Harvick Wins at Atlanta
Kevin Harvick took the checkered on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
The first two stages belonged to Martin Truex Jr., who earned his first stage win of the year. Truex showed a ton of speed, but it was not enough to hold off Harvick in the final stage.
The No. 4 Busch Light Ford led a total of 151 laps out of 325, including the closing 56 laps of stage three. This win marked Harvick's second win of the season and 51st victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Harvick's first career win came at Atlanta Motor Speedway 19 years ago and after crossing the start finish line, he held three fingers out the window while doing a parade lap for the fans. Today, he was able to do that again.
“First (career) win came for me here at Atlanta and this is just a racetrack that I‘ve taken a liking to,” Harvick said. “You always have those memories and now you want to celebrate everything that Dale Earnhardt did for this sport. To come here and be able to do that with wins and go to victory lane is pretty special."
Kyle Busch passed Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr. for second, followed by Ryan Blaney in fourth and Denny Hamlin to round out the top-five.
The Cup Series returns for some weeknight action on Wednesday, June 10, at Martinsville Speedway for the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 on FS1 at 7 p.m.
Harvick Claims Victory in NASCAR's Return at Darlington
Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag in The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway, marking the historic return of NASCAR after the 2020 schedule was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryan Newman made his return to racing after a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500. Joining him in a return to racing was Matt Kenseth, who retired in 2018.
In order to limit the race to a one-day show, NASCAR opted to race without practice or qualifying before waving the green flag after an 8 week break from competition. Starting position was decided based on the point standings after Phoenix and a random drawing. Brad Keselowski started on the pole and was joined by Alex Bowman on the front row.
Bowman was the favorite throughout the race and lead early before Harvick took the lead in Stage 3. After a caution, Harvick took to the pits and went from fourth to first after getting four fresh tires. He took the lead and never looked back, as Bowman and Kurt Busch trailed behind him.
The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford led a 159 of the 293-lap event at Darlington Raceway. Harvick's victory marks his 50th NASCAR Cup Series win, tying Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett on the all-time wins list.
Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five. Matt Kenseth, who made his return to racing after retiring in 2018, finished 10th in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Ryan Newman, who made his return to racing after a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500, finished 15th in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
The NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action on Wednesday, May 20 at Darlington Raceway for the Toyota 500 at 7:30 P.M. on FS1.
Busch Remains Focused Returning to Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Returning back to Daytona International Speedway after winning the Daytona 500 earlier in the season is a special time for Kurt Busch.
Winning the Daytona 500 was a special moment for Busch and his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team. After winning the Daytona 500, Busch felt that his team was little “hungover” from that excitement.
“I just seemed like a fog. The energy. I get sent on a media tour. Tony Gibson lives here in the shadows of Daytona International Speedway. All of us were so excited,” said Busch. “We’re ordering rings, flags. We’re taking the Harley J. Earl trophy to Ford’s headquarters, Monster’s headquarters, Haas’ headquarter...there was a lot going on.”
Once the team settled from the high of winning the Daytona 500, the team began to focus back on the transition to Ford and how things have changed. Busch believes the team has had a great season.
“In half the races this year we have a top-10 finish. Harvick won last week on a road course. For us to win at a superspeedway shows the versatility that Stewart-Haas has,” said Busch.
With the season at 10 different winners with the potential of more than 16 winners, Busch and his team are beginning to look at how to get to the championship using the playoff points accumulated during the regular season.
“We don’t need to be looking at what it takes to just get into the playoffs, we need to be accumulating those bonus points that stay with you through the playoffs,” said Busch. “We’ll see how it all plays out. We need to accumulate more bonus points to be more competitive to be one of those final four at Homestead.”
Returning to Daytona for Busch is a great feeling, but he still feels that he has more to learn about the draft.
“I just still need to continue to do my job to be better. You can’t be complacent even if you’ve won a race,” said Busch. “My statistics have been good, consistent. I’ve been lucky in a bunch of situations to avoid the ‘big one’ and it’s helped me develop those average finishes. We look forward coming to restrictor-plate races at Stewart-Haas. Tony Gibson is a good crew for the restrictor-plates and happy to have him on my side and I want to go there and deliver for him and the team.”
