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Harvick Adds Darlington To His Cup Resume

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, April 13 2014

Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag at Darlington on Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

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Kevin Harvick passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the next-to-last lap of the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish and went on to win Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver became the  first two-time winner in the series this year.

The victory was Harvick’s first at Darlington and the 25th of his career. It was the third win of the season for SHR.

“This is one of those places that I circle every year I come to Darlington,” Harvick said, “and most all of us know the history of this particular racetrack and what it means to our sport. To come here each year and know that now you only have one shot, but to win the Southern 500 and you look at the names and pictures on that trophy that they have out there is something that’s pretty phenomenal to be a part of. It’s the last crown jewel race I guess you could say that I wanted to – I told him before the year even started, if we’re only going to win once this year, let’s win at Darlington because this is just the place that you want to race, and I love racing here. I think it’s like going to Bristol for me, for him here. He’s not as enthused about it as I was. But all in all, it’s a great place to race and means a lot to our sport.

Harvick led 238 of 374 laps in a race that went seven laps past its scheduled distance.

Earnhardt finished second, .559 seconds back. Jimmie Johnson ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.

Nothing could thwart Harvick’s domination of the first two-thirds of the race. A dropped lug nut on a pit stop on Lap 222 relegated him to ninth for a restart on Lap 227. But by the time NASCAR threw the seventh caution on Lap 247, Harvick was running fourth.

Four laps after a restart on Lap 252, Harvick was back in the lead, passing Brian Vickers for the top spot.

After Paul Menard hit the outside wall for the second time on Lap 271, Harvick ran over a piece of Menard’s brake rotor—twice—but his No. 4 Chevrolet was unaffected. Biffle took the lead on pit road with a two-tire stop, but Harvick regained the point on the restart lap (279) and quickly pulled away to a two-second advantage over Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt in second and third.

On longer runs, Gordon’s Chevy was the equal of Harvick’s, but Gordon had a miserable time on restarts and repeatedly dropped back so far on the initial green-flag laps that he couldn’t make up the ground during the course of a fuel run.

But it was Johnson who chased Harvick lap after lap after a cyle of green-flag pit stops ended on Lap 323. Johnson got as close as .601 seconds back before Harvick began to pull away. But caution for fluid from Joey Logano’s Ford scrambled the field on divergent pit strategies and set up the wild finish.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, April 13 2014
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