Assuming the lead on a late restart in Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway, Kevin Harvick ended a 30-race NASCAR Nationwide Series drought dating to the fall race at Richmond in 2010.
Harvick beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the finish line by 1.944 seconds to win for the fifth time at the 0.75-mile short track and for the 38th time in the series, tying Carl Edwards for third on the all-time victory list.
Kurt Busch ran third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Annett.
“It’s been a great year in this Nationwide car,” said Harvick, who led a race-high 141 laps. “I know we haven’t won the races that we needed to, but, man, we’ve led a ton of laps and been in contention to win just about every race I’ve been in this car this year.
“Sometimes you go through slumps like that, and when you break ’em, it just makes it that much sweeter.”
Busch lost the lead on Lap 226 after he tapped the rear bumper of Dexter Stacey, causing Stacey to spin off Turn 4. Harvick nosed ahead as Busch avoided the spinning car and had the lead when NASCAR threw the seventh caution on Lap 227.
“We had a brake vibration that wouldn’t allow me to get to the bottom of the corner easily,” said Busch, who had grabbed the top spot on Lap 202. “I could get there, but a lot of feedback in the pedal and a vibration made it tough to get down to the bottom of the corner.
“When you have that, it’s tough to race guys exactly clean, and you’re right on the ragged edge the whole moment. When I had Harvick behind us, when we were leading, if I could hit it perfect, we were going to hold him off. If I was off just a fraction, he was right there. When I drove down into [Turn 3], and the lapped car [Stacey] chose inside, I chose inside, and I was like, ‘This isn’t going to be good.’ “
After the caution for Stacey’s spin, Harvick pulled away on the ensuing restart on Lap 234, with Stenhouse taking second from Busch.
The championship battle took a sudden turn on Lap 186, with Stenhouse and Elliott Sadler racing side-by-side through Turns 3 and 4. Sadler, on the inside during a sustained fight for the second position that already had lasted seven laps, broke loose beneath Stenhouse and backed his Chevrolet into the outside wall, crushing the rear deck.
Sadler lost a lap and restarted 28th on Lap 193. He rallied to finish 12th and retained the championship lead by one point over Stenhouse, the defending champion.
Sam Hornish Jr.’s waning championship hopes suffered a serious blow on Lap 156. Maneuvering to avoid the No. 51 Chevrolet of Ty Dillon, Hornish took a shot from the No. 22 Dodge of his Penske Racing teammate Ryan Blaney.
After cutting his left-rear tire, Hornish spun into the outside wall in Turn 1 and slid back down the track into the path of the No. 41 Ford of Timmy Hill. The collision tore the rear deck off Hornish’s car and scattered debris through Turns 1 and 2.
NASCAR red-flagged the race for four minutes to clean the track, and when the field restarted on Lap 164, Harvick assumed his customary position at the front of the pack, before Busch took a turn at the point.
Hornish finished 30th and is fourth in the series standings, 50 points behind Sadler.