Kevin Harvick takes advantage of late-race opportunities at Kansas Speedway
By Rick Minter
Two members of the Monster Energy Cup Series youth movement had good chances to win Saturday’s KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway. But in the end, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson were involved in a late-race incident and it was veteran Kevin Harvick who drove past another veteran, Martin Truex Jr., in a race-ending, 10-lap run to the finish to score his fifth win in the 12 races run so far this season.
Harvick started from the pole and finished second to Blaney in the first stage, and was second to Larson in the second stage. He led a total of 79 laps, but didn’t take the lead for good until surging past Truex as the pair raced to the white flag.
Harvick said that of his five wins this season, this one was especially satisfying because he was able to pass Larson, who appeared to have the fastest car all night, then overtake Truex for the win.
“I haven’t been that excited to win a race all year,” Harvick said of his run from sixth place to first in the final 10 laps. “Those are the moments that you live for right there, those late-lap winning passes and coming from behind and winning on a day when you don’t feel like you had the fastest car. That makes it a lot of fun.”
Harvick said the key to overtaking Truex, who won both races at Kansas last year, was a decision to try the high groove.
“[Truex] was getting smaller [out the windshield], and I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something different, this isn’t working,’” Harvick said. “I said, ‘I’m going to drive it into the next corner. I’ve got five laps to go, I’m going to drive it in here, and I’m either going to hit the wall or it’s going to turn.’
“It turned, and we gained about 15 car lengths in that lap, and I’m like, ‘Well, I guess that was OK, I’m going to do it again,’ and it just kept sticking.
“Those are the moments that you just kind of throw caution to the wind, see what happens, and it all worked out.”
Truex finished second ahead of Joey Logano and Kyle Larson, who made a late charge after his crew patched up the damage from the contact with Blaney with 20 laps to go.
Truex said his No. 78 Toyota wasn’t as fast as it needed to be most of the night, but he still had a shot to beat Harvick at the end.
“I tried all I could to hold off Kevin,” Truex said. “He got through traffic too quick, and he was too fast. I thought with five [laps] to go, we were going to be in good shape. We were running some really fast lap times and actually pulling away, and then the switch flipped and I got tight and started shaking the right front tire, and I knew I was in trouble. [Harvick] started coming quick after that.”
Logano, who broke a yearlong winless streak with a win at Talladega two weeks ago, said he and his No. 22 team still have some work to do if they want to challenge for wins on a weekly basis.
“I’m still chasing a car that’s way faster than me,” Logano said. “It used to be the 78 [Truex], now it’s the 4 [Harvick] at this point.
“The good news is we’re closer than we were last year, so we are consistent, we’re knocking off top fives, top 10s, getting stage points every time.”
Harvick’s fifth win equaled his previous high of wins in a single season, and his team’s competition director, Greg Zipadelli, said it’s likely that more wins are in the offing.
“Like Kevin said, he’s been doing this a long time, and I think he’s hungrier now and enjoying it more than he may have ever,” Zipadelli said. “So that’s really fun to be able to see and be a small part of.”