Kevin Harvick Unstoppable In Drive To Atlanta Victory

Kevin Harvick scored the victory in dominating fashion in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Last year, Kevin Harvick had the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in hand after a dominating performance, only to see it go away after a pit road speeding penalty.

On Sunday night, he finally sealed the deal, as he again dominated the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, leading 181 of the race’s 325 laps en route to the victory.

Harvick had also led the most laps in the previous four Cup series races at Atlanta, but it took the fifth time to seal the deal. In addition, the win locks him into the championship playoffs later in the year.

“It was great getting into this race car and knowing that everybody knew that they had to beat our car,” Harvick said. “I’m just really, really happy with everything that we’ve done at Stewart-Haas Racing over the last five years, and this is a great start to getting ourselves in the Playoffs and doing everything that we need to do.”

The win comes almost 17-years after he scored his first career MENCS victory, also at Atlanta, in May of 2001. That was the last time he picked up a series win at the Georgia raceway, until Sunday.

And just as he did back in 2001, Harvick took a backwards victory lap with three fingers extended out the window in tribute to the driver whose seat he took over that year – the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

“We overcame a lot of things today,” Harvick said. “We got a late-race restart that we drove off and won the race with, so there are so many demons that seem to haunt us here for a long time, but the coolest part was being able to try to replicate that first win celebration.”

Nothing could rain on Harvick’s parade, including a delay of an hour and a half in the start of the race due to rain that settled in over the speedway late in the morning. Once the rains stopped and the track dried, Harvick made short work of his competition, taking the lead on lap 20. From there, he went on to win the race’s first segment.

The only major hiccup for his day came when an air hose broke during the pit stop after the segment. Harvick’s crew chief brought him back to pit road to make sure all the lug nuts were tight. He restarted 19th, but it only took 29 laps for him to retake the lead.

Kevin Harvick (4) drove to the victory in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The only other stumble came after a lap 158 caution when seven time series champ Jimmie Johnson blew a right front tire and got into the wall. Brad Keselowski won the race off pit road, and on the restart, Harvick spun his tires, slipping all the way back to fifth. Meanwhile, Keselowski went on to win the segment.

Three drivers, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott worked an alternate pit strategy, hoping to have an advantage by making one less pit stop. The strategy didn’t help in beating Harvick, but it did result in top 10 finishes for each driver.

“It panned out good for us, but obviously the caution fell there and we were still up front,” said Hamlin. “I think we had about a 10-second gap to the next one and I thought that maybe one other car was going to catch us there, but our long run speed was so good that we felt like we needed to stay out there and have less stops and spend more time on the race track. Either way we ended up where we should have and it was a good day for our FedEx Ground Camry team.”

A late caution on lap 297 gave Keselowski one last chance to challenge, but to no avail, as Harvick powered away to the victory.

Keselowski had to settle for a second place finish. He said nobody had anything for Harvick.

“Shoot, I think we all threw everything we had at him,” Keselowski said. “He drove a great race and he had a really fast car, and that’s a potent combination. If he hadn’t had the pit road issue today, he probably would have led almost 300-some laps.”

Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer came home in third.

“I appreciate Harvick’s speed”, Bowyer said. “He was so fast. Man, I’m telling you our Haas Automation Ford was good all weekend long. All of our Stewart-Haas cars were fast. That’s a credit to everybody’s hard work over the offseason and it paid dividends here tonight.”

Hamlin finished in fourth, with Martin Truex, Jr. in fifth.

Hometown hero Chase Elliott, from nearby Dawsonville, Georgia, finished in tenth in a race that saw he and his team fight to get his car competitive.

“Fighting to stay on the lead lap is not where you want to be,” he said. “We will go to work and great job by our NAPA team today to salvage what we could. I don’t know how much more we really could have got there, maybe a spot or two there at the end, but I felt like we did a pretty good job making the most of what we had.”

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Atlanta Motor Speedway – Hampton, GA
Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 – Feb. 25, 2018

1. (3) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325.
2. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 325.
3. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 325.
4. (12) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 325.
5. (35) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 325.
6. (16) Joey Logano, Ford, 325.
7. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325.
8. (7) Kurt Busch, Ford, 325.
9. (8) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 325.
10. (27) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 325.
11. (10) Erik Jones, Toyota, 325.
12. (26) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 325.
13. (11) Aric Almirola, Ford, 325.
14. (25) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 324.
15. (4) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 324.
16. (6) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 324.
17. (15) Paul Menard, Ford, 324.
18. (23) William Byron #, Chevrolet, 323.
19. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 323.
20. (18) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 322.
21. (14) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 322.
22. (2) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 322.
23. (29) David Ragan, Ford, 321.
24. (17) Michael McDowell, Ford, 321.
25. (24) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 321.
26. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 321.
27. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 321.
28. (32) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 320.
29. (21) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 320.
30. (34) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 319.
31. (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 319.
32. (19) Darrell Wallace, Jr. #, Chevrolet, 319.
33. (36) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 310.
34. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 305.
35. (20) Trevor Bayne, Ford, Engine, 292.
36. (31) Gray Gaulding, Jr., Toyota, Steering, 99.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 143.068 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 29 Mins, 54 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.690 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 28 laps.

Lead Changes: 24 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: 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.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick 8 times for 181 laps; Kurt Busch 3 times for 52 laps; B. Keselowski 3 times for 38 laps; D. Hamlin 3 times for 26 laps; R. Newman 1 time for 17 laps; Kyle Busch 4 times for 9 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 1 lap; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 4,14,2,78,10,18,42,41,11,22

Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,41,18,22,4,11,42,10,14,19

Top 10 in Points: 1. Joey Logano – 89; 2. Ryan Blaney – 83; 3. Denny Hamlin – 77; 4. Kevin Harvick – 75 (1 Win); 5. Clint Bowyer – 74; 6. Austin Dillon – 70 (1 Win); 7. Martin Truex, Jr. – 69; 8. Kurt Busch – 68; 9. Paul Menard – 66; 10. Aric Almirola – 66.


About Brandon Reed