HAMPTON, Ga. — Kevin Harvick picked up with the same speed on Sunday as he exhibited during Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, dominating to win the first stage of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
Harvick, the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, led all but three of the 85 laps en route to collecting the lion’s share of 10 bonus points towards the regular season championship, as well as a playoff point towards his total later in the season.
“These guys have just done a great job getting the balance right. This is just one of those places where it’s all about rhythm. (Stewart Haas) allowed me to race yesterday, and I feel like we got in a good rhythm in practice and that was a huge help. I found some good form in that car and it’s working well for me now. This is one of my favorite places and we haven’t won as many races as we should have here, but I love racing here.”
“You race here with that old Mesa Marin (Speedway) feel … just hook the bottom and be easy on the gas,” the Bakersfield, California native added with a chuckle.
A near four-wide scramble on the opening start saw Joey Logano fall back through the field after contact from Jamie McMurray, while Harvick pulled out to a full second’s advantage before five laps were officially in the books.
The early man on the move was Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who started fourth but rolled around Ryan Newman to move into second by lap 13, the ‘Folds of Honor’ lap of Sunday’s event.
After fading from third to 17th over the course of the opening tire stint, Kyle Busch led a host of cars down pit road for service beginning at lap 32. Harvick ceded the point for his stop five circuits later, handing the lead to Newman as the cycle worked itself out.
By lap 40, Harvick was back out front over new runner-up Brad Keselowski, pulling out to a three-second lead by lap 69, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. dove to pit road with a “shredded” right rear tire.
From there, Harvick led all the way through the end of the stage, taking the green checkered flag 2.502 seconds ahead of Keselowski.
Hometown favorite Chase Elliott finished third, followed by the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. and the Ford of Joey Logano.
Newman, Stenhouse, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson completed the top 10, with Johnson making the pass for 10th on Kurt Busch with five laps to go in the stage.
Danica Patrick just kept from going one lap down as the caution came out, with 17 drivers on the lead lap through 85 laps and all 39 cars still running on the race track.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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