Kevin Harvick lay in wait, just like a predatory shark. When the opportunity to seal the deal presented itself late in the race, he was there to feast on the mistakes of others. Could you say Harvick stole this race?
Sure, but I don’t look at it that way as others have. Harvick let Martin Truex, Jr. go past him to battle alongside Chase Elliott, as the two had been doing much of the race. Harvick knew that there would most likely be some close racing and he would be there if they messed up — and brother, did they.
MTJ (196) and Elliott (114) led the most laps all night and with MTJ winning both Stage 1 and 2. It looked like it would be a battle for the win between them since the drop of the green flag. But that was not meant to be. Truex was hungry, with just a single win for the season even though he is third in laps led. Elliott is having his best season as a Cup driver. Harvick is The Closer. Something had to give.
With just 15 laps to go, MTJ tried to pass Elliott and came up out of the corner thinking he was clear and, well, he clearly wasn’t. And there was Kevin Harvick. In third. Now in the lead. It wasn’t quite over yet, though. Austin Dillon, having one of his best years, was on a tear and made a total sideways bonzai drive into the final corner to pass Harvick but the veteran prevailed for his second Darlington win of the year.
That tangle cost both drivers position with MTJ finishing 22nd and Elliott 20th. While disappointing, it wasn’t enough to drop them out of title contention, they are both safely in the Top 10 still.
Dillon was one of my picks to not make the next cut and while it could still happen, he may surprise me with a strong run at Richmond and stay above the cut line. Matt DiBenedetto and Cole Custer are two of my other picks not to advance and they are right behind Aric Almirola sitting in 12th. Not surprisingly, Clint Bowyer is in danger of not making the cut. A pit road issue hurt him and while he finished 10th, he needs to pass every one of the drivers who were in the Top 10. That’s a tall challenge.
I also perhaps overrated Ryan Blaney. As good as Darlington was to Harvick this season, it was equally not so good to YRB (Young Ryan Blaney). With no laps run at Richmond this season, YRB will really have to reach down and pull himself out of the basement. He needs to pass every single driver in front of him right now, which means he needs a win or at least a Top 5 in BOTH upcoming races to get out of that hole. Plus a little bad racing luck for the five drivers right ahead of him in points wouldn’t hurt his chances. He finished 17th in last year’s fall Richmond race, he’ll have to do much better.
Richmond should prove to be a good race for Toyota. They may not go 1-2-3 again, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see three Toyotas in the Top 5. MTJ and Kyle Busch dominated the race last year with Brad Keselowski picking up their scraps and finishing fourth. Joey Logano is a real threat at Richmond as well, so he could be one to watch and mess up the Toyotathon.
Drive fast, turn left, and keep the shiny side up!
Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media/Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images