RICHMOND, Va. — Kevin Harvick pulled away from Paul Menard in a two-lap dash to the finish Friday night for his third Busch Series victory of the season.
Harvick had the dominant car all night but lost the lead during pit stops just past the midpoint of the race. Menard held on until the 217th lap, when Harvick slipped inside him and left Menard, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth to fight for second.
"Once we got it dialed in, it was awesome," Harvick said in Victory Lane.
The race also tightened the points race after leader and defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. crashed spectacularly with about 50 laps to go and wound up 27th. That was one better than third-place Carl Edwards, who also crashed late but allowed second-place Clint Bowyer to cut a 142-point deficit to 94 after finishing 11th.
Seven races remain in the season.
The victory, completed after a green-white-checker finish in 253 laps because of a caution for debris on lap 250, was Harvick's 16th in the series and completed a big day for him. Earlier, he won the pole for Saturday night's Chevrolet Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the last race before the Chase for the championship.
Heading into Saturday's race, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Elliott Sadler are separated by just 62 points in the battle for the final two positions in the 10-man, 10-race playoff that begins next weekend in New Hampshire.
Harvick, well out of contention for the Chase in 15th place, got his pick of pits after his lap of 128.425 mph gave the Richard Childress Racing driver his fourth career pole and second of the season. He was followed by Greg Biffle at 128.309, rookie Travis Kvapil at 128.163 — giving him his best career start — Mark Martin at 127.968 and Kurt Busch at 127.859. Biffle, Martin and defending Cup champion Busch have already clinched spots in the Chase.
Four-time series champion Gordon — 12th, 30 points behind 10th-place McMurray — did the best job among the quintet of contenders, qualifying sixth at 127.672.