Kevin Harvick may admit practice is overrated.
The Richard Childress Racing driver was suffering from flu-like symptoms on Thursday and did not participate in media day interviews or Budweiser Shootout practices. Teammate Clint Bowyer drove the Harvick 29 and was involved in a crash in the first session. RCR pulled out their backup car and Jeff Burton did make some laps in the machine. But the first time Harvick was at the controls at speed was when the race’s green flag waved.
He showed strength by running near the front for most of the race. A late race caution brought most of the field to pit road for tires, Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne being the exception. Harvick restarted fourth on the green-white-checker finish and quickly moved to the front. Biffle spun in turn three after contact from Jeff Gordon and a pileup ensued. The caution waved freezing the field’s scoring.
Harvick drove to victory lane joining Neil Bonnett, Ken Schrader, and Tony Stewart as consecutive Shootout winners.
Kahne survived the last lap wreck to finish second, making the gamble of not pitting pay off by staying ahead of the carnage.
Burton had the fastest car in Thursday’s Shootout practice giving an early hint of RCR’s resurgence. Some damage in traffic led to a cut tire and spin. Thereafter Burton’s speed was compromised for the remainder of the race.
Carl Edwards carried the Roush-Fenway flag the highest during the first half, nearly leading every inch of the way. Going winless in Cup’s 2009 Series could have been on his mind. It certainly appeared that he enjoyed the view of an empty windshield. Edwards got shuffled in traffic and dropped out of the front group in the later stages and was snagged in the final-lap crash.
Tony Stewart made some aggressive moves to challenge Edwards for the lead early on. His Shark Fin fell off and NASCAR made the crew replace the missing part during the race’s 10-minute break. A crewmember scaled a tall chain link fence to retrieve a spare from the garage area. After tossing it over, another crewman sprinted down pit road to the waiting car.
Kyle Busch suspected he had the wrong rear end gear in his car from a lack of rpms. NASCAR has a gear rule for every track with two options. Unfortunately for the Joe Gibbs team, changing the rear gear is not something allowed during the break.
Kurt Busch’s crash was his second wrecked car since Speedweeks began. He flattened the right side of his Shootout primary machine in practice after contact from Juan Pablo Montoya. His second incident came after contact with Mark Martin early in segment two. Martin said, “It was my fault.”
Martin, The Daytona 500 polesitter, had his car shut off in heavy traffic with 15 laps remaining. Everyone avoided the disabled car but he lost valuable ground to the field before it refired.
Michael Waltrip’s limited schedule began with a turn two spin in the first segment. His car suffered some minor damage after Joey Logano made contact with the spinning Waltrip. Heavier damage came late when Ryan Newman bumped Waltrip into the backstretch wall. John Andretti also was caught in the crash.
The first segment gave the impression that few drivers had a sense of urgency. Some drivers were happy to log laps and experiment with their car in various traffic situations. A few showed a little strength and looked toward the front. But even more lie in the weeds waiting for the end.
Driving talent was displayed repeatedly as save after save was made on loose cars. As the tires wore and the fuel load lessened increasing nose weight percentage, the cars became a handful to control.