After 17 years, the Closer finally sealed the deal again at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick, who won the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, dominated the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, leading 173 laps en route to his 38th-career NASCAR Cup win.
“Awesome job guys,” Harvick said. “What a race car. It took 17-years to do what I’m about to do.”
For Harvick, it was the first time he won at 1.54-mile track since his emotional victory in 2001, three races after stepping up and into the No. 3 Chevrolet vacated by the late Dale Earnhardt. And it was well worth the wait.
"I'm just so proud of everybody on our team," said an elated Harvick. "That was the first win (March 2001) in my career and to be able to pay tribute to Dale was pretty cool. I've waited a long time to do that. We've had so many days where I thought we could do that here.
"For five years this car as been so fast at this particular race track, and a lot of other ones. I love racing here and it's good to be back in this Victory Lane. Finally - it took a while!"
Harvick said he and his team enjoyed playing the role as "the car to beat" on Sunday.
"It was great getting in this race car and knowing everybody knew they had to beat our car. I'm just really, really happy with everything that we've done at Stewart-Haas Racing over the last five years. It's a great start to get ourselves in the playoffs and do everything that we need to do. We overcame a lot of things today, had a late-race restart that we drove off and won the race with.
"There were so many demons that seemed to be upon us here for a long time."
Harvick proceeded to do a burnout on the frontstretch then took a victory lap in front of the grandstand and held up three fingers to the fans.
Keselowski trailed Harvick to the line by 2.69-seconds. Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott rounded
Kurt Busch’s crew gave him the lead out of the pits on Lap 173. The No. 41 Monster Energy Ford led the field to the start of Stage 3 on Lap 178 followed by Logano, Keselowski, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Larson, Bowyer, Blaney and Suarez. Kyle Busch jumped to third on the restart but dropped to fourth behind Logano and Keselowski. Alex Bowman had an issue with a right rear tire and was forced to pit.
Harvick passed Kyle Busch for fourth on Lap 182 and took third from Logano on the next lap. Hamlin ran sixth followed by Bowyer, Larson, Blaney and Elliott.
Busch led 44 circuits by Lap 190 and had a one-second lead over Keselowski with Harvick patiently riding in third. Kyle Busch ran fourth followed by Hamlin, Logano, Bowyer, Larson, Blaney and Suarez. Truex, Elliott, Stenhouse, Jones, Almirola, Austin Dillon and Menard remained on the lead lap.
Keselowski catched Kurt Busch in Turn 2 on Lap 196 but can’t make the pass. Busch goes high through Turn 4 on Lap 199 and Keselowski cruised by on the bottom. Harvick follows on the next circuit for second. Busch drops to third followed by Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Hamlin, Logano, Larson, Suarez, Truex, Blaney, Elliott, Stenhouse, Almirola and Jones.
Kyle Busch ran high through Turns 3 and 4 and passed his brother for third on Lap 208. Keselowski relinquished the lead on Lap 214. Kyle Busch held the point for one lap before pitting and turned the lead over to Hamlin.
Six cars remained on the lead lap by Lap 220—Hamlin, Logano, Harvick, Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch. Hamlin and Logano were gambling on weather. Harvick, Keselowski and the Buschs cycled back to the lead lap. Suarez returned to the lead lap in seventh on Lap 223. Bowyer and Larson moved up on the next lap.
Hamlin and Logano finally pit on Lap 226 and Harvick inherited the lead followed by Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Suarez, Bowyer, Larson, Truex, Elliott and Blaney. Stenhouse, Almirola and Jones remained on the lead lap. Hamlin cycled out to 14th, one lap down. By Lap 230, Hamlin returned to the lead lap and Logano ran 15th, one lap down.
Harvick’s lead was 6.258-seconds with 90 laps remaining. Keselowski held onto second followed by Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Bowyer, Suarez, Larson, Truex, Elliott and Hamlin. Blaney ran 11th, the last car on the lead lap. Bowyer passed Kurt Busch for fourth on Lap 237. Blaney was lapped three circuits later.
