Kevin Harvick’s night ended early on Saturday in the Sprint Unlimited Sprint Cup Series non-points event at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was collected in a multicar wreck on lap 23 and forced out of the race with a 25th-place finish in the 79-lap event.
Harvick, a three-time winner of the Sprint Unlimited (2009, 2010 and 2013), started 22nd and raced his way into the top-15 just prior to the first caution of the night on lap 14.
Following the lap-17 restart, Harvick raced the Busch Beer Chevrolet up to the top-10 by lap 21. But just two laps later, SHR teammate Brian Vickers, interim driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, suffered a cut tire and spun in front of Harvick, collecting the No. 4. The incident resulted in heavy damage to both cars and forced them to the garage for the remainder of the event.
“All I saw was the No. 14 (Vickers), and once we got to the corner, he spun out,” Harvick explained. “I hate it for all the guys on our Busch Chevrolet, but it was good to see the car on the racetrack. I know there’s been a lot of work put into this particular Busch program, and it is good to see the car on the racetrack. I hate that it’s tore up, but I guess if you’re going to tear it up, tonight’s a better night to tear it up than next Sunday.”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the way for SHR in the Sprint Unlimited by finishing seventh. It was Busch’s fifth top-10 in 13 career Sprint Unlimited starts.
The Sprint Unlimited was an invitation race open to drivers who were a part of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, had won a pole during the 2015 season, were a past winner of the Sprint Unlimited or had previously won the pole for the Daytona 500. Busch won the Sprint Unlimited in 2011.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS, finished 11th in her third career Sprint Unlimited start. Patrick earned a spot in the race by winning the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500.
Vickers finished 24th after a flat tire caused him to crash on lap 23. NASCAR granted SHR permission to run the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevy in the Sprint Unlimited despite Stewart being unable to compete. Stewart is a three-time winner of the event (2001, 2002 and 2007).
Denny Hamlin won the Sprint Unlimited to earn his third victory in the exhibition race. Joey Logano finished .924 of a second behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while Paul Menard, Kyle Larson and Casey Mears rounded out the top-five. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Busch, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 24 laps, with 10 drivers failing to complete the 79-lap race, which went into overtime and finished four laps beyond its scheduled distance.
Next up for SHR is Daytona 500 qualifying, where Busch, Patrick, Vickers and Harvick will be among 44 drivers going for the pole for the 58th annual Daytona 500. Qualifying is set to get underway at 1:15 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 14, with live coverage provided by FOX. The Can-Am Duel – twin 150-mile races that will set the rest of the Daytona 500 field – take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18, with live coverage on FOX Sports 1. Speedweeks at Daytona then culminates with the Daytona 500 at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21, with live coverage provided by FOX.