Harvick Stamps Chase Position in Darlington

Saturday Night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 gave the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season it’s first multiple-time winner, with Kevin Harvick taking his second victory of the still early season. However victory didn’t come easy to the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, as he had to retake the lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a late restart even with a tire advantage. Harvick dominated most of the race, leading a race-high 283 of 374 laps, until a late caution for debris set up a final pit stop and series of restarts afterwards. Kurt Busch, a teammate to Harvick, found a top-10 run ended on the first green-white-checkered attempt after contact from Clint Bowyer sent the #41 Haas Automation Chevy of Busch hard into the inside wall on the backstretch. The second green-white-checkered saw Harvick retake the lead in turn three coming to the checkered flag after making a move to the outside of Earnhardt and never looked back after.

The rest of the top five varied wildly in the way their races took form. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a relatively quiet night, running in the top five for most of the event after charging through the field from a 15th-place start. His shot for the win fell short with Harvick’s four tire charge, as the #88 National Guard Chevy was on new right sides only and down on speed as a result. Jimmie Johnson had a night that started out badly, running as far back as 28th before crew chief Chad Knaus began making radical setup changes to fix the ill-handling #48 Lowes Chevy. Johnson then marched through the field to eventually take the lead on pit strategy on the second to last restart before losing it to Earnhardt and finishing third. Matt Kenseth had a night similar to Earnhardt, running in the top five a majority of the night with laps occasionally led before finishing fourth for his second top five of the year. Greg Biffle had an up-and-down race, running as low as 19th and as high as second before a late strategy call moved him up into the top five where he would eventually finish in fifth position.

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