CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin Harvick held off Jeff Gordon to win the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night and join Joey Logano in the next round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Gordon finished second, .572 seconds behind Harvick. Jamie McMurray was third, Logano fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.
Logano won last week at Kansas Speedway, securing his spot in the next Chase round.
Logano, Busch and Harvick are the top three in the standings, followed by Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards.
“We wanted to try to control the things that we could control,” Harvick said. “We felt like Kansas and here were playing to our strengths and just see where we fell after that, once we get to the next round.”
Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are in the elimination spots heading into next weekend’s elimination race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Kenseth is one point behind Kasey Kahne in the bubble spot of eighth, while Keselowski is 19 points back. Johnson and Earnhardt are tied in the Chase basement, 26 points out of eighth.
Frustration seems to be showing. Keselowski’s car bumped the cars of Denny Hamlin and Kenseth in separate incidents after the race. Hamlin exchanged words with Keselowski, and Kenseth engaged him in a physical altercation.
“He just plowed into us,” Kenseth said. “He’s just out of control. He’s desperate, obviously, and it’s either four or five of us are wrong or he’s wrong.”
Harvick led a race-high 162 of the 334 laps.
“Everybody on our team has just continued to build better race cars, and we know that we’ve had the cars to run up front and lead laps and do the things that we need to do,” Harvick said.
He took the lead from Hamlin with 41 laps to go. A few laps later, Gordon also got by Hamlin to take second. They then cycled back up to first and second after a green flag cycle of pit stops in the final 30 laps.
“Kevin got out there on us after that green flag stop,” Gordon said. “I didn’t want to see another restart, because every time we start on the inside, we seem to lose positions — there at the end and the whole race.”
Brian Vickers’ blown engine brought out an eighth and final caution with seven laps to go, putting Harvick and Gordon side-by-side on the front row for a restart with three laps remaining.
“Kevin was tough,” Gordon said. “I knew when he got out in front, it was going to be hard to beat him.”
Busch and Kyle Larson each led before Hamlin got off pit road first by taking only two tires during a caution with 68 laps to go.
Brad Keselowski stayed out during the yellow flag to restart with the lead, but he lost that lead to Hamlin on the restart.
Larson and Harvick also got by Keselowski and battled each other for second before Harvick took control of the position.
On a restart at Lap 144, Gordon lost spots to Kurt Busch and McMurray.
Prior to Harvick taking the lead, Gordon was the primary race leader. Gordon took the lead from pole-sitter Kyle Busch on Lap 14 and led 70 of the first 100 laps.
Gordon dropped to fourth on pit road during a competition caution on Lap 25 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick took only two tires and Busch’s team pulled off a faster stop.
After Busch took the lead on the restart, Gordon got by him to take the top spot on Lap 38. Soon after, Harvick also got by Busch for second.
Gordon and Harvick cycled back up to the top two spots after green flag stops around Lap 75, but Gordon’s lead over Harvick was significantly larger than his cushion before the stops.
The yellow flag waved for a second time for Clint Bowyer’s blown engine, and again Gordon and Harvick lost spots to drivers taking two tires, including Earnhardt. Instead of Gordon getting through to the front, though, Harvick made his way to the lead.
Earnhardt lost spots on each restart after taking two tires but remained in the top 10 until his shifter broke just before the caution around Lap 135.
“The vibration broke the shifter in half, and it just wasn’t a good night,” Earnhardt said. “The car just wasn’t handling well and the vibration was really giving us a lot of problems. We had it in practice, but we still couldn’t fix it.”
NOTES: Kyle Busch won the pole, but Kurt Busch set a new track record in qualifying on Thursday, with a 198.771 mph lap in Round 2. … The race started on a “green” track, as rain fell earlier in the day, washing all rubber off the track. The green flag was delayed slightly as pit road was dried. … Jimmie Johnson is the all-time wins leader at Charlotte, counting the most recent race in May. … Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth finished first through third in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte on Friday night. … Charlotte is the fifth race of the 10-race Chase and the second of three races that make up the second, or Contender, round.