Race 8 of 33: ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway
Track Specs: .75-mile D-shaped oval / 250 laps
Weather: Clear, 60 degrees
Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick dominated Friday night’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway for his first victory with JR Motorsports. For Harvick, this marks his seventh NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at the .75-mile track and 41st of his career.
The only thing slowing Harvick and his No. 5 Tide Chevrolet down in Richmond was the weather. Heavy rainfall moved in minutes after qualifying and delayed the green flag by three hours. Once the race started, Harvick worked his way from ninth to second prior to the NASCAR-mandated competition caution at lap 40.
Following the caution, Harvick wrestled the lead away from Brian Scott and the No. 5 found its spot atop the scoring pylon where it would stay for 202 of the race’s 250 laps. Harvick battled teammate Chase Elliott on restarts, but as laps clicked away, the veteran slowly pulled away from the rookie. At one point, Harvick owned an eight-second lead over the field.
The No. 5 team’s night wasn’t completely scot-free as Harvick urgently radioed crew chief Ernie Cope that he was experiencing a right-front tire issue at lap 132 which brought him to pit road several laps earlier than anticipated on a lengthy green-flag run. After pitting, Harvick retained his lead while fending off a series of charges by Elliott.
In the late laps, Harvick gradually inched away from Elliott’s No. 9 to take the checkered flag by 2.068 seconds. Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Brian Scott rounded out the top five.
The win marks JR Motorsports’ fourth in eight races this season and third consecutive. The team’s four wins matches the company’s all-time record set in both 2008 and 2009.
Kevin Harvick, driver No. 5 Tide team
“We got a little bit off on that one run with that one set of tires. We kind of got to the end of the adjustment that we were using. I’ve just got to say thank you to Kroger and Tide. This was in memory of our friend Tim Plogger who put these programs together for years for us. Secondly, I want to thank the Hendrick engine shop, everybody from JR Motorsports, Ernie Cope and all these guys that put all this effort into the 5, and the 9, and the 7. This deal has been awesome all year.
“We just had a good weekend all together. We’ve had a lot of good weekends. Tonight we were just able to finish it off. Everybody’s doing a great job. The cars are running fast and everybody is communicating well and doing what they have to do to get better every week. It’s been a lot of fun and racing with Chase (Elliott) is fun. He’s a great kid and drives the heck out of a race car and keeps pushing us, whether he knows it or not, he pushes us to be better too. It’s a lot of fun to see this whole thing come together. It’s still kind of strange sitting up here with him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and in victory lane. We talked about a lot of things going into the year and you want them all to come together, but I don’t think anybody knew they’d come together like they have. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., car owner No. 5 Tide team
“We’re just really blown away by the performance and grateful for Kevin to be a part of our team. To bring Ernie (Cope) in has been great. It’s really just driven the company in a good direction. Kevin, as an owner in the past, has a lot of great ideas. He’s really influenced our company in a lot of positive ways. They did a great job this weekend and obviously tonight to win the race. All the performance on all the cars is a direct reflection of everybody that works there. Its working good and I hope we can keep it going. I think we can get even better and continue to get stronger.