Harvick cruises to victory at Gateway
On a blistering hot day that left fourth-place finisher Todd Bodine lying on the tile floor of the media center with ice packs on his chest, Kevin Harvick beat the heat and trounced the rest of the field to win Saturday afternoon's blackout-delayed CampingWorld.com 200.
Despite a stiff neck, Harvick, who won the pole on Friday before a power failure forced postponement of the race, cruised to his third victory in four Camping World Truck Series starts this season.
Harvick led by up to 8 seconds and dusted the field with an average speed of 101.983mph. He crossed the finish line at 1.25-mile Gateway International Raceway 5.241sec ahead of runner-up Brad Keselowski, who was making his third start of the season in his own truck.
"That was the hope coming here, that the day was going to go like it did," Harvick said.
Johnny Sauter ran third, followed by Bodine, who extended his series lead to 101 points over eighth-place finisher Aric Almirola.
Matt Crafton came home fifth to claim his second consecutive top five and his third of the season. Timothy Peters, rookie Austin Dillon, Almirola, Brian Ickler and Mike Skinner completed the top 10.
"I was wiping my hair off in the shower this morning, and that's how I hurt it," Harvick said of the neck problem. "I just got a kink in my neck, and it's gone all the way down to my shoulder, but the longer I ran [Saturday], it actually got better. I feel better than I did this morning.
"I've just got to relax in the car. If you get tense, it becomes more of an issue, but as the race went on, I got more and more relaxed and was able to tolerate it."
Harvick, who led 143 of 160 laps, got help from a physical therapist before the race. He said the heat that toasted other drivers didn't bother him until he got out of the truck in Victory Lane.
Keselowski acknowledged that Harvick had the field covered, but he questioned whether Harvick had violated NASCAR's rule against pulling up to pit on the final stop under caution on lap 126.
"The only way we were going to win the race is if he made a mistake," Keselowski said. "I felt like he did. He passed the pace car pitting. You're not supposed to do that. He got away with that one. We didn't catch that break, but we did all we could to put ourselves in the best position possible. We just needed a little bit more."
Harvick viewed Keselowski's complaint about passing the pace car as a case of sour grapes.
"I'd complain if I got beat that bad, too," Harvick said.
For Bodine, the heat inside his truck was so intense it burned him, despite adjustments to his seat after a similar experience at Texas.
"Man, I burned my butt bad [Saturday], and my back even got burnt," said Bodine, who declined a trip in an ambulance after the race. "That's why I lay down in here [the media center] on the cold floor."
The top three finishers plus Steve Wallace, who was 17th, planned to race Saturday night.
"It won't be near as hot [Saturday night]," Harvick said. "This race, it was hot, but it's still shorter than a NASCAR [Cup Series] race...so I should be OK."