Kevin Harvick confirmed his Montreal victory last week was no fluke by scoring his second consecutive Busch Series win on a road course Saturday in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.Harvick won last week in the series’ first trip north of the border after Robby Gordon and Marcos Ambrose took each other out, with Gordon taking all the headlines for his controversial antics in the closing laps, overshadowing Harvick’s achievement to some extent.
However, a strategy gamble coupled with great pace when he needed to push and a little help from Kurt Busch’s fading brakes, put him in position to make his point and take his third victory in the last four road course events he has contested.
“What a car!” Harvick said after claiming his fifth win of the Busch Series season. “We didn’t qualify like we wanted to and we thought our car was really good in race trim. When they dropped the green flag the thing was good to go, so it was fun to drive.”
Harvick gambled on stopping for the last time with 42 laps to stay out while others pitted ahead later, handing him the lead of the race for good on lap 50. He needed a few laps under caution to be able to stay ahead, although he believes he would’ve still been in contention if being forced to pit for fuel.
“Obviously if it would’ve been green we would’ve had to come in, put a splash and go, but that doesn’t take nearly as long as putting all your tyres on and filling the whole tank up,” he added. “We did the same thing last week and just a really, really smart race that we had, and a nice race car to go along with it.”
Kurt Busch, the pace setter since qualifying, was looking set for back to back wins at ‘The Glen’ running a different strategy to Harvick’s. But as soon as he got behind the RCR car in the closing laps, trouble started.
He overshot turn one on a restart with 13 laps to go dropping back to third, but on the following restart a couple of laps later he passed Paul Menard, then Jeff Burton and went in pursuit of Harvick. That was until his brakes allowed him to push.
“I felt like we had a good day in store for us,” Busch said. “When we pitted early on in the race we got four tyres and fuel, which put us very far behind. And so with that I ran as hard as I could almost every lap and unfortunately I believe we worked too hard on our brakes, which failed way on us.”
That promoted a charging Jeff Burton to second place, making it a one-two for Richard Childress Racing. Burton looked in trouble early on with a damaged front fender but still was able to come through the field and challenge at the front when it mattered.
Juan Pablo Montoya had a sad end to his Busch Series campaign. He ran strong in the first part of the race but his problems started when he dropped back after pitting for fuel on lap 46, planning to make it to the end.
By then he still looked in contention for victory as he leapfrogged leader Busch in the first round of stops. But later, during a restart he got sandwiched between Jeff Burton and Ron Fellows into turn one and his left and right front fenders were damaged, causing him to lose grip and positions.
He pitted once more under caution with 18 laps to go, had his car fixed, but got wrecked from behind by Steven Wallace just before the race was restarted. “It’s a shame, we had a good car today, and that’s it you know. Can’t win them all,” said a disappointed Montoya after retiring from his last Busch Series race of the year.
Points leader Carl Edwards had another bad weekend, which started with his crash in opening practice. He was forced to race in his back-up car, which had a track bar mount failure that had him parked in the garage for a while. He finished 32nd, six laps down on Harvick, who is stil third in the standings and 791 points behind Edwards.