RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – 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, but lost the lead during pit stops just past the midpoint. Menard held on until the 217th lap, when Harvick slipped inside him.

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.

“Once we got it dialed it, it was awesome,” Harvick said in Victory Lane.

The race also marked the series debut of Erin Crocker, the 11th woman to drive in the series, and her participation lasted just 123 laps before she spun and crashed.

Crocker was untouched when the rear of her car started sliding in turn 3, and her spin also took out Busch regulars Kenny Wallace and Jason Keller.

Menard held on for second, 0.672 seconds behind Harvick, giving Chevrolet the top two spots. The Fords of Kenseth and Martin were followed by Jason Leffler’s Chevy.

The race continued what has been a tough weekend for Nextel Cup points leader Tony Stewart before Saturday night’s race. Stewart did not qualify for Thursday night’s truck race, and crashed out of this one after only 117 laps.

“I was just running around with a bunch of hacks out there,” Stewart said after a bump from Ashton Lewis knocked him out. “I was just getting tired of getting run into.”

In all, there were 11 cautions for 63 of the 250 laps.

Truex was already well back in the field just after 200 laps when he was squeezed by Wallace. That sent Truex’s Chevrolet onto its side, sparks flying as its wheels hugged the track’s outside retaining wall.

“I don’t know, maybe he’s blind,” said Truex, who made obscene gestures at Wallace before the race ended. “It’s just ridiculous. We don’t need this stuff happening.”

Wallace said there was no intent.

“I didn’t know Martin was on the outside of me,” he said. “It’s my fault. I’ll take the blame for it.”

AP-ES-09-09-05 2246EDT

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