Harvick Doubles Up at Darlington
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 12, 2014 | 10:44 P.M. EST
Harvick became the ninth different winner in the last nine races at Darlington. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick became the first repeat winner of the 2014 season scoring a victory in Saturday night's Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Harvick passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the race’s second green-white-checkered restart to pick-up the win after starting from the pole.
“This is the one race I told Rodney (Childers, crew chief) I wanted to win,” said Harvick. “We were able to put it all together, but this is the Southern 500, this is as big as it gets in NASCAR racing.”
Harvick becomes the first driver to win from the pole at Darlington since Dale Jarrett in 1997. He led 238 laps on his way to Victory Lane.
The season had started with seven winners in the first seven races but Harvick, who won the second event of the year at Phoenix, ended the streak with win number two Saturday.
Harvick’s win more than likely guarantees him a spot to run for the championship thanks to this year’s new Chase format.
“It feels great. It’s allowed us with the way the points system is to go for wins and not have to worry about the bad weeks too much,” he said. “Really proud for these guys and looking forward to the last 10.”
Earnhardt settled for second in the final dash to the finish line.
“It's a little disappointing to come that close because I know I don't really run that well here and the opportunities to win are going to be very few compared to other tracks,” said Earnhardt Jr. “It hurts a little bit to come that close because we worked so hard to try to win races. Running second is great but nobody is going to really remember that. But we're proud of it.”
Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five.
Johnson, who was closing on Harvick in the final laps, opted for two tires when the leaders came to pit road under caution with ten laps to go. Although Harvick was able to race back to the lead with four tires, Johnson stood by the decision.
“Yeah, just very happy to finish there in the top three,” said Johnson. “I thought we had a shot at a win. I think if things stayed green after our last pit stop, we had a good chance at it, good shot at it. I'm happy with (crew chief) Chad's (Knaus) decision to go with two, and there were enough cars that took two that it gave us a little bit of a cushion, maybe enough of a cushion to make it four or five laps there.”
Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman completed the first 10 finishers.
Gordon leads Kenseth by one point in the Sprint Cup Series standings.
How Harvick Won: Harvick had the night’s dominant car but was forced to make a dramatic move around Earnhardt Jr. one lap from the finish of the G-W-C overtime to score the win. Harvick had taken four tires on what was the final trip to pit road and that was the difference to make the move around Earnhardt, Johnson and others that took two.
What Else Happened: Long green flag runs were the order of the night until a flurry of late race cautions threw a dramatic twist on the proceedings.
Who Else had a Good Day: Earnhardt Jr. was disappointed with not winning a Southern 500 but has finished in the top-three in five of the eight races this year…..Johnson scored his fifth top-10 finish of 2014…..Fifth-place Greg Biffle registered his best finish of the season…..Gordon had his sixth top-10 finish of the year.
Who had a Bad Day: Kasey Kahne was knocked out of the race late when he made hard contact with the outside wall…..Martin Truex Jr.’s run of bad luck continued Saturday night when he also exited the race after hitting the wall…..Joey Logano followed up his Texas victory last week with a blown engine Saturday night….Paul Menard ended his strong of top-10 finishes with a frustrating night that ended with a crash on the backstretch.
Quote of the Night: "The caution came out, and then I knew those of us on two tires were probably in big trouble." – Jimmie Johnson
Other Notables: Kyle Busch scored his sixth career Darlington top-10 finish…..Larson has four top-10 runs in his last five starts….fellow rookie Austin Dillon came home 11th Saturday night.