RICHMOND, Virginia — Sixty-five losses in a row. Two wins in a row.
Kevin Harvick might be driving through an ultimate U-turn.
Harvick won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 400-lap race at Richmond Raceway for his second straight victory, underlining the strength of the Rodney Childers-led Ford team as the Cup playoffs approach. He finished .441 of a second in front of Christopher Bell.
After months of speculation that the veteran Harvick, 46, might miss the playoffs, now he appears to be poised to be a force in the search for a second Cup championship.
Call him Mr. August.
“It’s like I said last week (after winning at Michigan),” Harvick told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “The cars have been running good week in and week out. We were able to get the car handling a lot better after the first run.”
The victory was the 60th of Harvick’s Cup career but his first at Richmond since 2013. He ended a 65-race winless streak with a victory last week at Michigan International Speedway.
Harvick showed impressive power in the race’s third stage as teams tried various pit strategies. He held off all challengers, including Chris Buescher, who shadowed Harvick over the closing miles trying to score his first win of the year, and Bell.
Two races — at Watkins Glen, New York and Daytona Beach, Fla. — remain on the regular-season schedule. Blaney’s Sunday run kept him in front of Truex for the final playoff spot.
The race was generally placid for the first two stages. Ross Chastain led the entire first stage (70 laps) and 10 laps beyond. Logano took control in the second stage and totaled 139 laps led through the two stages.
The start of the third stage was a mess. Chastain made contact with Kyle Busch, sending both of their cars into a slide. The cars of Erik Jones and Truex were damaged in the melee.
Busch had tapped the third-turn wall early in the race but escaped with minimal damage.
Harvick passed Logano for the lead on lap 334 and then moved in front for good with 48 laps to go during a round of pit stops.
“As you look at the last nine or 10 years at Stewart-Haas and back at RCR, I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of great people and be able to drive some fast cars and go to victory lane a whole bunch of times,” said Harvick, who has scored 29 wins after the age of 40. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Stage 1 winner: Ross Chastain
Stage 2 winner: Joey Logano
Who had a good race: Kevin Harvick, who seemed to be on the ropes a few weeks ago, now looks like a champ. Two straight wins and six top-10 finishes in the past eight races. … Joey Logano led 222 laps before fading in the final stage. … Ryan Blaney stayed in front of Martin Truex Jr. for the final playoff spot.
Who had a bad race: Kyle Busch bumped the wall and was knocked around a couple of times and wasn’t able to mount a challenge at the front. He failed to lead a lap. … “Super-sub” Ty Gibbs, replacing the injured Kurt Busch for the fourth straight week, finally had a sour day. Engine trouble parked him after 180 laps, and he finished last.
Next: The Cup Series moves on to Watkins Glen International in New York Aug. 21 for a 3 p.m. ET race (USA Network).