Kevin Harvick took victory from the grasps of Juan-Pablo Montoya as the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Speedway ended with a green-white-checkered finish.
Montoya led the field into the final caution, but fresh tyres on the #29 Chevrolet SS allowed Harvick to streak away from the chasing pack and take the win 0.343 seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer. Joey Logano, Montoya and Jeff Burton rounded out the top five.
The final caution came out due to Brian Vickers‘ #11 Toyota slamming into the wall in Turn 3, with all but three drivers deciding to come in for fresh tyres in the two-lap dash to the line.
“When the tires fall off almost two seconds, you’ve got to come in and get tyres,” said Harvick. “There’s not very many guys that stayed out. It all worked out tonight. We’ve been on the other side of it this year, so to be in Victory Lane is great.”
“My car launched, and I was able to drive it in the first corner and hope for the best down there,” he continued, “I figured four, eight, 12… [however] many tyres that were on the outside of me would be better than none. It all worked out, and here we are.”
The early stages of the race were completely dominated by pole-sitter Matt Kenseth, and Bowyer, with the duo leading every lap up until lap 254, when Kyle Busch made his move stick on Kenseth.
Busch led up until lap 299 where yellow flag stops, courtesy of Travis Kvapil hitting the wall, allowed Kurt Busch to get the jump on his brother and lead them back to the green flag. Only nine laps of green-flag racing took place before fluid from Kvapil’s car brought out the next caution of the evening.
From then on the racing turned to traditional short-track methods, with cars bumping and sliding all over the 0.75 mile circuit. Montoya, along with five others, opted not to pit under caution brought out after Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch came together on the back straight.
Montoya led the field round to the green flag on lap 334, only for another caution to be flown on lap 338 following heavy impact off Turn 2 involving Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Vickers. The race restarted on lap 344, but a spin from Martin Truex, Jr. brought the tenth caution out only one lap later.
The #42 car held his place in the lead until the Vickers’ big wreck brought out the eleventh caution and set up a green-white-checkered.
“It was a no-brainer to take tyres,” explained Montoya in relation to the late caution. “What hurt was starting on the outside. When you restart on the outside with people who have really bad tyres, everything gets backed up and where are you going to jump?”
Despite finishing down in twelfth position, Johnson extended his lead in the Sprint Cup standings and now sits 43 points ahead of Carl Edwards, who finished sixth at Richmond.