Kevin Harvick Wins 71st Running Of The Cook Out Southern 500 To Advance In The NASCAR Playoffsby Hunter Thomas September 6, 2020 0 comments
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Kevin Harvick held off a hard charging Austin Dillon to win the 71st running of the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and earn a berth into the second round of the NASCAR Playoffs.
Harvick, the driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Busch Beer Throwback Ford inherited the lead with just 13 laps to go after Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott sustained heavy damage while battling for the lead. Harvick, who won at Darlington back in May had a decent lead in the closing laps, but on the last lap, Dillon caught him and challenged for the lead in the final corner. The 44-year-old veteran driver held on and won his second Cook Out Southern 500 and his impressive eighth race of the 2020 season.
“Anytime you can win the Southern 500 is a good day,” Harvick said. “This is one of the most prestigious races in our sport and this is one the most prestigious racetracks in our sport, so anytime you can win at Darlington it’s a big deal, but, man, Southern 500!”
Dillon, who had momentum on the final lap earned his best Darlington finish after holding on to finish second. Prior to Sunday night, Dillon’s best finish at Darlington was a fourth-place effort back in 2017. Dillon was slated to start the race on Sunday in 12th, but he had to fall to the rear for an unapproved adjustment. Thanks to pit strategy in the final stage, Dillon was a contender for the win.
“Man, it would have been nice to get that win and lock ourselves into the next round, but it was a heck of a finish for our entire No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet team,” Dillon said. “I’m proud of our second-place finish, especially after dropping to the rear of the field at the start of the race and recovering from that setback. We battled. We had a really good long run car and Kevin Harvick was getting tighter and tighter. I caught him earlier in the run, but he took my low line in Turns 1 and 2 and that was where I was really good.”
Joey Logano finished just behind Harvick and Dillon in third. The Team Penske driver sustained heavy damage during the race, but it didn’t seem to slow him down.
“Man, hard fought,” Logano said. “We kind of were decent, it’s just so hard to pass with these big spoilers on the car at this racetrack. That makes it challenging. We had a right-front go down the last lap of the second stage, hit the wall and we did a good job fixing the car and then strategy worked well, so Paul did great there, and then they had an amazing pit stop the last stop, had a good restart and all of a sudden I was like, ‘Shoot, we could win this thing.’ To see what the left-rear looks like after that I was pretty impressed to get whatever we got.”
Erik Jones and William Byron rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10, was Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.
Throughout the night, there were 18 lead changes among six drivers. Truex led a race high of 196 laps and won Stage 1 and 2, but he finished a disappointing 22nd after sustaining heavy damage battling for the lead with Elliott.
“Two drivers going for the same spot,” Truex said. “It was close obviously and I thought I had enough momentum and distance on him (Chase Elliott) that he was going to let me in there. I didn’t expect him to be on my right rear and I was committed. Once I figured he was still there, nothing I could do. Really unfortunate for our Bass Pro Toyota.”
After the race, Elliott said, “He (Truex) had a run on me there, off of four and he just kind of cleared himself into one. He was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear, obviously. I hate it, obviously we had a fast NAPA Camaro – fast enough to contend.”
There were seven cautions for 34 laps, and only two of the yellow flags were for accidents. Bubba Wallace spun in Turn 4 on lap 181, and John Hunter Nemechek pounded the outside wall to bring out the caution on lap 246.
With the win, Harvick will automatically advance to the second round of the NASCAR Playoffs. He leads Denny Hamlin by 19 points in the standings. Following the Cook Out Southern 500, Clint Bowyer, Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney are below the cutline for the Round of 12.
The NASCAR Cup Series will visit Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 12 for the Federated Auto Parts 400. Live coverage will broadcast on NBCSN and MRN at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Chris Keane/Getty Images