Kevin Harvick, driving the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet, started the 54th IRWIN Tools Night race on the pole, after having led a number of laps Harvick was second, battling against Denny Hamlin for the lead. Harvick getting a run off of Turn 4 on Lap 161 came up and made contact with the left rear of the #11 Fed-Ex Toyota of Hamlin who took the high line, sending Hamlin into the inside wall before shooting up the Turn 1 backing and into the way of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Both Hamlin and Earnhardt Jr.’s car made hard contact, ripping the left side off Earnhardt Jr.’s #88 Chevrolet. Hamlin’s #11 Fed-Ex Toyota didn’t fare much better as the nose was ripped off.
Hamlin appeared to be following NASCAR’s new rule waiting for the safety workers and the NASCAR officials and while standing on the apron, Hamlin flung his HANS device at Harvick, who passed under caution. Harvick maintained the lead and while under caution he apologized over the radio for the incident.
“I’m just frustrated because we had a good run going,” Hamlin said. “I thought for sure after the first couple runs that we were going to win the race. I just wish I had some kind of car left so I could show him the favor back.”
After thinking about it momentarily Hamlin added, “I think I know Kevin pretty well and he’s not just going to take somebody out early in the race, and I’ve got no problems with Kevin. I really don’t, I think he just misjudged, just trying too hard too early.”
“Both of us had really fast cars. These short tracks are all about patience, and you’ve got to show patience. That’s what’s got us the short track success that we’ve got, and we aren’t going to get an opportunity tonight.”
As for Earnhardt Jr. there was nothing he could do to avoid Hamlin as the #11 shot back across the track.
“I couldn’t see what happened to Denny (Hamlin), but he got turned around or something and was coming up the track,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “There was a lot of smoke so I couldn’t really judge the speed of his car to know whether I needed to be going up there and go around him on the top. I had to make that choice. I just went ahead and went to the top and ended up getting into him. It wasn’t too hard of a hit just did a lot of damage.”
The #88 crew worked to make an attempt to get back on track but Earnhardt Jr. would eventually pull the car behind the wall finishing 39th.