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Apr 13, 2014 - 04:34 PM
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Harvick Non Match for Anyone at Darlington
Posted by: BGerhart on Apr 13, 2014 - 04:29 PM
Feature Articles
Harvick Non Match for Anyone at Darlington


By Brad Gerhart

Four beats two.

Actually the No.4 car beat the entire field.

When the final pit stops decisions were made Chad Knaus changed Jimmie Johnson's stop from a four tire change to only a two at the very last second. Along with Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon all took four tires to gain track position over then leader Kevin Harvick, who fell back to fifth with five to go in the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington.

“Made it a lot more stressful than we'd have liked it to have been,” Harvick said. “I felt like we did everything right with putting the four tires on.  I didn't really expect four, five, six of those guys to put on two tires to tell you the truth, but all in all, I think it worked out really good the way the cautions fell.”

Nevertheless, Harvick who led at the 200, 300, 400, 500 and finally the 511 mile mark of the longest distance race ever at the famed Darlington track to take his second win of the season. The four tires were simply no match for two, just like Harvick, who put on a clinic as he led 238 laps.

 

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For whatever reason Johnson took the outside position on the green and white checkered restart with his Hendrick Motorsport teammate, Earnhardt Jr. right beside him and the No.48 car spun the tires and quickly let the No.88, and No.4 cars ahead of him before Kurt Busch brought out the 11th and final caution of the day when Clint Bowyer spun him out. Busch made his way towards the track while his car went onto the wrecker to ensure Bowyer knew how he felt about the incident, Busch finished way back in 31st, Bowyer completed the day just outside the top-10 in 12th.

Unlike Johnson, Earnhardt Jr. Chose the inside starting position on the last restart, but it truly made no difference since Harvick powered his way past the No88 car for his 25th career win and very first at Darlington. “The outside line was real bad about spinning the tires, and Jimmie hadn't been up there and didn't really know that, so he chose the outside on them restarts and I knew I had a great shot at getting the lead from him, said Earnhardt Jr. “We got going, he spun his tires real bad, the 4 got to pushing me a little bit and we got the lead, and that felt pretty good leading the race. “

Once Jr. had Harvick beside him he knew he could not put up that much a fight to secure his first career Darlington victory at a track where his famed father won nine times. “We had 30-something laps on our left, and it just wasn't going to get the job done with him right there on us,” Earnhardt Jr. said.

Although Johnson and the No.48 team were unable to capture the victory, they really battled after a poor qualifying effort (started 26th) and fought their way through every inch of the grueling race.”We struggled the first run or two of the race, but we got the car turning for me and came to life and really did it the old-fashioned way and kind of drove up through the field before the last pit stop, so proud of the hard work,” said Johnson of his third place finish.

With the new Chase format, Harvick all but guaranteed himself a spot in the championship round with multiple race victories already this season (Phoenix) through the first eight races. No other driver has won twice as of yet, before NASCAR's traditional idle week during Easter. And Harvick became the first Cup driver to win from the pole (at a Darlington race) since Dale Jarrett did the same back in 1997.

It may have taken nearly 20 attempts to win, but Kevin Harvick can now scratch this one off of his list. “This is one of those places that I circle every year I come to Darlington, and most all of us know the history of this particular racetrack and what it means to our sport,” said Harvick. “To come here each year and know that now you only have one shot, but to win the Southern 500 and you look at the names and pictures on that trophy that they have out there is something that's pretty phenomenal to be a part of. “


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