Kevin Harvick ended months of NASCAR Sprint Cup frustration with victory in a Charlotte race that ended in multiple pitlane brawls and with several big names’ title hopes in jeopardy.
Harvick had to win a two-lap sprint to the finish to grab his third victory of the season, but attention turned quickly to two near-brawls in the garage involving Keselowski. Denny Hamlin was held back by his own crew from going after Keselowski, who appeared to try to wreck Hamlin after the race.
Then Matt Kenseth appeared to jump on Keselowski from behind between two haulers and multiple team members had to pull back Kenseth. Kenseth and Keselowski made contact racing for the lead on a late restart, and Kenseth was livid that Keselowski hit his car after the race.
‘‘It was really the safety. He was doing something with Hamlin, I had my seatbelt off, my [head-and-neck restraint] off and he clobbers me,’’ Kenseth said. ‘‘The race is over, come back to pit road. If you want to talk about it like a man, go do that. But if you want to wreck somebody on the racetrack with people standing around, that’s just inexcusable.”
It capped a terrible night for three of NASCAR’s biggest stars: Keselowski, six-time and defending champion Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all go into next Sunday’s elimination race at Talladega needing a victory.
Keselowski finished 16th, Johnson was 17th, and Earnhardt was 20th — last in the 12-driver Chase field.
The four drivers now in danger of being eliminated next week are Kenseth, Keselowski, Johnson, and Earnhardt.
Harvick leads the Sprint Cup Series in laps led and poles, but had only two victories to show for his effort. The win was his first since Darlington in April