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Sunday's roundup: Harvick wins rain-delayed race at Bristol

Pete Iacobelli
Associated Press

Bristol, Tenn. — Kevin Harvick wasn’t worried about his poor qualifying at Bristol Motor Speedway. In fact, starting 24th gave Harvick exactly what he wanted to win at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“It kind of motivates me,” Harvick said Sunday. “I think it’s exciting. I like to pass cars.”

Harvick made the biggest pass with 70 laps to go, sweeping by Denny Hamlin and holding on to take the rain-delayed race at the half-mile concrete track.

The victory was Harvick’s second of the season and second at Bristol — his first in 11 years. It also moved him atop the points standings and gave his program a jolt with only three races left until NASCAR’s Chase starts.

Harvick had 13 top-10 finises in the 18 races since winning at Phoenix in March.

“It’s been one of those deals where things have just not gone exactly right,” said Harvick, who led 128 laps. “But to have the win now and just try to get that momentum before we get into the Chase and get things rolling is really what we needed.”

Fittingly for a race halted because of Saturday night storms, Harvick had to sit out one last rain delay before easily pulling away on the restart and cruising to victory.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Harvick said over the radio as he crossed the line.

Harvick enticed his car owner — and retiring driver — Tony Stewart to do burnouts with him to celebrate the three-time champion’s last race at Bristol. He wanted Stewart to share the victory lap, but “Tony and I aren’t very good at sign language from one seat to another,” he said.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second, followed by Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Chris Buescher.

Kyle Busch, who led 256 laps, clearly had the strongest car, leading a race-high 256 laps. But he spun on Lap 358 when a part broke and Justin Allgaier, driving in relief of Michael Arnett, hit the No. 18 car flush to end the defending series champ’s race.

Busch was angered by his equipment failure and said the race shop “was going to hear about it Tuesday.” He also blasted Allgaier and his spotter, saying they should’ve seen Busch’s spin and moved clear instead of hitting him. “I don’t know. Frustrating day. Let’s go home,” Busch said.

Allgaier apologized to Busch. “That is the worst possibly scenario when the leader spins out and you hit them,” Allgaier said.

That was the sentiment of many at Bristol. The end was a welcome relief for race teams, track officials and those who came back out after last night’s soaking rains.

It was the second time in three races — Pocono’s Sunday race ended on a Monday three weeks ago — that rain impacted a Sprint Cup race and only a fraction of the 160,000 in the stands Saturday night returned for the conclusion.

The finish also meant Bristol could begin the massive conversion of its race track to a football field for No. 9 Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech, an event that track GM Jerry Caldwell expects will draw in excess of 155,000 fans.

Indy race postponed until Monday

With rain pelting the garage roof at Pocono Raceway and knowing he’d have to wait another day to race, Mikhail Aleshin just shrugged.

No big deal for the first Russian-born driver to win an IndyCar pole.

“Just one more day sitting on the pole,” Aleshin said. “That’s life. I just want to win this race. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s going to be today, tomorrow, or next month. I’m still on the pole.”

IndyCar officials acted quickly Sunday and postponed the race at the triangular 2.5-mile track until noon Monday because of persistent mid-afternoon rain. With no lights to allow for night racing and no quick end to the downpour in sight, drying the track in time to get in 101 of the 200 laps to make the race official was not possible. The race was scheduled to begin at 3:09 p.m. Sunday.

Aleshin turned a fast two-lap average of 220.454 mph on Saturday in his No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda to edge Josef Newgarden for the pole. It’s the third time this season Newgarden has qualified second. He was on the front row at the Indy 500 and at Iowa, just missing the top spot Saturday with a two-lap average of 220.195 mph.

Takuma Sato will start third, followed by Helio Castroneves, Carlos Munoz, Aleshin’s teammate James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter. Points leader Simon Pagenaud qualified 14th in windy conditions, while defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed in morning practice and did not qualify.

Team Penske’s Pagenaud and Power are 1-2 in the points standings, separated by 58 points, and sitting around another day wasn’t exactly what they wanted to be doing.