Kevin Harvick put one more career win between him and Kyle Busch at Bristol Motor Speedway. After a final stage that saw the two veteran drivers racing neck-and-neck, Harvick took the lead back in the final 31 laps, then took his ninth checkered flag of the season.
“Turned into a heck of a race, in and out of traffic there with Kyle,” Harvick said. “He got me once pinned up there in traffic and I was able to do the same thing back and then hold the lead there until the end.”
Harvick scored his 58th Cup win on Saturday, which is two more than Busch, who is 10th on NASCAR’s all-time Cup wins list. The defending series champion Busch nearly snapped his 28-race winless streak this season, but finished in second place (in the 29th race) after winning Stage 2. Erik Jones, who is out of the playoffs, finished in third.
Busch drove back from a penalty deficit, which sent him to the rear of the field at the start of the race, through the first two stages, but he said he was frustrated with the second place finish.
“(I) just felt like this was one of our greater shots to win, and I don’t know,” Busch said. “You know, just come up short.”
Early in the final stage, Harvick took the lead and held on as Busch chased him down. With 41 laps left, Busch made his pass, leading for 10 more laps until Harvick re-took the lead as Busch’s No. 18 stalled behind Joey Logano, who was two laps down.
“He’s nobody’s friend for a reason,” Busch said of Logano. “So there you have it.”
Twelve drivers, including Harvick, Busch and Logano, will advance to the next round of the playoffs. Four bubble drivers — Cole Custer, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Matt DiBenedetto — were eliminated from the postseason after Bristol.
“We just didn’t perform,” Blaney said. “Didn’t perform in the first round like we needed to to transfer. And that’s just something you’ll have. We just needed to step up and we just had too many issues.”
Byron crashed out in Stage 2 of the race, while the other drivers who were cut just didn’t have the speed and were unable to gain the necessary points to send them through to the Round of 12, which starts next weekend at Las Vegas.
Harvick is already rolling into the next round with his most wins in a single season. In 2018, the driver and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team compiled eight wins and finished the year in third. He won the 2014 championship with five wins.
“We got to nine,” Harvick said. “So that’s one step closer than we were at eight. I don’t know if we’ll make it to ten, but we’re going to keep trying to do the best we can every week, and it’s just been an unbelievable year.”
Kevin Harvick stats
Starting position Saturday: 4
Laps led Saturday: 226/500
Wins at BMS: 3/40
Top-fives at BMS: 13/40
Career wins: 119 (58 in Cup series)
NASCAR playoff standings: Drivers advance to Round of 12
|6||Martin Truex Jr.||19|
NASCAR at Bristol Race Results
|Pos.||Driver||Car No.||Time Behind|
|20||John Hunter Nemechek||38||-3|
|24||Martin Truex Jr.||19||-4|
|40||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47||-472|
NASCAR 2020 playoff schedule
Round of 12
▪ 7 pm Sunday, Sept. 27: South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
▪ 2 pm Sunday, Oct. 4: YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
▪ 2:30 pm Sunday, Oct. 11: Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Round of 8
▪ 2:30 pm Sunday, Oct. 18: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway
▪ 3:30 pm Sunday, Oct 25: Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
▪ 2 pm Sunday, Nov. 1: Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway
▪ 3 pm Sunday, Nov. 8: NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway