Richmond takeaways: Kevin Harvick happy with his roaring 40s in NASCAR Cup series


RICHMOND, Virginia – Kevin Harvick, 46, takes no offense to any odes about being the old man racer of the NASCAR Cup Series.

He relishes the title even if he avoids dwelling on its significance – that Harvick could be remembered as the most successful elder statesman in stock-car history.

“I do take pride in that,” he said. “I love it.”

With his second consecutive Cup Series victory, the 2014 champion now has 29 wins since turning 40 after the 2015 season (his birthdate is Dec. 8, 1975).

Along with being nearly half of his career total of 60 victories (tying him with Kyle Busch for ninth all time), it also ranks him third for Cup wins by drivers over 40 behind Lee Petty (42) and Bobby Allison (38). Though Mark Martin often is remembered as a middle-age superstar (having won five races in 2009, the season he turned 50), Harvick has nearly triple the wins that Martin notched (11) after 40.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s contract runs through 2023, but it seems reasonable to wonder if Harvick will race beyond that (“My wife is going to kill you if you talk about racing into the 50s. I don’t know about that.

We’re going to enjoy what we’re doing, and we’d like to stay present.”).

More than four years ago after famously tweeting “#OldGuysRule” as a youth movement took root in NASCAR’s premier series, the Bakersfield, California, native shows no signs of slowing down amid so many indicators that his contemporaries moved on from racing long ago.

Harvick saw four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon (now the chief operating officer at Hendrick Motorsports) on his drive to victory lane, where he was interviewed by NBC Sports analysts Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty. His win was called in part by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is in the NASCAR on NBC booth after Clint Bowyer worked the first half for Fox Sports.

Harvick raced against all of them during a Cup career that started more than 21 years ago, stepping into the ride vacated by the death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500.

“A lot of the guys that I grew up racing with, they’re all retired and doing other things, but I get to still see them,” he said. “It’s those quiet high fives that are a lot of fun and kind of keep it in perspective for me because of the fact that you’re older and supposed to be done and kind of headed down a path that is toward the end.

“I’ve always prided myself in trying to be competitive and do what it takes to be competitive and make the sacrifices that it takes to be competitive. But I do enjoy it. There’s nothing better than winning. That’s what we do. I don’t know how to really put it all into perspective because it’s just not something that I just stop and really ever look at. I never really stop and say, ‘Where are all those 60 wins?’ I don’t really look at the numbers. Maybe this is a fault of mine, but I think it’s also one of the reasons that we progress forward. But it’s never about what you have done, what the numbers look like. It’s what do we got to do next week, what could we have done better last week, how do we keep this all in perspective.”

There are other ways that Harvick finds perspective without taking stock in statistics. With an overlooked mind for business and marketing (Kevin Harvick Inc. has flourished ), he noted multiple times in postrace interviews Sunday how the scene at Richmond Raceway last weekend reflected his generation-spanning career.

In the Sept. 6, 2003 race at Richmond, Harvick engaged in one of his most memorable rows when he stomped atop Ricky Rudd’s hood in retaliation for being punted late into the wall (Rudd famously said he couldn’t understand what Harvick was yelling because “he’s got that little yap-yap mouth”).

What Harvick remembers most about the incident was the blinding flashbulbs popping from a sellout crowd of 112,000. Those seemed relics Sunday when a solid crowd of 50,000 snapped photos with their smartphones during the second of two afternoon Cup races at Richmond in 2022.

“That was always one of my favorite things coming to the green flag were all the bulbs that would flash on the cameras and things back in the day,” he said. “It’s just different. I sound like my dad or my parents, right? You guys all know it and sound old and talk about how it used to be. It’s just different. It’s not the same.

“We had a good crowd today and a good crowd at Michigan last week, and next week we’re going to go to Watkins Glen and there’s going to be people everywhere. But it’s still never going to be what it was, right? Like it’s still never going to be 105,000 people (at Richmond), it’s still never going to be 250,000 people at the Daytona 500, it’s never going to be 200,000 people at Charlotte and nobody has got cameras with flashbulbs anymore that you’re going to have 200,000 people snapping a picture at the start of the race. It’s just different.”

Different like being the only full-time Cup driver born in the 1970s (45-year-old J.J. Yeley, who has 11 starts this year, is the only other true Gen Xer in the series).

The oldest and youngest driver in the field at Richmond shared a pace truck ride before the race, and Harvick still was chuckling hours later about that conversation with 19-year-old Ty Gibbs.

“Just some of the things that you talk about are very entertaining and also just opens your eyes to the different perspectives of how people see things and just what’s happening,” Harvick said. “I think I’ve tried to be more open with a lot of those guys. You hear so many people (say), ‘Well, that guy wouldn’t talk to me.’ I just try to talk to all of them, right, because why not? You want to be kind of engaged with your competitors and peers and people that you’re around.”

By becoming a bit of a mentor to Bubba Wallace and other 20somethings in Cup, Harvick is fitting in while still standing out – which he consciously resists the temptation to mull.

“Maybe sometimes I need to just stop and kind of take it all in, but I always feel like it’s bragging when you stop and talk about yourself,” he said. “I just want to be … I like most of the kids in the garage. I like being around the competitors. I’ve got a much better relationship with most everybody in the field, the crew chiefs, the owners. I like that part. You want them to respect you when you’re done.”

Harvick already has that respect, which is good.

Because maybe it could be a while before he’s done.

Richmond was a strategy-laden affair for the second consecutive year, though the pit calls were more straightforward than in the April 2 race in which Denny Hamlin and Harvick finished 1-2 as the only drivers who made two stops in the final stage.

In Sunday’s race, virtually all of the lead-lap cars were on the two-stop strategy in the final 170-lap segment. There still was the opportunity for gambling, but only one car took a major chance. And it paid off.

After falling a lap behind for a penalty on a Lap 172 pit stop, Christopher Bell stayed on track to take a wavearound onto the lead lap under the Lap 232 caution for the end of stage two. Bell, whose 50-lap tires would have dropped him a lap down quickly, got the caution he needed immediately on the Lap 240 restart – allowing him to stay on the lead lap on the way to a second-place finish despite bringing out the race’s final yellow on a Lap 251 spin.

Because Bell already had qualified for the playoffs with his New Hampshire victory, it was a risk worth taking. But there were other winners (William Byron, Austin Cindric, Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman) whose teams declined to gamble on the wavearound in the same position.

On the latest NASCAR on NBC Podcast, analyst Steve Letarte, who had 15 Cup victories as a crew chief for Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., expressed his befuddlement with the lack of aggressive tactics. Letarte also was surprised no team attempted to play the hare by making only one stop in the final stage.

“I’m very disappointed by the lack of creativity on pit road,” Letarte said on the podcast. “There’s a group of guys who were running in the last five positions on the lead lap, and when the leaders came in the middle of Stage 2 for the first time, they followed them in to get lapped. What in the heck are you doing? Just stay out and run 20 more laps. God forbid you get lucky and get a yellow and end up on the lead lap.

“It just amazes me the lack of creativity from some of these teams. I don’t think it’s ignorance or lack of preparation. I believe it’s distraction. The role and the strategy have surpassed what a crew chief can do while worrying about fuel mileage, tire pressure, adjustments, communications and a pit crew. It’s time to take something off his plate. They have too much going on.”

The emphasis on strategy in both Richmond races this season prompted social media debate over the decline of contact racing and caution flags at the 0.75-mile oval.

Since 2010, 22 of 25 Richmond races have featured single-digit caution flags (and that includes 11 races that were guaranteed two stages). There were double-digit cautions in 14 of the previous 25 races from 1997-2009.

There have been some variables during that stretch. The track stopped applying a sealer in 2003 and was repaved in 2004. After more than two decades of racing twice annually on Saturday night, Richmond has moved toward more daytime races (both were on Sunday afternoon this year). But it seems as if “The Action Track” has evolved into a tamer place, and it’s unlikely to change with the Next Gen car that so far has seemed racier on speedways that short tracks.

“It really doesn’t matter if you have this at race at night or day, it doesn’t really change the racing here,” Hamlin said. “These cars are just so aero-sensitive on the short tracks, and we’re shifting, it just makes it really, really difficult to pass. It doesn’t matter whether day or night. Night would be worse than day.

“It’s not a racetrack problem. It’s just an aerodynamic problem. These things just don’t turn behind other cars. They’re certainly more aero sensitive than the previous car we had on short tracks and in shifting. We’ve had races like this a long time (with) long green-flag runs. This is just Richmond and a different type of racetrack. When you go to Bristol, it’s a different type of racing. Here the battles are within. You saw (Bell) close to within 4 car lengths of (Harvick) from God knows how many seconds back. It’s a purist type of racetrack. If you want side by side beating and banging, this is not your racetrack.”

With two races left in the regular season, there still is a chance that both Ryan Blaney (second in points) and Martin Truex Jr. (fourth) both could be eliminated from the playoffs. It would mark the first time since the inception of playoff points in 2017 that a driver ranked in the top 10 of the regular season would be ineligible for the championship.

That’s notable because the top 10 positions come with incremental playoff point bonuses, starting with 15 for the regular-season champion and then decreasing in increments.

According to NASCAR, those points don’t transfer downward to playoff-eligible drivers — meaning that if Blaney and Truex are eliminated in their current positions, that would mean 17 playoff points (10 for second; seven for fourth) would disappear from the available pool for 2022.

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.

What drivers said at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — What drivers had to say during and after Monday’s 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

Ryan Blaney (Winner) — “I might shed a tear. This has been a cool weekend. Obviously, Memorial Day weekend means a lot, growing up here watching Dad run this race for a long time. It’s so cool just to be a part of it, let alone win it. I just was able to get the lead, and that car was so good that I could kind of bide my time a little bit and then we were able to drive off. I was hoping no caution just because you never know. I know we had the car to do it, but restarts can be crazy. … You start to get to feel like you can’t win anymore when you don’t win in a while. It kind of gets hard. So just super thankful to the 12 guys for believing in me. It’s just so cool. What a weekend with (Josef) Newgarden and Roger (Penske) winning at Indy and us winning the 600. I mean that’s just so cool. That kind of snaps our winless streak right there and that’s even better. We just kept working on it all night, and I think the track took a change. I didn’t feel great at the end of Stage 3. I was kind of getting pressured by a couple guys and we had to work on our car, and it was getting cooler outside.”

MORE: Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott crash and disagree

MORE: Charlotte Cup results, driver points

William Byron (Finished 2nd) — “We just needed a little bit. Really happy for Ryan. He really deserves it. He’s a good dude. Cool to see him get a win. We just needed a little bit. I felt like there were enough restarts for him to get back to the front. He had that one pit road where he lost a few spots, and it was kind of between us and the 5 (Kyle Larson). I knew the 12 (Ryan Blaney) and 45 (Tyler Reddick) were a little bit stronger than we were. Thanks to this Liberty University Chevrolet team. The car was great tonight. Just not quite good enough. Really proud of the effort. Pit crew was phenomenal on pit road. Those guys are just high energy, and that pit stall helps.”

Martin Truex Jr. (Finished 3rd) — “It was a handful. We just battled really hard and never gave up on the car. We had some stumbles on pit road – had some issues there. We had some issues getting a flat tire with some contact leaving pit road, which wasn’t our fault, either. Just battled a lot of adversity today, but our Bass Pro Shops Tracker Boats Camry was really fast. At the end of Stage 3, I thought that we had a shot to win this thing and then we got some damage out of nowhere on the splitter, and then I got too tight. We made some adjustments to try to get us balanced back out, but it just wasn’t as fast then, and we still ran third. Just proud of everybody for the effort. We definitely had a shot at this one tonight, just didn’t get enough things to go our way and we didn’t do a good enough job on pit road. It was a fun day overall. We had just too many hiccups, too many issues on pit road with a couple of bad stops and the damage that sent us to the rear and had to come back. I thought through Stage 3 we were going to have a shot at this thing, and out of the blue at the start of the final stage, we got some damage on the splitter from debris and the car was never quite as good. … It means a lot to have all of the soldiers on our cars this weekend. I got to meet an amazing family this weekend. Really wish I could have taken them to victory lane, so it’s a little bittersweet, but overall, it’s a solid day for us.”

Bubba Wallace (Finished 4th) — “It started on Friday. We didn’t get through tech. We are trying to push all we can get, and didn’t happen, so bad pit selection really set us back all day. I knew it would be a grind. I need my pit crew to know that as well – they made a couple mistakes – but they rebounded. We were playing the cards that we were dealt. I’m super proud of this Dr. Pepper Toyota team. Just continuing to make strides and continuing to show up and be a part of the factor. Just makes you think – if you were that close on the final restart, or closer, what could have happened. It looked like the 12 (Ryan Blaney) was lights out all day. About time he got him one. I thought he was done washed up (laughter).” (On confrontation with Aric Almirola) Yeah, we were just frustrated on how we raced each other. We were in Stage 2 of the Coke 600. I finished fourth and that’s a good day for our team.”

Tyler Reddick (Finished 5th) — “We had a great car. We were really, really strong there. Just made a lot of mistakes – we kind of went to the bad side of it on that one strategy in the second stage. We had a million cautions because we just kept crashing. We got behind there and we had to fight to get our track position back after that and we did. We got to the 12 (Ryan Blaney), and just being too aggressive, got sideways and hit the wall, and front there, hit the wall about 10 more times and pretty much took all of the life out of the race car. We had a fantastic car. We just couldn’t get around the 12 (Ryan Blaney). We were way faster than he was for most of the day. I tried to take our time, because it’s obviously a 400-lap race, but yeah, made a few mistakes along the way and then I knocked the fence down and then every time we did, we lost a little speed in our Jordan Brand 23XI Toyota. So yeah, fifth.”

Kyle Busch (Finished 6th) — “Coca-Cola 600s are normally up-and-down, so we definitely had an up-and-down day. But the guys fought hard all race long and made some good repairs. We made a lot of good adjustments. There were a couple that we had to go back on, and then go back on again. But all-in-all, just proud of everyone on the No. 8 Alsco Chevy team. Our car wasn’t as fast as we wanted on the fire-offs there – we wanted the long run to finish. Even though we hadn’t been good on the long runs all night, we adjusted for that, but we just didn’t get it. We’ll take a good solid effort and top-10 finish.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Finished 7th) — “I feel great. I got up and did the ‘Murph’ workout this morning. My trainer wasn’t too thrilled about that, but went ahead and did that, and then came out here and ran 600 miles. Our No. 47 Kroger/Coca-Cola Chevy was so good all night. We just fought some track position every now and then, and then the No. 8 (Kyle Busch) fenced us there. I felt like we would have had a top-five if it wasn’t for that. But all-in-all, it was a great Coca-Cola 600 for us. It was what we needed after last week at the All-Star Race. We kind of got beat up there a little bit. But it’s cool to get another top 10. This team is doing a lot of good things.”

Chris Buescher (Finished 8th) — “It was a really strong day. Our Fastenal Mustang was really good. We got hit on pit road and definitely took a decent amount out of us, so I’m upset about that, but at the end of the day it was a good recovery. We kept digging back and it’s cool to have this camo paint scheme up front for a lot of the day, but I want to do more.”

Austin Dillon (Finished 9th) — “We never gave up all night, and it feels like we passed more cars than anyone else all race long in our Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet. It was a hard-earned top-10 finish. We started this year’s Coca-Cola 600 deep in the field – 33rd — after practice and qualifying were canceled due to weather, but I knew that we would have a chance to be in contention at the end because this is the longest race of the year and there are plenty of laps to work our way forward. It was challenging, though. Pit road was tight for us today, and it felt like every time we gained positions we would pit and get trapped in our box and lose everything we worked so hard for. We never gave up and to finish in the top-10 is a testament to the tenacity that this No. 3 team has. We were just too tight at the end to advance any further, but I think we showed how hard we are willing to work. Today is about our heroes who served and made the ultimate sacrifice. I’m thankful that I can do what I love, which is race, because of them. Thank you to the families of Navy Seal Mark Crampton and Army soldier Rusten Smith for allowing us to recognize them.”

Zane Smith (Finished 10th) – “I am so happy, as happy as could be, really. I was worried when we didn’t take tires there and were running really good and had a really good day. It just worked out, so just a great job by this whole 38 Boot Barn FRM team. We got our Mustang better and better every single stop and that’s so cool. We run on half the budget, if that, than a lot of these guys, so to finish top 10 in our sixth start at the Coke 600 is really cool. It’s been a rough three weeks for me. The Cup Series is a different level and obviously I’m trying to prove I belong here and it’s just an outstanding run. Ryan does an outstanding job and it’s so cool to finish this race, but better yet with a top 10.”

Alex Bowman (Finished 12th)“It doesn’t feel very good at the moment, but about what I was expecting. There was no pain in the car really, but now that I’m out, I feel it a little bit. Just proud of my No. 48 Ally Chevy team. We had a really fast long run car. Obviously the short runs were what we needed, but we were just too tight for that. We got stuck on pit road – every stop, we came in like 10th, but lost spots coming out. But that wasn’t on my guys, it was just pit stall selection. We’ll move onto Gateway. Hopefully we’ll get to qualify there, have a good pit box and just go have a normal day.”

Ryan Preece (Finished 13th) — “What a night. We battled all night long. Some of those cautions just did not work in our favor at all, but we had a good car and just needed track position and clean air. We made strong adjustments throughout the night, and my crew was on it. I think we had a top-10 car. We’ll take 13th after a day like that, and it’s definitely the momentum our team needed. Those top 10s and top fives are coming, and I’m looking forward to St. Louis.”

Justin Haley (Finished 15th) — “We fired off tight today, but the No. 31 team made some great adjustments and had good pit stops. We made it as high as eighth and thought we would get a top 10 there but just got shuffled at the end. A top 15 is not a bad day, but our car was by far the best car we’ve had all year. We made some major gains today as a team.”

Joey Logano (Finished 21st) — “Tough night for the Shell-Pennzoil Mustang team. We struggled with the balance and unfortunately couldn’t miss the late accident and got damage. So happy for Team Penske, Josef and Ryan on a weekend sweep.”

Aric Almirola (Finished 25th) — (On confrontation with Bubba Wallace) “It was early in the race, and I felt like he ran me all over the racetrack and then when he got by me he shot me the bird, so I just went by and asked him why you shot me the bird. I felt like I gave him a lot of room and a lot of respect and he started mouthing off and saying a lot of bad things and cussing at me after he shot me the bird, so I just wasn’t gonna take that. I think it’s squashed. I got my point across. I let him know it’s not acceptable. He’s not gonna cuss at me and shoot me the bird. It was a good night, honestly, for our Smithfield Ford Mustang. It’s Memorial Day and such an honor and privilege to race on Memorial Day. We were running 10th there with 20-something to go and got caught up in that restart wreck in the middle of one and two and got a lot of heavy damage that really killed the race car after that. I hate we didn’t get out of here with a top 10. I felt we certainly had a top 10 race car, got loose on a restart early and hit the right-rear toe link, we fixed it, got two laps down, got all of our laps back and drove from the back to the top 10. I’m really proud of the effort and the fight, not the result, but we certainly fought hard. We’ll go get ready for Gateway. That was a really good racetrack for us last year.”

Austin Cindric (Finished 31st) – “You’re patient for 550 miles; why be patient for the last 40? I probably could have helped myself there by not drifting up the racetrack and knowing my own strength and weaknesses. It’s just unfortunate to get so close to the end of this race and not being able to finish it last year and the same with this year. I felt we had a lot of positives from today – some really good pit stops. We had good speed at times, but just having to put the whole race together as a team. I definitely made some mistakes today and unfortunate not to be able to finish it off.”

Erik Jones (Finished 32nd) — “We had a fast No. 43 U.S. Air Force Chevy, but nothing to really show for it. Appreciate the U.S. Air Force and their support. Just hate that we had the radiator issue, but hopefully we’ll go to Gateway with the same speed and have a good day.”

Chase Elliott (Finished 34th) — “The 11 (Denny Hamlin) ran us up into the fence there. Once you tear the right-side off these things, it’s kind of over. I hate it. I thought our No. 9 NAPA Chevy was getting better. It was nice to be making some gains there throughout the race. Our pit stops were really good. We had some pretty good fortune to get up towards the front there. I was just trying to get to mile 600 and have a shot, so unfortunately failed to do that again.”

Denny Hamlin (Finished 35th) — “I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightaway (referring to his collision with Chase Elliott). It’s a tantrum, and he shouldn’t be racing next week. Right rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. I don’t care. It is the same thing that Bubba Wallace did with Kyle Larson. Exact same. He shouldn’t be racing. It’s a tantrum.”

Noah Gragson (Finished 36th) — “Bummer day for the No. 42 Black Rifle Coffee Company Chevy team. We made it through the first stage clean. Something went through the radiator. We replaced the radiator and the motor blew up. Just frustrating. Thank you to Black Rifle Coffee Company and the Menusa family for coming out here. Wish we could have had a better run for them, but it was an honor to have Sgt. Menusa on the windshield. It makes this weekend all worth it. Wish we could have given him and his family a better run, but we’ll try again at Gateway.”

Jimmie Johnson (Finished 37th) — “I just didn’t know we were put in that three-wide situation. There were a bunch of us cars that were wrecked and just trying to limp it home. Unfortunately, I ended up in a situation I wasn’t aware of and got turned around. It’s a bummer for the No. 84 Club Wyndham Chevy team.”

NASCAR Cup Series results: Ryan Blaney wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney outran William Byron over the final miles and through several restarts to win Monday’s 600-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney thus ended a 59-race winless streak and qualified for the Cup playoffs.

Following in the top five were Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick.

Charlotte Cup results

Charlotte Cup driver points