There are those that scoff at the idea of cars driving in circles as sport or even entertainment.  What people fail to realize is that there is pure emotion behind the wheel of every NASCAR driver.  Plus at some racing venues there is drama lurking at every turn.  As evidence, Richmond International Raceway is .75 miles around a D-shaped oval.  There is very little space to operate and after 400 scheduled laps, those nerves get rubbed raw.

Kevin Harvick got the benefit of a few extra laps and a win was the reward for his good fortune for his 20th career win and 3rd at RIR.   However getting there is half the fun.  Matt Kenseth had his pole position wiped out last week for illegal engine parts.  Undeterred, Kenseth backed it up by clocking the best qualifying for a second week in a row.  The 20 car and fellow Toyota driver Clint Bowyer were the best performers during the first half of the Toyota Dealers 400.  As the laps wound down, it looked as if Juan Pablo Montoya would be heading to his first checkered flag since 2010.  On lap 394, Montoya’s victory plans were dashed with Brian Vickers tagging the wall and setting up a Green-White-Checker finish.

With so little race left, most of the field got fresh tires leaving three gamblers on the track.  Those three were essentially easy pickings because of very old tires and had no chance for victory.  Two other drivers rolled a different set of bones opting for a two-tire stop for the final fireworks.  Montoya was the first car off the pit lane, but that placed his number 42 piece on the outside in 6th place for the restart.  Harvick on the inside in 7th place was essentially in prime position to be the man on the move and by the exit of turn 2 Harvick jumped all the way to 2nd on the grid.  Burton still held the point down the back straight, but those old tires couldn’t hold the bottom lane and Harvick has able to stand on it through the middle of turns 3 and 4 on the outside with clear sailing for the final .75 miles.

A recap of the gamblers showed Jeff Burton came out best of the non-pitters holding on for 5th, while A. J. Allmendinger faded to 14th and Jamie McMurray got dropkicked to 26th.  Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were the 2-tire pitters as Stewart got bounced to 18th spot and Edwards soldiered home with a 6th place finish.

After Harvick, Bowyer broke through for second, Joey Logano took third and JPM went from 6 laps from victory to 4th place.  Montoya was actually graciously giddy after the race despite that untimely caution flag cost him a win.

Juan Pablo Montoya
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The tough luck award this week is shared by two drivers who ended deep in the field.  Kyle Busch who took 24th was a contender late, but had to sweat through a lengthy appeal of a pit road violation that was eventually overturned and kept Busch in 6th place at the time.  Unfortunately his car must have been overtaken by the full moon and turned into a mini rod over the final 40 laps.  Brad Keselowski qualified terribly, fought to get to the top ten, tagged the wall, went a lap down, got a free pass then the engine gave up to relegate the reigning champ to 33rd place.

On a parting note, it wouldn’t be a short-track Saturday night without a dose of aggravation.   Kurt Busch took 9th place and raised the hackles of Stewart, Kenseth and Martin Truex, Jr. before he was done.  Next week the circuit heads to Talladega Superspeedway where the outcome will be even more unpredictable.

Tony Stewart Kurt Busch
(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

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