Harvick captures checkered flag

By Marvin Birchfield

STAR COORESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   BRISTOL -- It was a big payday for Payday Chevrolet driver Kevin Harvick in the Channellock 250 on Saturday, as the former Busch Series champion took the lead in the last 100 laps to score his third victory at BMS.
   Harvick held off the challenge of Tony Raines in the final laps, after a red flag was displayed with eight laps to go.
   "We had a strategy coming into the race where we decided to pit when we knew we could go the rest of the way on gas, so we were just fortunate the red flag came out," said Harvick.
   Outside pole sitter Jason Keller grabbed the point to start the race, and it wasn't until lap three when the first caution flew, after Brian Weber's car stalled in turn one.
   The race resumed on lap 8, and 10 laps later Chase Montgomery got togther with Ron Young to bring out the second caution.
   On lap 23 Scott Riggs took over the second position from David Green, then the action started with Kevin Grubb pancaking the outside wall, followed by Harvick getting into the back of Kerry Earnhardt.
   Riggs took over the lead on lap 39, bringing Raines along with him, as Morgan Shepard and Shane Hmiel got together in turn four to bring out the fourth caution on the evening.
   Ron Young brought out the caution for the second time on lap 60, when he spun in turn four, while the Sauter brothers Jay and Johnny provided excitement in turn two.
   Kasey Kahne went around after Scott Wimmer got into the back of him, then Jamie McMurray was caught up in a spin from Montgomery on lap 85.
   After piting under the caution, pole winner David Green was handed the lead for the first time of the race, followed by Wimmer in second.
   It didn't take five laps after Michael Waltrip made contact with Regan Smith, who crashed hard in turn four. On the restart, Waltrip was threading his way through traffic, when he made a dart for an opening that quickly closed to bring out the caution.
   The seventh lead change happened on the restart, as Wimmer made a move on Green who started to fade back through the field.
   Local driver Brad Teague was hit from behind on lap 119, as he and Larry Gunsleman were battling for the 18th position.
   Team Bristol was making a stout charge to the front by moving from the rear of the field to start the race, all the way up into fourth place before the engine blew, which sent him spinning for the 10th caution of the race.
   Gunsleman was part of another caution after he thought he had cleared the No. 27 car of Montgomery, but he clipped the machine and made hard contact in turn three.
   Harvick pressed the issue on lap 154 to take the lead from Wimmer, which allowed Jimmy Spencer to move into second place.
   "The speeds are really close, so it's easier in the run if you can pass with 35 laps or more on the tires," said Harvick. "But, it's easier to get the track position than to have new tires and be back in the field.
   Ron Hornaday was running in fourth wih 75 laps, but he started to slip when Riggs made the pass coming off of turn two, who was trying to recover from bad track position.
   Spencer's day seem to be going sour when he had a tire going down after running in the second position, buthe caught a break when a battle for second place between Wimmer and Riggs brought out a caution, after they split a lapped car and got together going into turn three.
   Spencer pulled his car behind the wall around lap 200, as the broken wheel did it's damaged prior by knocking the tow out and doing damge to the tyrods.
   "Damn it! I could have won this race, I know I could have," said Spencer. "It was ours."
   Raines pressed Harvick for the last 60 laps of the event, but the guy who was licking his chops at the end was Keller, for he was cutting into the lead lap after lap.
   It appeared that Harvick was on his way to victory, as he was holding off the charge of Raines and Keller. Before this could happen an accident between the sixth and seventh place cars of Kasey Kahne and Hornaday brought a red flag stoppage with eight laps left after Kahne caught the wall off turn four giving Hornaday no place to go.
   "It was extremely difficult for us today," said Keller. "A couple of cars got together in front of us and the track close completely up, but we were able to choose the right line to make it through."
   This caution was the 13th one of the race, which was just one shy of the race record.
   Harvick was up on the wheel on the restart with five laps left, while Raines began to fall back into the clutches of Keller.
   "I didn't have a good restart at all, and I thought the car had a tire going flat, for it was doing things that it had never done before,"said Raines.
   Harvick cruised to the victory with Raines coming home second and Keller capturing third.
   Green wound up in fourth, while Mike Bliss followed for a top-five finish.
   "It's really hard to race when you're in trouble, and it's hard to race with one hand tied behind your back, so I've learned a lot from last season and now I can go after it," said Harvick.
   Todd Bodine remains in the top spot of the Busch Series point standings, leading Jason Keller by 48 points, while Jamie McMurray is third, and Kevin Harvick, despite not racing at Darlington last weekend, moves to fourth 80 points out of first place.