Kevin Harvick gets fifth victory of 2018 with late pass of Martin Truex Jr. at Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kevin Harvick almost ran out of time.

Harvick took four tires on what turned out to be the penultimate caution, narrowly missed a massive crash that caused the final caution, and then somehow ran down Martin Truex Jr. at the white flag to capture his fifth win of 2018 Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.

Why Harvick had to make up ground

Harvick, the polesitter for Saturday night’s race had one of the fastest cars throughout the entire evening, running in the top three for what felt like the entirety of the race. But that track position disappeared on a caution for Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson when Harvick’s team put four tires on his car.

Six cars stayed out on track, including Truex. Others took two tires. That put Harvick back much closer to 10th than to first and almost ended in catastrophe when William Byron’s car snapped loose and collected Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman. Byron’s car slammed head-on into the wall off the exit of turn four, narrowly missing Harvick’s car as Harvick had gone three-wide with the fresh tires to pass as many drivers as he could.

Harvick then restarted sixth after the red flag for the crash and had 10 laps to get to the front. He needed nearly all of them as Truex had sprinted out to a one-second lead. But Harvick’s tires paid off over the final four laps as he sliced into Truex’s lead, completing the pass as the two cars headed into turn one on the final lap.

How Harvick did it

Harvick said he had no shot catching Truex while driving his car on the low side of the track. So with five laps to go he moved up to the top groove. Magic happened.

“He was getting smaller and I was like I’ve got to do something different, this isn’t working,” Harvick said. “I said I’m going to drive it into the next corner. I’ve got five laps to go, I’m going to drive it in here and I’m either going to hit the wall or it’s going to turn. It turned and we gained about 15 car lengths in that lap and I’m like, well, I guess that was okay, I’m going to do it again and it just kept sticking.”

Crew chief Rodney Childers said he had almost given up on the race after Truex had pulled out to a one-second lead.

“I have to be honest, I was so mad I couldn’t see straight,” Childers said. “I don’t get mad very easy, but about five to go I started throwing my computer in my bag and packing my stuff up and was so mad I couldn’t see straight. And then all of a sudden I looked up again and I was like holy cow. I mean, he had gained like 15 car lengths through that corner.”

The hottest start in 21 years

The victory means Harvick is the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 1997 to win five of a season’s first 12 races. It’s a hell of an accomplishment, especially in a NASCAR where top teams are grouped closer than ever because of how narrow the rulebook is.

While it’s the best start to a season in modern NASCAR — at least the post Car of Tomorrow version of the sport — it’s not the best start to a Cup Series season ever. Dale Earnhardt won six of the season’s first eight races in 1987. Coincidentally, Harvick is the driver that replaced Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing after Earnhardt was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Harvick has also already tied his career high in wins. We’re thinking that will be broken sometime soon.

Full results:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Joey Logano
4. Kyle Larson
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Paul Menard
7. Erik Jones
8. Kurt Busch
9. Aric Almirola
10. Kyle Busch
11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
12. Chase Elliott
13. David Ragan
14. Brad Keselowski
15. Clint Bowyer
16. AJ Allmendinger
17. Austin Dillon
18. Alex Bowman
19. Jimmie Johnson
20. Michael McDowell
21. Kasey Kahne
22. Matt DiBenedetto
23. Darrell Wallace Jr.
24. Corey LaJoie
25. Landon Cassill
26. Ross Chastain
27. Reed Sorenson
28. Daniel Suarez
29. Gray Gaulding
30. Ryan Newman
31. Jamie McMurray
32. Timmy Hill
33. William Byron
34. Chris Buescher
35. BJ McLeod
36. Matt Kenseth
37. Ryan Blaney
38. Ty Dillon

 

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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