Harvick wins at Darlington
By Jim Utter
DARLINGTON, S.C. — Kevin Harvick removed all doubt whether he will make the Chase and also made an important addition to his trophy case.
Harvick became the first two-time winner of the 2014 Sprint Cup Series by earning a dominating victory by holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a second two-lap overtime in Saturday night's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
The season started with seven different winners in the first seven races.
"We were able to hang on there at the end and I knew I had that high line -- I hadn't showed it to them all night on the restarts and I wanted to save it until the very end. I kind of learned that last night as we were in the Nationwide race. It was a good tool in your tool bag to have there at the end."
Harvick, who also won in the season's second race at Phoenix, started from the pole and said Friday he wanted to add a trophy from Darlington -- the only one of NASCAR's "Crown Jewel" races he hadn't won in his career.
In his career, Harvick has won the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Brickyard 400 but had struggled at Darlington.
"It was just one of those deals where the strategy was going to be hard to overcome with the track position without those green-white-checkers there at the end. The cautions all lined out and this Chevrolet was unbelievable all night," said Harvick.
Jimmie Johnson finished third, Matt Kenseth was fourth and Greg Biffle was fifth.
Joey Logano got off to a strong start and led the first 37 laps before Jeff Gordon moved into the lead on Lap 38.
Ryan Truex wrecked in Turn 3 on Lap 41 to bring out the first caution. On the restart on Lap 47, Gordon remained out front followed by Harvick and Kyle Busch.
Harvick quickly moved into the lead after the restart and remained out front until a caution was displayed on Lap 60 after a wreck by Travis Kvapil. On the restart on lap 64, Denny Hamlin took over the race lead after taking only two new tires on his pit stop.
Michael Annett's wreck on Lap 93 brought out the third caution of the race. On the restart on Lap 100, Harvick remained out front, followed by Kenseth and Gordon.
Cole Whitt and David Ragan hit the wall in separate incidents to bring out a caution on Lap 126. On the restart on Lap 131, Harvick continued to lead followed by Gordon and Brad Keselowski.
Paul Menard slammed the wall on Lap 201 to bring out the fifth caution. All of the lead-lap car pit for tires and fuel and Kahne won the race off pit road followed by Harvick and Earnhardt. During the stops, Logano and Kyle Busch made contact on pit road.
Harvick worked his way back into the lead on Lap 208.
Contact between Danica Patrick and Aric Almirola brought out a caution on Lap 222. After a round of pit stops, Brian Vickers took over the lead on the restart on Lap 227 thanks to a two-tire pit stop. He was followed by Ryan Newman (who also took two tires) and Keselowski.
Debris from Annett hitting the wall again brought out the seventh caution of the race on Lap 248. Following pit stops, Vickers took over the race lead on the restart on Lap 252, followed by Gordon and Harvick.
Three laps later, Harvick got around Vickers to retake the lead.
Another run-in with the wall for Menard brought out the eighth caution of the race on Lap 272. All of the lead-lap cars pit for fuel and tires and Biffle took over the lead on the restart on Lap 279 with help of a two-tire pit stop. He was followed by Harvick, Kyle Busch, Earnhardt and Vickers.
A final round of green-flag stops began on Lap 316. Once the cycle was completed, Harvick remained the leader but was followed by Johnson, Earnhardt, Kenseth and Gordon.
Logano wrecked on Lap 358 to bring out the ninth caution of the race and bunch up the field one more time. All of the lead-lap cars pitted for tires and Johnson took over the race lead on the restart on Lap 363 by taking only two new tires.
Hamlin spun on the backstretch to bring out the 10th caution of the race on Lap 365. On the restart on Lap 369, Johnson led the way followed by Earnhardt, Harvick, Kenseth and Gordon.
Earnhardt bolted to the lead on the restart but Kurt Busch slammed the wall hard on the backstretch to bring out another caution and send the race into a second two-lap overtime. Earnhardt led the way on the restart on Lap 372, followed by Harvick, Johnson and Kenseth.
"This is the one race I told Rodney (Childers, crew chief) I wanted to win. We were able to put it all together, but this is the Southern 500, this is as big as it gets in NASCAR racing."