A full moon and short track racing led to plenty of surprises and some not so surprising moments in the 59th Annual Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Surprising: Race winner Kevin Harvick, currently with Richard Childress Racing but leaving at year end, was surprisingly more fixated on dispelling the moniker of ‘Lame Duck’ than celebrating his ‘Closer’ nickname in Victory Lane.
In fact, with his first win of the season for RCR and his 20th career win under his belt, Harvick proclaimed he was nothing like a ‘Lame Duck’.
“You know, a lot of people have thought we might lay down this year,” Harvick said. “There ain’t no lame in that game is there?”
“It was a great night.”
Not Surprising: With some tempers tested on the short track, it was no surprise that a late-race caution and a green-white-checkered finish led to total chaos up to and even after the checkered flag flew.
Perhaps the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing/Sealy Chevrolet summed it up best after seeing his potential top-five finish disappear to a ninth place finish thanks to the final lap craziness.
“It was just chaos,” Kurt Busch said. “Some guys had older tires. Some guys had newer tires.”
“People were beating and banging and shoving each other out of the way,” Busch continued. “It was a free-for-all at the end.”
Surprising: Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing, was surprisingly pleased with his bridesmaid’s position. This was his ninth top-ten finish in 15 races at Richmond and his fifth top-ten finish of the season.
“We had a good car,” Bowyer said. “It really got wild there at the end.”
“Wish we could have won the Toyota race, but second’s not bad.”
Not Surprising: With his team’s appeal hearing looming this week, it was not surprising to see Penske’s Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, make a statement with a third place finish. This was Logano’s second top-ten finish in nine races at Richmond.
“I’m just super-proud of my guys,” Logano said. “They never quit.”
“They threw the kitchen sink at it and I’m just proud of what we got out of that.”
Surprising: Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, however, had a surprisingly freaky bad day at the track, perhaps proving that ‘Redd’ was not a good color for a car known as the No. 2 ‘Blue Deuce.’
“It was a long day,” the reigning champ said. “We had a bad pit stop and then blew a tire.”
“Then whatever happened with the engine,” Keselowski continued. “It was a freak deal where something in the wheel broke and let all the air out of the tires.”
“We got hit by a lot of freak deals.”
Not Surprising: With the ‘Orange Cone’ away, commitment violations came into play. And no one understood that more completely than Kyle Busch, who was tagged by NASCAR for that violation.
In an unusual move, however, NASCAR reviewed the penalty and actually overturned it. Unfortunately for Busch, the damage was done and his four Spring Richmond race win streak came to a screeching halt.
Busch’s fate was sealed after he was caught up in an accident and he finished 24th in the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota.
Surprising: With the beginnings of resurgence by Petty Motorsports, it was surprising that driver Marcos Ambrose suffered his first DNF of the season since Texas last year.
“This is so disappointing for us,” the driver of the No. 9 DeWalt Ford Fusion said. “We were fast and had fantastic power from Ford Racing and Roush Yates Engines.”
“So, we can’t complain.”
Not Surprising: Even with his first win on an oval track in sight, it was not surprising to see Juan Pablo Montoya and his crew chief thinking big picture and maximum points. The team elected to pit to take tires before the green-white-checkered finish to guarantee themselves a top-five finish.
“Everybody on the Depend Chevy did an amazing job,” Montoya said. “We had a great car.”
“This is what we needed,” Montoya continued. “We made the right call when we pitted.”
Surprising: Another Richard Childress racer Jeff Burton had a surprisingly great run, from threading his way through one of the many wrecks to finishing fifth.
“Kevin Harvick and I both got better at the end of the race,” the driver of the No. 31 Airgas/Bulwark Chevrolet said. “We were best at the end.”
Not Surprising: Richard Petty Motorsports’ other driver Aric Almirola continued to reel off top-ten finishes in his No. 43 Smithfield Ford. Almirola managed an eighth place finish on the short track after battling an ill-handling race car.
“At one point we were almost a lap down,” Almirola said. “We were in big trouble and Todd Parrott made so many adjustments and kept making it better and better and better.”
“Our guys never gave up.”
Surprising: Matt Kenseth may have won the pole for the Toyota Owners 400, led the most laps at 140, and finished seventh, but he felt more like he was riding a roller coaster than driving an elite Cup car.
“It was an up and down race,” Kenseth said. “In the beginning, we were real strong.”
“That last restart, just being on the outside and the 78 (Kurt Busch) drove up through there and knocked my whole side off,” Kenseth continued. “That was the best I could do.”
Not Surprising: While Richmond may be known more as a Denny Hamlin type track, the Hendrick Motorsports team fared pretty well, with three of the four drivers finishing in the top-15.
In fact, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson finished tenth, eleventh and twelfth respectively while Kasey Kahne brought up the rear in 21st.
With his finish, Johnson extended his points lead, now 43 points ahead of Carl Edwards in the second spot. And all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers are now in the top 15 in the point standings.