There’s domination, then there’s Kevin Harvick. Harvick led a race high 201 laps and swept both stages to win Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway by 7.4 seconds.
It was his fourth win of the season, the 41st of his career, and his second at the 1-mile concrete oval.
“The first thing I’ve got to do is just thank everybody on my team,” Harvick said in victory Lane. “Everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Yates Engines, everybody from Ford for just continuing to put the effort that they put into these cars.”
Harvick took the lead from his teammate Clint Bowyer on lap 338 after Bowyer got loose. From there Harvick never looked back, stretching out his lead for the win. Bowyer held on for second while Daniel Suarez tied his career best finish on an oval in third, Martin Truex Jr. overcame a tire issue early lost a lap and rallied to fourth while Kurt Busch was fifth.
The finish marked the first time three Stewart-Haas Racing Fords finished in the top five.
“Three cars in the top five says a lot about where we are as a company,” Harvick said. “It was great to see those fans stick around for the finish.”
Those fans endured a nearly 50-minute rain delay that came with 80 laps of the 400 to go. After a somewhat dire, wet, forecast that was the only weather issue the entire race.
When the rains came, Bowyer was leading, and with the race having completed Stage 2 and official, for a short time it appeared Bowyer might win a rain shortened race. It wasn’t to be however as the rain was brief, the track quickly dried and after the restart, Bowyer knew his chance at a win was gone.
“Cleary, Kevin was up front was the car to beat most of the day,” Bowyer said. “It was our first shot at tires and taking off in clean air. It makes a big difference. When your back in dirty air mired in traffic like we were most of the day it’s tough.”
It was a tough day for several others; a tough day that started before the green flag. During prerace inspection the car of pole sitter Kyle Larson failed three times. He was sent to the back of the field and his car chief was ejected. He would rally back however to finish 10th.
“It was a hard-fought top 10 for sure,” Larson said. “We were three laps down at one point. I guess happy about the top 10. I was hoping we could pick off some cars there that last run once we finally got on the lead lap, but it was just so hard to pass. Everybody was the same speed until the very end of the run and then you could kind of move around. Found a little bit of time and was catching a few of them in front of me, but just ran out of time.”
Kyle Busch, the series points leader coming into the race, also had a tough day. His Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had an intermittent vibration most of the race; however, he was able to race as high as third at one point.
Busch slowed on lap 269 reporting that “something broke”. He made it to pit road but headed straight to the garage with a car that had a broken driveshaft. It was his fourth DNF in the last five spring races at Dover.
“We started the race with it unfortunately and it just kept getting worse and worse as the day was going,” Busch said. “I don’t know why we started the race with it – we hadn’t had anything like that in a long, long time. I know what it was, but not sure why we had the problem to begin with, so, you know, we had a really fast Pedigree Camry. I thought we were going to be top-three car for sure – no question about that – but then what was going to happen with the guys in front of us. I felt like if we could have jumped them In track position, maybe we could have done something better about keeping the clean air and keeping the lead and stuff like that, but it just got so bad there that last run vibrating it even blew the shifter ball off the shifter and when it finally broke, I couldn’t even grab the shifter in order to knock it out of gear so I could just push the clutch in, so I had to nurse it back and get out of everybody’s way.”
Despite his 35th place finish, Busch retains a 22-point margin in the driver standings.
Brad Keselowski, who led 108 laps early in the event only to fade in the closing laps, was sixth followed by Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Larson rounding out the top 10.
For Harvick, Sunday’s win capped off a weekend that started with strong practices Friday, a second-place starting spot and his dominating run on Sunday.
“It’s actually a lot harder, believe it or not, because you don’t want to screw it up,” Harvick said. “I felt like we had a really good car from the time we unloaded, and I think you could tell that from when we qualified. That’s usually not my strong point, qualifying up here, and to be able to qualify on the front row, we had three great practices and everything just kind of fell into place, and when they dropped the green flag, it was definitely still good.
“It was just one of those weekends where the car was spot‑on from the time we got here, and the guys are just doing a great job.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway this Saturday nights KC Masterpiece 400 with live coverage on Fox Sports 1 starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.