Harvick Sent A Serious Message At Atlanta

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 25 2018

Kevin Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing team let NASCAR know which is one of the teams to beat on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

HAMPTON, Ga. – Eight Things We Learned at Atlanta:

  1. Kevin Harvick’s dominating victory in Sunday’s QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was his way of serving early-season notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with to capture this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title. The all-time lap leader at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway among active drivers, Harvick led 181 laps and finally found his way back to victory in a Cup race at Atlanta for the first time in 17 year
  2. Defending Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. started 35th after his No. 78 Toyota Camry failed opening day technical inspection three times on Friday. The dominator on 1.5-mile surfaces last season, Truex struggled to crack the top 10 during the early laps of the race but methodically worked his way up the leaderboard during the final stage to salvage a fifth-place finish. Still, the effort was a far cry from a season ago when he scored seven wins on 1.5-mile tracks. “We fought track position and fought the car going away too much on long runs,” Truex said. ‘But overall, it was a decent day and something to work from.”
  3. While the Fords feasted on Sunday by sweeping the top three finishing positions, the new Chevrolet Camaro struggled during its first test at an intermediate track. Chevy driver Ryan Newman led the first 17 laps, before fading quickly. Kyle Larson (9th) and Chase Elliott (10th) were the only two Bowtie drivers to finish in the top ten. “Yeah, it definitely was not very good,” Elliott said. “We have a lot of work to do. We made the most of what we had tonight.”
  4. The NASCAR-issued air guns created a buzz during the mid-point of the Sunday’s event when Harvick and Truex’s teams experienced pit gun failures. Afterwards, Truex tried to downplay the frustration over his team suffering two separate air gun malfunctions. “We knew there would be some issues with that deal,” he said. “I’m really just proud of them for all of their hard work and getting ready for the season with these new rules.”
  5. After experiencing a crash-filled Speedweeks at Daytona, many observers figured seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson would rebound and be among Sunday’s contenders at AMS. Instead, he started 22nd, got lapped early, blew a right-front tire halfway through the race and limped home 27th. Johnson and longtime crew chief Chad Knaus will look to turn their fortunes around next weekend at Las Vegas.
  6. A week after Austin Dillon and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace made national headlines at Daytona, NASCAR’s much-ballyhooed young drivers fell flat on Sunday as experience was the theme of the day. Dillon finished 14th while Wallace came home 32nd. “Talladega is in April,” race winner Harvick said, when asked why the veteran drivers ruled on Sunday. “You have to have experience at a place like this to be successful.”
  7. The surprise of the day was Clint Bowyer, who started ninth, hovered in the top-10 most of the afternoon then surged to third during the dash to the checkered flag. Following a mediocre 2017 season when he took over the driving reins of Tony’s Stewart’s No. 14 at Stewart Haas Racing, the Kansas native hopes to parlay Sunday’s outing into additional top-five runs and a potential win. “I said all during the offseason, that we’ve got to be more consistent,” Bowyer said. “During the course of my career, consistency is what’s kept me in the game.”
  8. You can’t always trust the weather forecast. Despite dire predictions of heavy rain for much of day and night in Atlanta, the event started just over an hour after the original advertised start and ran its full distance of 325 laps. As Harvick circled the track to celebrate, rain began falling on his victory parade.
| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 25 2018
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