Harvick wins Chicagoland Busch race
By By CHRIS JENKINS, AP Sports Writer
JOLIET, Ill. — Some people have criticized Chicagoland Speedway for its bland “cookie cutter'' layout, but it's more like a cookie jar for Kevin Harvick.
Harvick won the Busch Series race at Chicagoland on Saturday, his fourth overall victory at the 7-year-old track on the outskirts of Chicago.
What makes him so good here?
“I don't know,'' Harvick said. “I wish I knew, so we could build some more like this.''
Harvick won the first two Cup races at Chicagoland in 2001 and 2002, and won the track's Busch race in 2005. Chicagoland might lack the character of older tracks and look a little too similar to Kansas Speedway for racing purists, but Harvick has liked the place since the first time he tested there.
“We know what it takes to go fast here, and it's just evolved through the years,'' Harvick said.
Harvick was fast again on Saturday, ducking under Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton to take the lead with 27 laps to go. But Harvick also benefited from an earlier strategy gamble that didn't pay off for Kyle Busch.
Busch was leading when Aric Almirola spun out to bring out a caution flag with 34 laps left, forcing teams to make a strategy decision: stay out to hold their position on the track or make a pit stop to get fresh tires.
Busch drove into the pits, and the other leaders appeared ready to follow him in — but Burton pulled back on the track at the last second while Busch continued on to make a pit stop, a fake-out move by Burton's No. 29 team.
“I think the 5 car kind of had the race won,'' Matt Kenseth said. “When they pitted, they kind of opened the door.''
Burton admitted that he was trying to snooker Busch.
“Why wouldn't you?'' Burton said.
By not pitting, Burton was in the lead for a restart with 30 to go.
Busch dropped back to eighth after his pit stop, costing him position on the track but giving him fresher tires than the other contenders for the closing laps of the race. Busch then lost a spot to Carl Edwards on the restart, dropping to ninth.
Busch rallied to finish fifth, expressing frustration about his team's strategy decision over his in-car radio in the closing laps.
“I guess we've only got four more months to work on,'' said Busch, who has complained that he has been alienated within his Hendrick Motorsports team since announcing he would move to another team for next season.
Harvick drew side-by-side with Burton with 28 laps to go, then pulled past to assume the lead for good one lap later.
“Kevin just dug deeper and deeper,'' team owner Richard Childress said. “It's fun to watch him at the end of a race like that.''
Kenseth passed Burton for second with 14 laps left, but couldn't chase down Harvick in time. Kenseth finished second, followed by Burton and Clint Bowyer — putting three Richard Childress Racing cars in the top four.
Burton's strong finish came despite a malfunctioning fresh air hose that sent temperatures soaring in his car on an 84-degree day at the track.
“When you don't have it, it's not the end of the world,'' Burton said. “But I'm glad it was 200 instead of a 400-lap race.''
Edwards, who came into Saturday's race with a commanding 798-point lead over fellow Cup series regular Harvick, was running in the top 10 in the late stages of the race. But he had to pull off the track with 23 laps to go to serve a NASCAR penalty for a procedural violation by his pit crew and finished 20th.
“The car was a lot better than that,'' Edwards said. “It was still fun to drive, just frustrating.''
Edwards still holds a 716-point lead over Harvick, who isn't running the full Busch Series schedule this season.
But if he did, could he give Edwards a run for his money?
“He knows who's in charge,'' Harvick said.