The streak is over! NASCAR finally has a repeat winner in 2014 - Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick.
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Luck was finally on Kevin Harvick’s side on Saturday night as he tamed Darlington Raceway.
“This is as big as it gets in NASCAR racing,” Harvick said after winning his first Southern 500.
After a dominant run and a win at Phoenix on March 2, Harvick experienced a rash of mechanical issues over the last five weeks. His only lead lap finish came at Martinsville Speedway.
Yet with the new Chase system -- and two wins to the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team’s credit -- Harvick has the luxury of being able “to go for wins and not have to worry about the bad weeks too much”. That played to his advantage at Darlington Raceway. Crew chief Rodney Childers’ call for four tires on the last pit stop on Lap 358 offered Harvick the boost he needed to power through the field in the final stages of the race.
Although Harvick restarted fifth on Lap 363, with the four competitors ahead of him on two tires and the race slowed by two additional cautions, he was quickly able to pass Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. He then set his site on the Hendrick Motorsport duo of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.
Harvick provided Earnhardt a push to the lead on the penultimate restart on Lap 369. However, when Harvick lined up alongside the No. 88 Chevy for the final green-white-checkered run on Lap 373, the No. 4 Chevy blew by Earnhardt coming out of Turn 4 to take the checkered flag.
“Hell yeah,” Kevin Harvick said after crossing the finish line.
“Burn ‘er down,” Childers replied.
Harvick, who started from the pole, led eight times for a total of 238 laps en route to his 25th career Sprint Cup victory. Earnhardt, Johnson, Kenseth and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five.
Despite solid pit stops and a targeted approach by Childress, Harvick discovered a secret weapon for his arsenal during Friday night’s Nationwide Series race.
“It was one of those deals where the strategy was going to be hard to overcome with the track position without those green-white-checkers at the end,” Harvick said. “But the cautions all lined up and this Budweiser Chevrolet was unbelievable all night. We were able to hang in there at the end. The high line, I hadn’t showed it to them to the very end. I kind of learned that last night in the Nationwide race. It was a good tool to have in the tool bag.”
Although Harvick’s second win only elevated his team to 22nd in the point standings, with two victories he is virtually guaranteed one of the 15 spots in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.