Saturday, February 16, 2013

Harvick Dominates Sprint Unlimited

There were many unknowns heading into the Sprint Unlimited.  No one knew how the new Gen 6 cars would react in the draft, and no one knew how the race would play out after numerous fan votes would decide how the drivers raced.  There were also the debuts of Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth with their new teams, and many didn't know how those would play out.  But after the Sprint Unlimited, it was clear that everyone had a better understanding of how the new cars drive, and that Kevin Harvick will once again be strong at Daytona.

Harvick celebrates his Unlimited win (Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
The fans voted on the starting lineup, and Carl Edwards and Mark Martin were on the front row.  Due to a practice crash on Friday, both Edwards and Martin had to start from the back, so Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle led the field to the green flag.  Kahne got help heading into Turn 1 from Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr. was lined up with Biffle.  Biffle was able to get out front on lap one, and Kahne was able to get behind him in second.  Truex, running on the outside line, was able to take the lead away from Biffle on lap four.  On lap five, Matt Kenseth, in his first race with Joe Gibbs Racing, was able to take the lead.

On lap 15, Tony Stewart cut down in front of Marcos Ambrose, and nearly spun out of control.  He saved it, but while other cars were checking up a big wreck erupted.  The wreck collected Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Mark Martin.  Kurt Busch also took his car to the garage.  For Martin, it was the second car he had wrecked in two days.  "Gosh, we didn't very far did we," Martin said.

This wreck on lap 15 ended the race for many would-be contenders (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Kenseth led Stewart and everyone else to the green flag on lap 20.  Stewart shot out to pull alongside Kenseth for the lead, but Kenseth was able to hold him off.  On lap 22, Biffle got a run coming off Turn 4 and he dove below his former teammate to take the lead.  He led the lap by a nose, but then Kevin Harvick was able to pull up to Kenseth's bumper to push him back to the lead. 

On lap 28, Stewart pulled alongside Kenseth, but he couldn't pass him for the lead.  On lap 30, Stewart took the lead, ending segment one.  The drivers had to make a four-tire stop, as voted on  by the fans.  Stewart led the field down pit road, but Harvick's team got him off pit road first. 

The race restarted with a 25-lap segment, and Harvick chose to restart on the outside line.  Stewart and Harvick fought side-by-side down the backstretch, but Stewart was able to pull ahead in Turns 3 and 4 to take the lead.  Harvick was able to pull alongside Stewart on the backstretch every lap, but he wasn't able to make the pass.  Finally, on lap 34, Harvick got a big push from Biffle to go to the lead.  Stewart lost his drafting help, and he fell to the back of the pack.

On lap 42, Stewart was able to work his way back to the front, but he wasn't able to get around Harvick for the lead.  Around lap 50, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made contact with Stewart, and Earnhardt fell to the back of the pack.  He quickly lost the draft due to the damage to the right-rear of his car after the contact with Stewart.

On lap 55, Harvick led the final lap of the second segment.  Harvick led the field down pit road, but this time the teams had no need to rush.  There was a 2-minute break, and NASCAR would line the cars up in the order they finished segment two.  The fans also had the ability to decide how many drivers would be eliminated at the end of the segment.  They chose not to eliminate anyone, but it wouldn't have mattered due to the big wreck on lap 15.

Harvick fights with Stewart for the lead (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
The race restarted with Harvick in the lead, and Stewart pushed Harvick ahead of Biffle, who restarted second.  Kenseth had a huge run coming through Turn 4 and pulled up alongside Harvick, but he wasn't able to complete the pass.  On lap 57, Kenseth got pushed by Biffle alongside Harvick again, but he still couldn't complete the pass.

With six laps to go, Harvick led Stewart and the rest of the field in a single-file line.  With four laps to go, Kenseth and Truex jumped out of line and tried to get to the front, but it didn't work and Truex jumped back into line.  After Kenseth jumped out of line, the top six cars broke away in a single-file line.  On the final lap, Joey Logano and Kenseth jumped out of line, and they tried to work their way to the front.  Stewart and Harvick jumped down in front, and then Harvick jumped back up to block Biffle coming on the high side.  Stewart jumped behind Biffle, and no one was able to get around Harvick to steal the win.  Harvick went on to win his third Sprint Unlimited. 

Greg Biffle finished second, and Joey Logano finished third in his first race with Penske Racing.  Tony Stewart finished fourth after running a strong race, and Matt Kenseth finished fifth after leading 26 laps early in the race.  Aric Almirola was sixth, Kasey Kahne was seventh, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was eighth.  Martin Truex Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the Top 10.  Marcos Ambrose finished 11th, and was followed by Carl Edwards in 12th.  Kurt Busch took his car to the garage after the accident on lap 15, and finished 13th.  After wrecking early, Jimmie Johnson was 14th, Denny Hamlin was 15th, Kyle Busch was 16th, Jeff Gordon was 17th, and Mark Martin was 18th.  Terry Labonte took his car to the garage on lap 2, and finished 19th.

The Sprint Unlimited is always a good kick-off to the Sprint Cup season, and now it is time for the big show.  Sunday is Daytona 500 qualifying at 1 p.m. on FOX, and Thursday is the twin qualifying races for the Daytona 500 on SPEED, starting at 2 p.m.  Then, Sunday, February 24, the Daytona 500 can be seen at 1 p.m., only on FOX.  All I can say is, I'm excited for a new NASCAR season!

Jerry Markland/Getty Images

No comments:

Post a Comment