Kevin Harvick sprinted around the outside of Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton to claim victory in a green-white-checkered finish at Richmond.
The late-race caution, caused by Brian Vickers hitting the wall, denied Juan Pablo Montoya a near-certain first NASCAR Sprint Cup oval win. Harvick was second, but seemed too far behind to challenge when Vickers lost control of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Both Montoya and Harvick, and Kurt Busch who ran a strong third for Furniture Row, opted to pit for fresh rubber.
“My car launched, and I was able to drive it in the first corner and hope for the best down there,” said Harvick, who surged into the lead through Turns 3 and 4 after establishing his position in the first corner on the final restart. “I figured four, eight, 12...how many ever tires that were on the outside of me would be better than none. It all worked out, and here we are."
The decision to come to pit road for tires under the final caution was a no-brainer, as Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin saw it.
“When the tires fall off almost two seconds, you've got to come in and get tires,” he said. “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."
Montoya restarted sixth, on the unfavored outside line. From fifth Harvick bolted past the leading four cars who had stayed out on 60-lap old tires. Burton started from first, but was powerless to stop Harvick coming by, and fell to fifth by the flag.
Three of the fancied runners hit trouble when Tony Stewart got loose and tipped Jimmie Johnson into a spin. Kyle Busch found the track in front of him blocked, and ran into Johnson, causing heavy damage to the front of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the process.
Two more front-running cars fell out of contention not long after the race restarted when Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne tangled. And in an ill-tempered final quarter of the race, Martin Truex Jr. was spun out of second by Kurt Busch.
Reigning Cup champion Brad Keselowski's hopes of repeating his Nationwide success ended when his Penske Ford brushed the wall when he suffered a right-front puncture. Smart pitwork kept him on the lead lap, but he was ultimately black-flagged for failing to keep up the minimum speed.
During the fraught final two laps there was plenty of contact, particularly involving Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, who dominated the first half of the race, and Stewart. This carried on to the 'cool-down' lap as Busch rammed Kenseth and Stewart squeezed Busch into the wall.
Clint Bowyer used his fresh tires to sprint into second, while Joey Logano took third. Montoya eventually came home fourth and was left to rue what could have been.
“We had a good car, we just didn't have a great car,” Bowyer said. “It seemed like we were just too tight on the throttle. It would quite turn and come up off (the corner). It really got wild there at the end. I was just lucky enough to be on the bottom (for the final restart).
“They started making holes up there in front of me, and the seas parted, and I just followed suit behind Harvick. It was a good run.”
Quotes via NASCAR Wire Service
Results - 406 laps (green-white-checkered finish):
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 3h18m17.000s
2. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 0.343s
3. Joey Logane Penske Ford + 0.946s
4. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 1.549s
5. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 1.558s
6. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 1.742s
7. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota + 2.190s
8. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 2.340s
9. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet + 2.371s
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.615s
11. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.732s
12. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.765s
13. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 2.900s
14. AJ Allmendinger Phoenix Chevrolet + 3.055s
15. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 3.138s
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford + 3.242s
17. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 3.416s
18. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 3.497s
19. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 3.637s
20. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 3.673s
21. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 3.887s
22. David Reutimann BK Toyota + 3.949s
23. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 4.153s
24. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota + 4.636s
25. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet + 4.657s
26. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 5.525s
27. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 1 lap
28. Josh Wise Front Row Ford + 2 laps
29. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 4 laps
30. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 4 laps
31. David Stremme Swan Toyota + 4 laps
32. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet + 5 laps
33. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford + 7 laps
34. Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford + 9 laps
35. Brian Vickers Joe Gibbs Toyota + 14 laps*
36. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 15 laps
37. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 38 laps
38. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 57 laps
* Not running at finish
Joe Nemechek NEMCO-JRR Toyota 245 laps
Brian Keselowski Keselowski Toyota 186 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 121 laps
Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 109 laps
Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 17 laps