In his time at Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch has an average finish of 10.5. He currently sits 14th in the points standings.
Johnson Wins Rain-Delayed Food City 500 From Bristol
After a late race charge from Clint Bowyer and pit road penalties for Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson was able to win the rain-delayed Food City 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway, his second win of 2017.
“Yeah, it was kind of interesting because when the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) was there, it just created an environment to run the top and I wasn’t as good on the top. The No. 42, not being up there and that first couple of cars; the bottom was really where it was at for the short run. This Lowe’s Chevrolet was flying!”
"I’m so happy to give everybody at A.O. Smith a good ride on the quarter panel this weekend. We wouldn’t be here without a ton of support from Valvoline, Gatorade, the fans, Lowe’s, and Chevrolet. This track has been difficult over the years and we really hit on something Saturday afternoon in that last practice session around the bottom and honestly, it’s what I’ve been looking for here for 16 years and we finally figured it out. So, I’m very very happy.”
This is Johnson’s 82nd career win. He is only one win behind Cale Yarborough and two wins behind Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip on the all time career wins list. This is Johnson’s second career victory at Bristol; He scored his first in 2010.
Bowyer was considered “Mr. Where Did He Come From?” in the closing laps of the race. A caution or a few more laps could have gave Bowyer the win. Despite being disappointed in a second place finish, this is Bowyer’s best finish of 2017. This is also Bowyer’s best Cup Series finish since driving for Michael Waltrip Racing in the spring race at Richmond in 2013.
“Yeah, you have to put it into perspective. We’ve come a long way with this team. These guys have worked so hard; it’s a fun group, everybody at Haas. My teammates are awesome. It’s so much fun to work with this group each and every week. Hell yeah you want to be up there and win it. But the day we had, I got caught speeding on pit road and had to bounce back,” said Bowyer. “The guys kept working on the car. I appreciate the opportunity that Gene Haas and Tony Stewart gave me. Mobil 1, Haas Automation and everyone that’s a part of it.”
Kevin Harvick sat quietly in the front of the field for the 500 lap event. Harvick led 14 of the 500 laps to finish in the third position.
“I thought our Jimmy Johns Ford was the fastest car, we just needed track position. I think we showed how fast it was there on no tires and kind of able to hold our own,” said Harvick. “You just never know where you’re going to come out on those restarts. I felt like we had a couple cautions and we were in control of the race with the 11 on two tires and we might have had a chance. A good weekend and we’ll just keep going.”
Larson, who won the first stage, finished in the sixth position. Larson led 202 laps, but a late race pit road speeding penalty bit Larson and his chance for a second victory in 2017.
“I’m a little disappointed, but not bad. I’m more disappointed in myself from getting that speeding penalty with 80 (laps) or so to go. I was just pushing it down pit road and pushed it a little too far. I had a shot there still at the end, but four tires were better than ours,” said Larson.
Truex Jr, who won the second stage, finished in the eighth position. Truex also received a late race speeding penalty sending him to the end of the field.
“We were going for it you know. Wish we could have had a shot there just to see if we could have won. This Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota with everyone that helps us make it right – Toyota, TRD 5-hour, Wix, Bass Pro and just everybody. This is the best run we’ve had here in a long time. It’s bittersweet, I wish we could have seen if we could have beat the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). We were close there before that last caution, but it is what it is and you try to get what you can get and sometimes you cross the line and today we crossed the line,” said Truex Jr. about the penalty
The Food City 500 was slowed nine times for 76 laps. There were 14 lead changes amongst seven drivers. The race was stopped once for a red flag on lap 67 for five minutes and 10 seconds.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the Toyota Owner’s 400 from Richmond International Raceway. FOX and Motor Racing Network will have the broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. EST on Sunday April 30th.
Stewart-Haas Struggles at Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, N.v.— When it rains, it usually pours for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).This was the case this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Kobalt 400.
