Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray each thought there still was a chance to catch Kurt Busch in the closing laps of Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
But Busch and his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet just proved to be too strong on long runs, short runs, restarts – winning with practically a flawless performance that put him ahead of Harvick, Johnson and McMurray.
Harvick, who notched his fifth runner-up finish of 2015, had problems midway through the race with the track bar on his No. 4 Chevy. While he still was able to maintain control of the car, he lost the ability to adjust the handling to his liking as the laps clicked down and his tires began to fade.
“The track bar broke, and we weren’t able to get the track bar back where we needed to,” he said. “But all in all, I’m just really happy for everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and (teammate) Kurt (Busch) and everybody on the No. 41 team and everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team on our No. 4 car.
“They’ve done a great job and made up a lot of ground after we lost it and we were able to get back up and at least have a chance there at the end.”
Johnson managed to pass McMurray on the final lap for third.
“I really think our race car, we worked hard to make it last in the long run and with all the long runs that we had, I was able to get through the field and get this Lowe’s Pro Service Chevy up front,” Johnson said. “Those last few restarts I was able to hang on and duke it out with those guys and get a nice top three finish.”
For much of the second half, McMurray seemed the biggest threat to Busch, but he couldn’t seal the deal in his No. 1 Chevy.
“Our whole group is really strong right now,” he said. “We’re getting the results of kind of where we’ve ran. That was one of my goals in the offseason was to finish better than I ran in the race. That’s hard to do.
“When I look at Kevin and Jimmie Johnson and a lot of those guys, they tend to do that. They tend to finish just a little bit better than where they ran in the race. I didn’t do that last year, so we’ve done a really good job of being able to do that this year.
“When I look back at our race today, you go home and lay down tonight, and you think about everything, I really … there’s nothing that I could have done any better.”