarts also were chaotic – and terrifically entertaining. That's fine when the field sorts itself out, but not so much when the dicey action just leads to cautions. And yes, there were too many cautions in this one. But when there were longer runs, the action actually wasn't that great. The finish, not surprisingly, added excitement, and the Kurt Busch debacle made this one memorable. Road races by default usually are pretty interesting, and while Watkins Glen usually puts on a very good show, Sunday's simply was not one of them. Grade: C
From the source
Kevin Harvick: "To race Tony, who obviously everybody knows is one of my good friends and has won here a lot and a lot on the road courses, makes it that much more special because you know it didn't just come from pit strategy; you had to beat the guy that's been on top here, and that makes it really gratifying for myself."
Kurt Busch: "We put ourselves in position for NASCAR to make a call and it didn't end up in our favor."