In the first two races of the season at Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, SHR showed that their switch to Ford was not a hinderance as they showed the upper hand by winning the Daytona 500 and dominating the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
The organization, as a whole, seemed to struggle throughout the weekend, especially during the race.
Kevin Harvick’s day was the first to end of the SHR stable. Harvick only completed 68 circuits. Harvick cut a tire and made hard contact with the outside wall on the front stretch.
“It started vibrating about four or five laps there before it blew out, and I was just trying to ride it to the end of the stage there. Obviously, it didn’t make it. The worst part was the medical response,” said Harvick after the accident. “It took them forever to get to the car. All in all, our Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford was running good. We were just too loose right there. It’s not like we were even tight, so it either just cut the tire, or came apart or melted the bead.”
Harvick finished in the 39th position, only scoring one point to his championship tptal and no playoff points. Harvick currently sits eighth in points 41 points away from the points leader, Brad Keselowski.
Danica Patrick has a so-so day in Las Vegas. The team was forced to change the gearbox on Saturday, resulting in the team starting from the rear of the field on Sunday. In the opening stage of the race, Patrick was having trouble on entry and exit in the corners. She finished 29th in the first stage. In the second stage, Patrick climbed into the top-20 before pit stops sat her back. She finished 28th in the second stage. In the third stage, the day went from so-so to worse for Patrick. Patrick was two laps down. She pitted under the green flag cycling her out of the top-30. She worked her way into the top-30 before she suffered mechanical woes and went to the garage.
“It was another day where my Aspen Dental Ford team worked hard to get me better throughout the race. There late in the race, we finally got the car to a place where I think we could have got a little more racy with it, especially if we would have caught some breaks, but then it just flattened out. I just rode around the top in case something happened. Unfortunately, it did and having a teammate behind me was not ideal for the timing of it. We’ll just move on to Phoenix and see if we can keep improving,” said Patrick.
Patrick finished 36th at Las Vegas, scoring only one point. She currently sits 30th in the points standing, 95 points behind Keselowski.
Kurt Busch was the third driver from the SHR stable to experience trouble. Busch started the opening stage in the 17th position, but worked his way into the top-10. However, he was battling a loose handling car that resulted in him finishing 12th in this stage. The second stage of the Kobalt 400 is where Busch began to see problems. Busch began to experience battery issues that resulted in everything except the gear fan to be turned off. The team told Busch to stay out until the second battery died. Busch would use the first battery to work his way back to pit road on lap 201. Busch lost four laps on pit road as the team changed the batteries resulting in a 30th place finish.
“We went through a lot today. Obviously it wasn’t the day we were hoping to have with our Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion,” Busch stated. “We didn’t have the long-run speed or the balance, and we had an electrical issue that forced us to change batteries on pit road. We kept battling, we didn’t give up. I hoped to have a better run here in front of the hometown fans.”
Busch currently sits seventh in the points standings only 39 points away from Keselowski.
Clint Bowyer had the best day out of the SHR stable in Las Vegas. Bowyer was running strong in the first stage until he went down pit road under the lap 19 caution period. Bowyer lost several spots on the pit lane due to a slower car. Bowyer finished 19th in the first stage. In the second stage, Bowyer battled loose conditions, but battled to finish 14th. In the third stage, Bowyer found himself running the same lap-times as drivers in the top-six. Bowyer ended up finishing the race running in the 10th position.
“It was a struggle. To be truthful, we weren’t the best all weekend, but we just kept digging. Buga (Mike Bugarewicz) didn’t give up on the box and kept adjusting on it and got me pretty good, the best we’d been right there at the end. It’s a top-10 and gives us some momentum. It’s our third race together and we got a top-10, so we’ve got to keep digging,” said Bowyer.
Bowyer currently sits 12th in the points standings, 59 points back from Keselowski.
Despite the struggles over the weekend at Las Vegas, SHR hopes to rebound and recover at Phoenix International Raceway in the Camping World 500, the second race of NASCAR’s “West Coast Swing”.