DARLINGTON, S.C. — Kevin Harvick continued his hot streak of good finishes in NASCAR’s first live race back from a suspension of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Harvick took the checkered flag for the 50th time in his NASCAR Cup career at the Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Sunday afternoon in front of absolutely zero fans in the stands, but a national television audience as most of America’s sports fans have been craving the return of live sports.
The win ties Harvick in all-time wins with NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson. It’s also the fifth consecutive race in which Harvick has finished in the Top 10, further reinforcing his lead in the point standings.
Harvick said it was certainly unique being at a race where there were no fans in the stands.
“The weirdest part of the day for me was getting out of the car after the race and there being nobody cheering,” Harvick said. “This is not like anything I’ve ever experienced, but I can tell you it’s very similar to coming back after 9/11. That day had just 100,000 fans in the stands and today there were no fans. Having no fans kind of took some of the enthusiasm of the win away for me.”
The race went off without any practice or qualifying. The field was set by a random drawing. Harvick started 6th. Hendrick Motorsports had a decent day in spite of Jimmie Johnson wrecking out early at the end of Stage 1 and William Byron scraping the wall forcing him to pit and go a lap down.
Hendrick driver Alex Bowman finished second and his teammate Chase Elliott came home fourth with Ganassi’s Kurt Busch splitting the two in third.
South Bend-native Ryan Newman was back in the Roush-Fenway #6-car for the first time since his terrifying wreck on the final lap of the Daytona 500 back in February. Newman finished 15th after starting 21st.
Matt Kenseth, who is now driving the #42 for Chip Ganassi following the firing of Kyle Larson during the break, finished 10th in his first NASCAR Cup race back in over a year.
The series will be back at Darlington again Wednesday for a 500-kilometer night race under the same circumstances. No practice or qualifying and no fans will be allowed in the grandstands.
The top 20 spots of the starting grid will be inverted based on where each driver finished in Sunday’s race. For example, Ryan Preece, who finished 20th Sunday, with start on pole Wednesday night. Kevin Harvick, who finished 1st, will start 20th. The remaining drivers will start in the same spot that finished in Sunday’s race.
Green flag drops at 7:30 EDT Wednesday night.
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