Kevin Harvick survives massive showers, wrecks to win Bristol Night Race

Aug 21, 2016; Bristol, TN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick (4) after winning the rain delayed Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

BRISTOL, TENN. — Kevin Harvick grabbed the checkered flag and prepared himself for his second burnout of the season. Only this time, he requested that another driver join him for a rare dual celebration: Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart.

Harvick was celebrating his first victory at Bristol since joining SHR, so it was only fitting to burn his car down with Stewart. Given that it was his last race at one of his favorite tracks, the race was named after his main sponsor and his likeness was on the cover art for the program from Sam Bass, there was no more perfect ending for Smoke.

Well, a win would have been nice. But his teammate and driver getting one was equally as sweet.

“I wanted him to go on a victory lap with me and say goodbye to all the fans one last time here at Bristol,” Harvick said. “But that was pretty cool, doing burnouts with him. … But, to get back into Victory Lane here at Bristol feels really good.”

While Harvick is currently third in points and securely in the Chase with two wins, he voiced his displeasure with the team and pit crew earlier this season. Calling out the crew by saying he was “disgusted” and there is “no way we can win a title” with their performance, Sunday’s finish proved the team still has it.

“Well, we knew we had the performance that we needed to have in the cars pretty much every week,” Harvick said. “And it’s been one of those deals where things have just not gone exactly right. 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.”

A few surprises rounded out the top five behind Harvick with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finishing second and Chris Buescher in fifth. Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon were third and fourth, respectively, but the Roush Fenway Racing teams stole the show.

Stenhouse has shown glimpses of greatness at Bristol, but finished 16th back in April at the short track. This time, however, it was more emotional with Bryan Clauson’s name across his car and helmet exactly two weeks after his passing in a midget car crash.

“We remembered that we had Bryan Clauson’s name across the car and his favorite helmet, so the guys dug deep and made a lot of changes and made our Fastenal Ford a lot better,” Stenhouse said during post race. “We really wanted to park it in Victory Lane for his whole family, friends and fans. … Just a little bit short.”

Buescher, on the other hand, comes away with more than just a fifth-place finish. His result puts him into the Chase with just three races remaining before NASCAR’s postseason. He’ll need to hold his place inside the top 30 in points to make the Chase, but has the full backing of Roush Fenway Racing with no cars securely in the playoffs without Buescher.

Unlike Harvick, Stenhouse and Buescher, the day was not so kind to drivers like Kyle Busch (who led 252 laps) and 11 drivers who were involved in a separate pileup late in the race. Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson were among some of the biggest names also involved in a wreck.

“Something (broke), obviously,” Busch told NBC Sports. “It’s a shame. The last few times we’ve been here, we’ve had real fast Camry’s and we haven’t been able to finish, we’ve been having parts failures here. It’s something we have to address and fix. I’m tired of losing races here with parts falling apart. They’ll hear about it on Tuesday (in Joe Gibbs Racing’s weekly competition meeting).

“The person that’s really the biggest moron is the spotter of the 46 and the driver of the 46 (Justin Allgaier). I’ve been wrecking for half a lap and they just come on and clean us out. I don’t know. It’s a frustrating day. Let’s go home.”

And so he did,