In NASCAR’s return on Sunday at Darlington Raceway, the first race since the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus started in March, Kevin Harvick visited victory lane in his No. 4 Busch Light Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Harvick, a native of California, led two times for a total of 159 laps.
“I want to thank everybody from NASCAR and all the teams for letting us do what we do, said Harvick after the race. “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. 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. This Dr. Josh Hughes is one of my really good friends. I spend a lot of time with him and have seen how this whole pandemic has affected our front line workers in person on a weekly basis, so thank you, Josh. We’re thinking of you.
Alex Bowman nearly picked-off his second victory of the season on Sunday at Darlington. Bowman, driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, sat 2.154 seconds behind race winner Kevin Harvick and led the field for 41 laps.
Bowman, a native of Arizona, will leave Darlington with his second top five and top 10 finish of 2020.
The day was a special one for Harvick as he earned his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series victory. The driver, finishing fourth in both stages, earned his third top five and fifth top 10 finish in 2020.
“It doesn’t seem real and I think as you look at Darlington I think as you look at the things that happened this weekend I really thought that it would definitely play into our hand just because our guys are so good at hitting the car off the truck for the most part,” continued Harvick. “We put a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of studying, a lot of meetings and just have to thank everybody at the shop who has built all these cars and just, man, I’m excited. It is weird just because there’s nobody up there, and you can go to Busch Beer.com and maybe have your face on the car next week, up here on the hood. I’m speechless.”
Kurt Busch rounded out the top three finishers on Sunday. Busch started 22nd on the starting grid.
Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top 10.
Tyler Reddick, finishing sixth, and John Hunter Nemechek, finishing ninth, took home their first career top 10 finishes in the cup series. Reddick started 29th on the leaderboard while Nemechek started the afternoon in 34th. Both drivers have 15 starts combined in the series since last year.
Matt Kenseth made his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing following the removal of Kyle Larson. Kenseth, piloting the No. 42 Chevrolet, finished 10th after starting in the 12th spot.
A total of 10 cautions slowed the field in the event with the first coming out on lap one involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in turn two. The crash ultimately ended the day for the No. 47 team.
The second yellow flag involved a scheduled competition caution on lap 30 with the third one coming out on lap 91. That caution involved Chris Buescher and race leader Jimmie Johnson. Buescher rallied to finish 32nd while Johnson finished 38th as a result.
The next several cautions included a debris, a stage break, and three single car incidents. On lap 213, the No. 17 Ford of Chris Buescher and the No. 95 of Christopher Bell tangled on the frontstretch. Bell, one of six rookies in the field, went on to a 24th place finish.
The final yellow flag of the afternoon involved Ryan Newman in turn one on lap 254. Newman, in his first race back since his crash in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, finished 15th on the board.
The next race for the series will also be at Darlington Raceway. The event will take place Wednesday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET. on FS1.