Harvick Dominates Atlanta Again and Closes Out a Big Win After 17 Years

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HAMPTON, GA – RIS – Kevin Harvick did the double by winning Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick had won the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.  A blown engine in Trevor Bayne’s Ford at Lap 297, bunched up the field for the final restart, but the man known as “The Closer” closed out the race for his first victory of the season.

It was Harvick’s first win in 17 years at the 1.5-mile track.  The last time Harvick won was two races after the late Dale Earnhardt passed away at Daytona International Speedway, driving the car Earnhardt had driven in a battle with Jeff Gordon.  On that day, Harvick circled the track with three fingers raised above the car in honor to Earnhardt.  He did the same thing on Sunday.

“To be able to do that and pay tribute to Dale was cool, been waiting a long time to do that,” Harvick said. ‘We’ve had so many days we could have done that. It’s good to be back in victory lane. Finally. It took a while.”

Harvick led 292 of 325 laps in this race last year, only to have a bad pit stop give the win to Brad Keselowski.  That was not going to happen on Sunday.  Harvick led 173 of 325 laps after leading 141 of 163 laps on Saturday.

"It was great getting into this race car and knowing that everybody knew they needed to beat our car," Harvick continued. "This is a great start to getting ourselves into the playoffs. We overcame a lot of things today and had a late race restart that we drove off and won the race with. Things seemed to haunt us here for a long time. The cool thing was trying to replicate that first win. "

Keselowski finished second and Clint Bowyer third, giving Ford a sweep of the top three finishers.  Toyota drivers Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. finished fourth and fifth respectively.  Ford had the first three finishers, followed by the Toyotas of Hamlin and Truex, with the Chevrolets of Kyle Larson finishing ninth and tenth.

Harvick easily won Stage 1, building nearly a five-second lead over the rest of the field when he took the green-and-white checkered. Brad Keselowski took home Stage 2 after a strong restart with 11 to go. Although Harvick had the speed to win the second mid-race stage, he spun the tires on that same restart and finished the stage fifth.

The race was met with postponements and delays as rainstorms moved through the area around the track. Earlier in the week, NASCAR moved the start time up by an hour, and after a 2.5-hour delay, the cars got to rolling off pit road. Contrary to forecasts that the race couldn't be completed in time, the rain held off long enough for it to be held in its entirety.

The rough surface of the aged pavement of the track led to fast speeds after a tire change which slowly went away after just a few laps.  Hamlin and Joey Logano tried a strategy of waiting longer than other leaders so eliminate one pit stop.  In the end, Bayne’s problems and the ensuing caution allowed Harvick to come out of the pits first and away he went.  The official margin of victory was 2.690 seconds, but Harvick held several double-digit leads during the race.

 Unofficial Race Results for the 59th Annual Folds Of Honor Quiktrip 500 - Sunday, February 25, 2018

Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, Tms Led, Pts, Status, St1, St2, Laps, Playoff Pts
1) 3, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Jimmy John's Ford, 325, 8, 56, Running, 1, 5, 181, 6
2) 5, Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Autotrader Ford, 325, 3, 53, Running, 3, 1, 38, 1
3) 9, Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Haas Automation Ford, 325, , 45, Running, 2, 9, ,
4) 12, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, 325, 3, 40, Running, 9, 6, 26,
5) 35, Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour Energy Toyota, 325, 1, 39, Running, 4, , 1,
6) 16, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 325, 1, 39, Running, 10, 4, 1,
7) 1, Kyle Busch, No. 18 Snickers Almond Toyota, 325, 4, 43, Running, 6, 3, 9,
8) 7, Kurt Busch, No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford, 325, 3, 41, Running, 8, 2, 52,
9) 8, Kyle Larson, No. 42 First Data Chevrolet, 325, , 36, Running, 7, 7, ,
10) 27, Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, 325, , 27, Running, , , ,
11) 10, Erik Jones, No. 20 DEWALT Toyota, 325, , 26, Running, , , ,
12) 26, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford, 325, , 25, Running, , , ,
13) 11, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 325, , 33, Running, 5, 8, ,
14) 25, Austin Dillon, No. 3 Dow Chevrolet, 324, , 23, Running, , , ,
15) 4, Daniel Suarez, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota, 324, , 23, Running, , 10, ,
16) 6, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford Ford, 324, , 21, Running, , , ,
17) 15, Paul Menard, No. 21 Menards/Moen Ford, 324, , 20, Running, , , ,
18) 23, William Byron #, No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet, 323, , 19, Running, , , ,
19) 13, Jamie McMurray, No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet, 323, , 18, Running, , , ,
20) 18, Alex Bowman, No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet, 322, , 17, Running, , , ,
21) 14, Kasey Kahne, No. 95 Procore Habitat for Humanity Chevrolet, 322, , 16, Running, , , ,
22) 2, Ryan Newman, No. 31 Liberty National Chevrolet, 322, 1, 15, Running, , , 17,
23) 29, David Ragan, No. 38 Fr8 Auctions Ford, 321, , 14, Running, , , ,
24) 17, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, 321, , 13, Running, , , ,
25) 24, Chris Buescher, No. 37 Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet, 321, , 12, Running, , , ,
26) 28, Ty Dillon, No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet, 321, , 11, Running, , , ,
27) 22, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet, 321, , 10, Running, , , ,
28) 32, Cole Whitt, No. 72 Chevrolet, 320, , 9, Running, , , ,
29) 21, AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet, 320, , 8, Running, , , ,
30) 34, Ross Chastain(i), No. 15 LowT Center Chevrolet, 319, , 0, Running, , , ,
31) 30, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 32 Can-Am/Wholey Ford, 319, , 6, Running, , , ,
32) 19, Darrell Wallace Jr. #, No. 43 NASCAR Racing Experience Chevrolet, 319, , 5, Running, , , ,
33) 36, Harrison Rhodes, No. 51 Davis Roofing/ICE Chevrolet, 310, , 4, Running, , , ,
34) 33, Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 00 VRX Simulators Chevrolet, 305, , 3, Running, , , ,
35) 20, Trevor Bayne, No. 6 AdvoCare Ford, 292, , 2, , , , , 0
36) 31, Gray Gaulding Jr., No. 23 Earthwater Toyota, 99, , 1, Steering, , , ,
 (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 29 Mins, 54 Secs.
Total Race Length - 325 Laps - 500.5 Miles
Average Speed: 143.068 MPH
Margin of Victory: 2.690 Seconds
Race Comments: Kevin Harvick won the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his 38th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. Prior to the green flag, the following car dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reason indicated: #3 (rear gear change).
 Failed to Qualify: N/A
 Caution Flags: 5 for 28 laps: Laps: 32-35 (Competition Caution [51]); 87-93 (Stage 1 Conclusion [48]); 160-163 (No. 48 Spin in Turn 2 [21]); 172-177 (Stage 2 Conclusion [88]); 298-304 (Fuel on the track from No. 6 [41]).
Lead Changes: 24 among 8 drivers: Kyle Busch 0; R. Newman 1-17; Kyle Busch 18-20; K. Harvick 21-31; Kyle Busch 32; K. Harvick 33-88; M. Truex Jr. 89; B. Keselowski 90-100; Kurt Busch 101-125; K. Harvick 126-127; Kyle Busch 128-131; K. Harvick 132-159; Kurt Busch 160; B. Keselowski 161-172; Kurt Busch 173-198; B. Keselowski 199-213; Kyle Busch 214; D. Hamlin 215-225; K. Harvick 226-252; D. Hamlin 253-265; K. Harvick 266-288; D. Hamlin 289-290; K. Harvick 291-299; J. Logano 300; K. Harvick 301-325

Ron Fleshman with John Davison

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2018, Issue 2, Posted 9:30 PM, 02.25.2018