[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”215″][/media-credit]MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 3, 2011) – Kevin Harvick celebrated his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Martinsville Speedway Sunday afternoon, but spoiled the day for Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans everywhere.
Harvick slipped past Earnhardt with three laps to go Sunday afternoon to capture the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. It was his second straight win following a victory at Auto Club Speedway last week.
“It was just an awesome day. I didn’t think we had the car to do that and (we) just came back up through there,” said Harvick. “We put those two tires on and I got to the front and all of a sudden everything was woken up.
“So I had a lot of fun racing with Dale Jr., and I hate to be the guy that is the bad guy here, but we are in it to win it.”
To the thousands of fans who were cheering Earnhardt, Harvick probably appeared to be the bad guy. Earnhardt, who ran in the top 10 most of the day, took the lead on lap 480 and appeared to be on the way to breaking a 98-race winless streak. But Harvick was just a little too strong at the end.
“The 29 (Harvick) was coming,” said Earnhardt, who wound up second. “There wasn’t much I could do. I don’t know what I could have done different.
Earnhardt made a couple attempts at getting back around Harvick, but was fruitless.
Kyle Busch was strong much of the day, and closed on Earnhardt at the end. But he had to settle for third and is still winless at the venerable southern Virginia track. But with the third-place finish, Busch took over the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth, followed by Jeff Gordon. Rounding out the top 10 were Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin.
There were 31 lead changes, a track record. The previous record was 25, set Sept. 28, 1980.