KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kevin Harvick surged past Martin Truex Jr. with one lap to go to win Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, his fifth win in what has turned out to be a dominant start to the season.
Harvick qualified on the pole and ran near the front all night, escaping the trouble caused by a couple of late-race cautions. He was fifth after a restart with 10 laps to go, but rode four fresh tires to second place, then swung past Truex at the start-finish line to take the lead.
Harvick held on the rest of the way to win for the third time at Kansas.
Truex wound up second after winning both races at the track last season. Joey Logano was third, Kyle Larson rallied from a late crash to finish fourth, and Denny Hamlin was fifth.
The race was free of wrecks until the last 30 laps, when Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez got into each other. But things really shook up a few laps later, when Harvick passed Larson on the restart to assume control, and the No. 42 car began bumping with Ryan Blaney down the front stretch.
Those two got together, sending Blaney into the wall and Larson into the pits.
“I’m definitely to blame on that,” said Blaney, who won the first stage before Larson had charged to the front to capture the second. “Just trying to side-drift too hard.”
The race had barely returned to green when William Byron triggered a heavy wreck in front of the main grandstand. Local favorites Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray were among a half-dozen cars involved.
“That one hurt really bad, but I’m fine,” Byron said. “We took two tires and just couldn’t get it turned on the bottom. We were trying to kind of push some things there and it didn’t work out.”
The red flag set up one last sprint to the finish.
Truex used some pit strategy to restart in the lead, and quickly built a buffer. But the No. 4 car swept past Logano and Hamlin on the outside to put Truex in his sights, then closed down the lead until finally overtaking the reigning series champion with a lap to go.
After his week started on a high with the birth of his daughter, Larson was on his way to capping it with a win. But after Harvick got around him on the restart with 25 laps left, Blaney got into him as they dueled on the front-stretch, sending the No. 12 car into the outside wall.
Larson needed to have his rear fender fixed, too, and a mix-up with the tire changer in the pits forced him to pit again. That left team owner Chip Ganassi kicking a pit cart in frustration.
Matt Kenseth had a forgettable return to the Cup Series. The former series champ’s first race as part of a timeshare with Trevor Bayne in the No. 6 for Roush Fenway Racing was spent lamenting a lack of speed, and ended when Byron triggered the hard wreck with 15 laps to go.
The series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway next Saturday night for the All-Star Race. NASCAR will be using a new aerodynamic package that includes restrictor plates designed to create more side-by-side racing, similar to the three-wide racing at Daytona.
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