Harvick led 915 laps in Cup races in Atlanta over the last five years – including 181 on Sunday – but endured the long wait for his second win at the track.
The win certainly wasn’t an easy one for Harvick.
Sure, both Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski dominated this race previous year and made the Championship Race, but neither had the complete season expected of them.
Many Thursday Thunder alumni didn’t fare well at the start of the race. He restarted 19th on Lap 94 and he had regained the lead by Lap 126.
PIT PROBLEMS – Harvick pitted twice during the caution that ended the first stage. Sunday he was already a lap down when he spun in turn 2 at roughly the halfway mark of the race. Every time Johnson has had a winless streak of 18 or more races (this is the sixth time he has done it), the drought was snapped at a 1.5-mile race, much like Vegas. Brad Keselowski won the second stage. It was a clean race; there were only three single-car incidents that brought out cautions, as the other two yellow flags were for the end of stages. This segment of the race was dominated by Ford drivers, as Harvick, Keselowski, and Kurt Busch all led.
During his time there, he visited race fans, attended the pre-race driver’s meeting and gave the driver’s command as part of his grand marshal duties.
After finishing fourth in the first stage, Truex was in position for another solid result in the second stage, but an air gun issue during a pit stop prior to the completion of Stage 2, dropped him to 15th. The pit crews of Harvick, Truex, Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman all had trouble with the guns during the race.
Harvick had led the most laps in the last four Monster Energy events at Atlanta, but victory eluded him until Sunday. Bubba Wallace and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both were damaged by contact in this melee.
“You see that 3 back in victory lane and us back in victory lane tonight, it’s nearly, it’s how it’s meant to be”, Harvick said, smiling. After that win, Harvick took a victory lap showing three fingers on his hand to honor Earnhardt and his auto number. Clint Bowyer gave Fords a sweep of the top three spots, while Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., driving Toyotas, rounded out the top five. It was a dominant win for the man who now makes his bones driving for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Even as eventual victor Kevin Harvick blistered the field in the early going, more clouds threatened from the west.
The 42-year-old had led over 1,000 laps in the past seven NASCAR Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway but did not have a win to show for it – until the weekend. But when it was all said and done that was the only delay and the Monster Energy Cup Series race commenced without a hitch. Starting 35th Sunday, he worked his way to a fifth place finish and heads to Las Vegas, where he picked up his first win of the 2017 season, with a bit of momentum.