Harvick Wins Kahne Happy
September 9, 2006 | 6:43 P.M. EST
Kahne, who finished third at the .75-mile track, was able to race his way into the upcoming 10-race “Chase” which determines the champion despite starting the night looking in from the outside.
Starting from 20th on the grid, Kahne climbed his way through the field and earned his “Chase” spot even though every driver fighting for a spot finished tonight’s 300 mile event – a scenario that seemed improbable prior to the race.
"We did what we had to do two weeks in a row and we ended up making it in," said Kahne, winner of last week’s Sony HD 500 at California Speedway. "Richmond will always be a special track for me. I won my first Cup race here and I made my first Chase here, so Richmond has been real good to me."
The loser as a result of the circumstances was Tony Stewart. Starting the night eighth in the standings, Stewart was never able to recover from a disappointing 40th place start and finished 18th.
The result put Stewart 16 points shy of the “Chase,” marking the first time in his eight year career that he will finish outside the top-10 in the championship standings.
Nonetheless, the driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet was not willing to blame a practice crash on Friday, which forced him to a backup car, for his misfortune.
"It takes 26 weeks to get to this point," said Stewart. "We just missed tonight.
"This is proof of how tough this series is and how tough it is just to make this ‘Chase.’ It’s a big letdown obviously, but at the same time there’s 10 guys that earned their way in too. Just have to wish them luck now."
Harvick, who won last night’s Busch Series Emerson Radio 250, completed the Richmond sweep in a dramatic way – catching up and then passing Kyle Busch as the two approached the white flag before pulling away to capture the win.
"I got under him a couple of times and spun the tires up off the corner. As the run went on there with about ten to go, I said ‘Man, I just really am out of things to try here," said Harvick.
"Todd (Berrier, Crew Chief) came on the radio and said ‘try to put some rear break in the thing and get to rotate a little sooner.’ I put a couple of rounds in and started catching him."
The victory is “Happy” Harvick’s third of the season and eighth in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career.
Although Harvick had clinched his spot in the “Chase” by Lap 119, when both Chad Blount and Morgan Shepherd were listed out of the race, he didn’t stop running hard.
"I’d rather flip over and run tenth in the ‘Chase’ than give up a chance to win a race," said Harvick. "You know, with five to go, I started dialing a bunch of rear braking. We were pretty much even, and Todd and I and Richard (Childress, Car Owner) and everybody – we’ve talked about it before – if you have a chance to win the racfe, you have to win the race. They are too hard to come by. You know, everything else is secondary to that point."
Busch, who finished second, had led a race-leading 248 laps but fell just two short.
Dave Blaney flew under the radar, coming home fourth, with “Chaser” Mark Martin rounding out the top five.
Greg Biffle, Ken Schrader, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Scott Riggs complete the top ten on the night.
Kenseth will begin the 10-race “Chase” next weekend as the championship leader when the series heads to New Hampshire International Speedway for the Sylvania 300.
Separated by five point intervals, the top-10 at the beginning of the “Chase” are Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Harvick, Busch, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon and Kahne respectively.