Kevin Harvick came to Atlanta with only two wins but having led the most laps 1,138 far and away the most among active drivers.
Sunday, he added another 151 laps to that total and a third career Atlanta win. Harvick took the lead for the final time on lap 271 after a round of green flag pit stops and cruised to victory. Harvick had taken the lead at the end of Stage 2 and never had a real challenge as the final stage was run caution free.
Harvick’s first career win came at Atlanta in 2001 when the then Richard Childress Racing driver won in an emotional finish behind the wheel of the car raced by Dale Earnhardt Sr. who had been killed in a last lap crash at Daytona only weeks before.
As he did in that first win, Sunday Harvick circled the 1.54-mile track in a Polish victory lap holding three fingers out the window to a grandstand empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I didn’t get a chance to show very good a couple years ago with my gloves on,” Harvick whose last Atlanta win came in 2018, said. “So I made sure I took my gloves off this year. Obviously, first win came for me here at Atlanta and this is just a race track that I’ve taken a liking to, and you always come back and have those memories and now you want to celebrate everything that Dale Earnhardt did for this sport. To come here and be able to do that with wins and go to victory lane is pretty special.”
Kyle Busch slipped by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps to grab second place, 3.527 seconds behind the winner.
“We had good speed,” Busch said. “You just couldn’t really push too hard. Every time I pushed too hard, it would really hurt my tires in the long run. I think that was for everybody.
“That last run, I was trying to keep up with those front guys and as soon as I felt like I was pushing too hard and they were inching out on me, I just gave up and decided just to run and try to make sure I didn’t slip a tire and do the best I could without pushing anything too hard. Was able to get Martin (Truex Jr.) at least there at the end.”
Truex swept both stages, his first two stage wins of the season, and held on for third. He led six times for 65 laps, second only to Harvick’s total.
“The last two or three runs there, we just got too tight,” Truex said. “Not sure what happened. The car was really good.”
“The guys did a great job. Auto Owners Camry was fast all day. Got our first two stage wins of the year, which was huge. We just can’t seem to get over the hump at the finishes.”
Ryan Blaney was fourth place, with Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin rounding out the top five.
The day started with a great deal of emotion as NASCAR took time to recognize the civil unrest taking place across the nation. Protests across the country have erupted since the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Prior to the start the field was stopped along the frontstretch and the engines silenced. Crew members stood on the pit wall as a message from NASCAR president Steve Phelps was shown on the Fox broadcast followed by a moment of silence.
Then as the field rolled off to begin the race, a video that featured a number of top drivers vowing to “listen and learn” was aired.
The video included seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Bubba Wallace, the only African-American driver in NASCAR’s top series. Many drivers had already posted it on their social media accounts.
While Truex was strong early and won both stages, at the end of the day it was an all-Harvick show. With unusually hot temperatures the race took a physical toll as well as an emotional one. Several drivers could be seen sitting down on pit road after the race, and Bubba Wallace seemed to faint after getting out of his Chevy. The 21st place finisher then appeared to faint again while being interviewed on pit road. He was soon taken to the infield care center awake, alert and smiling.
The win for Harvick was his second of the season the last coming at Darlington when NASCAR made its return to racing. Sunday, he gave all the credit to his crew led by Rodney Childers, who celebrated his 4th birthday Sunday.
“They had a great pit stop,” Harvick said. “We got a restart on the bottom and they got my car to take off. I was able to get track position and then once I could get through those first 10 laps and my car was freed up enough to where I could get in a rhythm and really start hitting my marks, and then by about lap 25 I could start driving away. “
Kurt Busch, who was forced to take a drive through penalty and start at the back of the field after failing pre-race inspection, rallied to finish sixth. Jimmie Johnson, polesitter Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano completed the top 10.
The Cup Series’ next race is the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500, scheduled Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Martinsville Speedway.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, June 7, 2020
1. (9) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325.
2. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325.
3. (11) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 325.
4. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 325.
5. (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 325.
6. (12) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 325.
7. (15) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 325.
8. (1) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 325.
9. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 325.
10. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 325.
11. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 324.
12. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 324.
13. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 324.
14. (17) Ryan Newman, Ford, 324.
15. (19) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 324.
16. (24) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 324.
17. (2) Aric Almirola, Ford, 324.
18. (27) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 324.
19. (31) Cole Custer #, Ford, 324.
20. (5) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 324.
21. (23) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 324.
22. (13) Chris Buescher, Ford, 324.
23. (18) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 324.
24. (36) Michael McDowell, Ford, 324.
25. (21) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 324.
26. (29) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 323.
27. (25) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 323.
28. (14) Erik Jones, Toyota, 322.
29. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 322.
30. (33) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 321.
31. (37) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 316.
32. (35) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 314.
33. (20) William Byron, Chevrolet, 313.
34. (32) Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, 313.
35. (34) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 312.
36. (30) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 311.
37. (40) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 310.
38. (26) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 308.
39. (38) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Electrical, 259.
40. (39) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Clutch, 3.
What did you need at the end of the race after winning the first two stages?
Average Speed of Race Winner: 142.966 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 30 Mins, 3 Secs. Margin of Victory: 3.527 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 24 laps.
Lead Changes: 21 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Elliott 1-26;B. Keselowski 27;J. Logano 28-36;K. Harvick 37-65;M. Truex Jr. 66-68;K. Busch 69;K. Harvick 70-86;M. Truex Jr. 87-108;C. Bowyer 109-113;M. Truex Jr. 114;C. Bowyer 115-146;M. Truex Jr. 147-159;B. Keselowski 160-163;C. Bowyer 164-184;M. Truex Jr. 185-203;K. Busch 204-206;M. Truex Jr. 207-213;K. Busch 214-217;K. Harvick 218-267;R. Blaney 268-269;J. Logano 270;K. Harvick 271-325.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kevin Harvick 4 times for 151 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 6 times for 65 laps; Clint Bowyer 3 times for 58 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 26 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 10 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 7 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 5 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 2 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,18,14,11,4,9,47,20,48,12
Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,12,18,11,9,4,21,2,14,48