There are lots of ways to win at Martinsville Speedway but the two most important ones are: Luck and keeping the fenders on your car.
And Kevin Harvick had both of those things working for him through 500 laps on the little Virginia half-miler during the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 on Sunday.
One can debate all day long how he managed it but, no matter the sport, you have to be good to be lucky and you have to be very good to stay in one piece at Martinsville.
If Martinsville does anything, it separates the winners from the also-rans in short order.
There is simply no place to hide on the shortest of short tracks when NASCAR’s senior circuit comes to town.
Harvick’s talent behind the wheel of the No. 29 Richard Childress Chevrolet was there for all to see over the final 10 laps as he set his sights on the then leader — the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Harvick didn’t make any mistakes, weaving his way through lapped traffic to get to the bumper of the No. 88 car.
He had to realize, too, that almost everyone at Martinsville was on their feet hoping that Earnhardt would end his 98-race winless streak.
“I hate that I was the bad guy here,” Harvick said. “But it sure was a lot of fun racing with Dale Jr.”
There certainly some irony in that the last time an RCR Chevrolet won at Martinsville was when Earnhardt’s father won in the black No. 3 back in 1998.
Harvick has nothing to feel bad about, however, as he came from behind for the second week in a row to win a close finish.
And, yes, he had luck on his side.
Let’s look at the luck that Harvick had on Sunday.
First, with 30 laps to go, five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 HMS Chevrolet was hit with a penalty for entering pit road too fast. At the time he was in second place and the penalty dropped him to the end of the lead-lap line and effectively ended his race day.
Second, with four laps to go, Earnhardt got loose and opened the door for Harvick to win.
Third, Kyle Busch, who was at or close to the front all day long in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, allowed Earnhardt to bump him aside with 20 laps to go, clearing the way for Harvick’s charge to the checkered flag.
And finally, Harvick did not have to deal with Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 JGR Toyota that had come into Sunday’s race as back-to-back-to-back winner at Martinsville.
Hamlin, who had been contending for a win most of the race, faded badly in the final 60 laps.
TRACY BACK IN BUSINESS
Paul Tracy has added five more IZOD IndyCar races to his 2011 calendar.
The “Thrill from West Hill” finally snagged a much-needed deal from the until-now dormant Dragon Racing team, owned by Jay Penske.
Tracy’s contract will put him in races at Toronto, Edmonton, Long Beach, Sonoma and Texas.
That’s good news for the Honda Indy Toronto and the Edmonton Indy, where Tracy is a huge ticket seller.
The Dragon deal makes it a half-dozen races that Tracy will compete in this season — he had already announced that he will run the Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Tracy told SPEED-TV that it will be a back-to-the-future kind of moment when he climbs into the Penske — Jay is the son of Roger Penske — machine April 17 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Tracy was part of Roger Penske’s three-car effort early in his career.
“I asked Jay what his dad said about us teaming up and he told me Roger said: ‘Oh great, the two guys who gave me the most problems in my life are getting together.’”