With 80 laps remaining, 18-seconds separated Harvick and third-place Kyle Busch. Keselowski remained in second. Bowyer passed Kyle Busch for third using the high line in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 247.
Keselowski pitted from second on Lap 252. Harvick came on the next circuit turning the lead over to Hamlin. Logano ran second followed by Harvick, Elliott, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Larson, Busch and Suarez on Lap 260.
Elliott pitted from fifth on Lap 265 as Harvick took the lead from Hamlin, who had yet to pit. Keselowski passed Logano on Lap 267 for third. Kyle Busch ran fifth followed by Bowyer, Larson, Kurt Busch, Suarez and Truex.
Harvick held a four-second lead over Hamlin with 55 laps remaining. Hamlin and Logano had yet to pit. Logano held onto fourth behind Keselowski. Ten cars remained on the lead lap. Hamlin pitted on Lap 274, Logano followed on the next circuit.
WIth 50 laps remaining, Harvick’s advantage was 10-seconds over Keselowski with eight cars on the lead lap. Harvick lapped his teammate Kurt Busch on Lap 281.
Larson pit from fifth with 40 laps remaining, Harvick, Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Suarez came in for service on Lap 288. Hamlin took the lead but Harvick cycled out to second with fresh tires. He passed Hamlin for the lead through on the backstretch on Lap 290 with 35 circuits remaining. Logano was third but Keselowski passed him on Lap 292. Elliott ran fifth followed by Bowyer, Larson and Kyle Busch.
Trevor Bayne’s race went up in smoke on Lap 296 on the backstretch as his engine failed coming out of Turn 2. Bubba Wallace was blinded by the smoke and ran into the back of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Harvick’s lead was three-seconds over Hamlin.
Harvick led the field to pit road on Lap 299 followed by Hamlin, Keselowski, Logano, Bowyer, Elliott, Larson and Kyle Busch. The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing pit crew allowed Harvick to retain the lead out of the pits. Keselowski was second followed by Hamlin, Logano, Bowyer, Elliott, Larson, Truex, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch on the Lap 305 restart.
Harvick maintained the point as the field went four-wide into Turn 1. With 20 laps remaining, Harvick led followed by Keselowski, Bowyer, Hamlin, Truex, Larson, Elliott, Logano, Kyle Bush and Kurt Busch.
Harvick’s lead was 1.844-seconds over Keselowski with 10 laps to go. Bowyer ran third followed by Hamlin, Truex, Logano, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Larson and Elliott.
|5||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||325||7.554||1|
|14||3||Austin Dillon||Chevrolet||324||1 lap|
|15||19||Daniel Suarez||Toyota||324||1 lap|
|16||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||324||1 lap|
|17||21||Paul Menard||Ford||324||1 lap|
|18||24||William Byron||Chevrolet||323||2 laps|
|19||1||Jamie McMurray||Chevrolet||323||2 laps|
|20||88||Alex Bowman||Chevrolet||322||3 laps|
|21||95||Kasey Kahne||Chevrolet||322||3 laps|
|22||31||Ryan Newman||Chevrolet||322||3 laps||16|
|23||38||David Ragan||Ford||321||4 laps|
|24||34||Michael McDowell||Ford||321||4 laps|
|25||37||Chris Buescher||Chevrolet||321||4 laps|
|26||13||Ty Dillon||Chevrolet||321||4 laps|
|27||48||Jimmie Johnson||Chevrolet||321||4 laps|
|28||72||Cole Whitt||Chevrolet||320||5 laps|
|29||47||A.J. Allmendinger||Chevrolet||320||5 laps|
|30||15||Ross Chastain||Chevrolet||319||6 laps|
|31||32||Matt DiBenedetto||Ford||319||6 laps|
|32||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||319||6 laps|
|33||51||Harrison Rhodes||Chevrolet||310||15 laps|
|34||00||Jeffrey Earnhardt||Chevrolet||305||20 laps|
|35||6||Trevor Bayne||Ford||292||33 laps|
|36||23||Gray Gaulding||Toyota||99||226 laps|