Hot Kevin Harvick got a little bit hotter Saturday night in the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway, surviving a crazy final 30 laps and getting past defending race and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champ Martin Truex Jr. with a lap and a half left to record his fifth victory of the season and his second straight.
After a quiet night for most of Saturday’s race, things got ugly in a hurry toward the end, with three cautions in a rapid-fire sequence after there were no contact cautions over the first 237 laps of the 267-lap event.
The third caution stopped the race under red-flag conditions for more than 13 minutes after a big wreck involving seven cars. Involved in the crash were William Byron, Emporia native Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. All seven of the drivers were examined and released from the care center.
Ryan Blaney, who led 54 laps and won the first stage, and Kyle Larson, who came from the rear of the field to win stage two and lead a race-high 101 laps, were involved in an earlier wreck, which ended both drivers’ chances for a win.
That opened the door for Harvick, who led 79 laps and won by .390 of a second over Truex, who swept both races at Kansas in ’17.
“That was a wild last few laps,″ said Harvick, who started on the pole in the No. 4 Busch Light Ford. “I think as you look at the end of the race there I was really tight on the bottom, so I just started driving it up top. I said, “I’m either going to drive it into the wall or win this race.′
“It started working and I made up a bunch of ground. I finally got to victory lane and I’m excited.″
Truex, who led 13 laps, said that Harvick just had too much speed at end of the race.
“We struggled a bit, really all weekend long,″ Truex said. “We kept working on it throughout the race and got some track position there at the end. I tried all I could to hold off Kevin. He got through traffic too quick and was too fast.″
Joey Logano finished third, while Larson still finished fourth despite the late wreck and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
“We weren’t a winning car,″ Logano said of his performance. “At best we usually were around a fourth-place car. We had the opportunity to stay out and we just got beat on re-starts.″
“It was fun race, but I’m a little bit disappointed in the last 20 laps,″ Larson said about his finish.
Paul Menard finished sixth, followed by Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch to round out the top 10.
Bowyer ended up 15th despite heavy damage from the late crash.
Bowyer started the night 33rd and came flying from the back at the drop of the green flag, improving 22 spots before a pre-planned competition yellow flag came after 30 laps. The competition yellow was called for after early-morning rains changed track conditions.
Larson also made a big statement early on after starting at the back of the field due to a spin in qualifying and an unapproved tire change. Larson charged into the top 10 over the first 30 laps.
Blaney, who started second, won the 80-lap first stage by just a fraction of a second over pole-sitter Harvick.
Harvick led 32 laps and Blaney 48 laps in the opening stage.
Brad Keselowski was third in the stage, followed by Logano, Larson, Almirola, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Bowyer to round out the top 10.
The lone cautions in the first stage came on the competition yellow and the end of the stage.
Larson continued his impressive night with the win in stage two, with Harvick finishing second and Blaney third. The stage win was Larson’s first of the season as he led 30 laps.
Kyle Busch and Logano rounded out the top five, followed by Almirola, Kurt Busch, Bowyer, Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr.
The only caution flag in stage two came at the end of the stage.