Kevin Harvick Tames The Lady In Black For 50th NASCAR Cup Series Winby Hunter Thomas May 17, 2020 0 comments
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Kevin Harvick captured his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series victory at Darlington Raceway on Sunday during NASCAR’s first race back since the season came to a halt in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With empty grandstands, NASCAR resumed its 2020 season with The Real Heroes 400 at the track, Too Tough To Tame. Sunday’s race as well as the upcoming event on Wednesday at Darlington won’t replace the prestigious Southern 500. Instead, the two dates are additions to the schedule as NASCAR looks to get slowly return to normal operation.
Harvick led a race high of 159 laps and was out in front of the field for the final 78 laps. The win marked the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s second win at the track. Back in 2014, Harvick won the Southern 500; however on Sunday, Harvick’s win came in the heat of the afternoon during a 400-mile event. Harvick finished fourth in both, Stages 1 and 2 before going on to win the historical race. The 44-year-old is also the only driver so far this season to finish in the top-10 in all five races this season.
“I want to thank everybody from NASCAR and all the teams for letting us do what we do,” said Harvick, driver of the Busch Light #YOURFACEHERE Ford. “I didn’t think it was gonna be that much different and then we won the race and it’s dead silent out here. We miss the fans, just gotta thank everybody from Busch Light, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Mobil 1, Jimmy John’s, everybody from Ford who helps on this car. It’s a pretty big honor to win 50 races in this deal and I just have to thank all my team guys and everybody for what they’re doing.”
Finishing second was Alex Bowman in the No. 88 ChevyGoods.com NOCO Chevrolet. The Hendrick Motorsports driver is coming off a few months of finding success in the NASCAR Pro Invitational Series that featured the iRacing platform. In real life and away from virtual racing, Bowman led the field on three occasions for a total of 41 laps around the egg-shaped oval. The runner-up finish is by far his best effort at Darlington Raceway. Prior to Sunday, his best NASCAR Cup Series finish at the track was 18th last season.
“Yeah, it was a lot of fun to get to race a guy like Kevin (Harvick) at a place like Darlington,” Bowman said. “Man, I’m pumped for ChevyGoods.com and NOCO. Hendrick Motorsports had four really fast race cars. It sucks to finish second, but it’s really good to restart the season this way with a strong car off the truck. We just needed a little bit more. I don’t really know what it was. At times we were tight, at times we were free. Neither times were we faster than the 4 on the long runs. So, I thought if I could get him there on the restart, we’d have a shot at it, but just came up a little bit short.”
Kurt Busch came all the way from 22nd to finish in the third position to claim his fourth top-five finish at the Lady in Black.
“We were a little bit tight here, a little bit loose there. But, man, what a great team,” Busch said. “Thank you to Chip Ganassi, Rob Kauffman, Felix Sabates. I’m the happiest guy in the world. I got to drive 200 mph today, pass some cars, felt the energy of the race car, and just to be out here and have a job. Thank you to Monster Energy and Chevrolet. I miss you race fans. We didn’t have you here, but I felt you through the camera. Thank you to FOX and NASCAR for making this happen.”
Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10 was Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Eric Jones, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Kenseth who came out of retirement to replace Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing.
Throughout the afternoon in Darlington County, there were 10 cautions for 57 laps.
One of the more bizarre crashes of the afternoon occurred on the final lap of Stage 1. Jimmie Johnson was leading the race and was well on his way to a stage victory, but while exiting Turn 2, he made contact with Chris Buescher and slid down the backstretch and into the inside wall. William Byron inherited the lead and won the stage.
“Gosh, what I would do to get that corner back to do it over again,” Johnson said. “Coming to the end of the stage, I was just trying to make sure I got a good run off of turn two. I felt like I was going to be able to exit the corner side-by-side with him, things just went horribly wrong there. What a great car, I feel terrible for my team and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. I’m very thankful for Ally and all of their support. We have great race cars and things are coming in the right direction, just unfortunate that things didn’t really turn out there off of Turn Two.”
The only other multicar accident occurred on lap 213, when Christopher Bell went for a spin on the frontstretch after contact with Chris Buescher.
Harvick leads Bowman in the standings by 28 points.
The NASCAR Cup Series will visit Darlington Raceway again on Wednesday, May 20 for the Toyota 500. The race will be 500K (310 miles). Live coverage will broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images