By Doug Halberstadt
NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick has opened up the month of April in the exact same fashion that he closed out the month of March. He grabbed the checkered flag for the second week in a row.
Last week, in the Auto Club 400 in California, Harvick executed an impressive last-lap pass of race leader Jimmie Johnson to earn the win. That smooth move earned him the nickname “The Closer” from FOX TV studio race announcer Chris Myers.
Flashing forward one week, Harvick and his fellow competitors opened the month of April in Martinsville, Va., at the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. It was déjà vu all over again for Harvick. This time, “The Closer” passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead on lap 496 of 500, and pulled away for his second-straight Sprint Cup victory.
This was the first time in his career he’s accomplished that feat. It was also his first time he’s ever won at Martinsville.
On lap 479, Earnhardt muscled past third-place finisher Kyle Busch and held the lead until Harvick made the winning pass in turn two with only four laps remaining in the race. Juan Montoya and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five.
Harvick’s second win in the six-week-old season moved him up from ninth to fifth place in the season points standings. He is only 1 point behind Kurt Busch and 3 points behind Johnson in third. Carl Edwards is in second place, 10 points ahead of Harvick and 5 points behind leader Kyle Busch.
“The Closer” will try for the trifecta this week when the series switches from a Sunday afternoon green flag to an under-the-lights race in the Samsung Mobile 500 from the Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night (April 9).
Coverage of the race begins at 6:30 p.m. local time on the FOX network.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the April 6-12, 2011 issue