Harvick honors Earnhardt following his third win at Atlanta



Kevin Harvick continued the Ford Performance parade at Atlanta Motor Speedway in dominating fashion on Sunday. 
He claimed the fourth straight win for the Blue Oval at the 1.54-mile track in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500—and his second in the last three races at Atlanta. 

The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford celebrated the milestone by thrusting his hand out the window and holding up three fingers—not only to celebrate his third win at AMS but to honor the late Dale Earnhardt. In 2001, Harvick made a similar gesture after scoring his first career Cup victory at Atlanta, in his third start after taking over driving duties for the seven-time champion.

“There’s so many thoughts going through my mind that day,” Harvick said. “And everybody was confused, and to be able to celebrate how much Dale Earnhardt has meant to this sport at a race track where I got my first win because he wasn’t in the car is pretty awesome.”

Nineteen years and 692 starts later, Harvick has 51 Cup victories and moved to 12th on the all-time win list. Harvick credited the pit crew with keeping his car in contention, particularly during the penultimate pit stop after Stage 2 where he restarted third on Lap 216 and took the lead on the next lap. 

Harvick led four times for 151 laps and held off Kyle Busch by 3.527-seconds at the finish.

“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.  

“I’m just proud of everybody from Busch Light and Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing."

Martin Truex Jr., finished third followed by Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. 

The start of the race was delayed for a moment of silence to recognize the need for social change following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. All 40 NASCAR Cup drivers stopped their cars on the frontstretch as the crews stood on the pit wall. NASCAR president Steve Phelps then spoke of the sport's commitment to do better when it comes to fostering attitudes of inclusiveness and equality.

Georgia native Elliott then brought the field to green and led his first laps at Atlanta. Kurt Busch, whose team failed inspection three times, was forced to serve a pass-through penalty on the opening lap. The race was slowed by a competition caution on Lap 25. Harvick took the lead for the first time on Lap 36. Keselowski was busted for speeding on Lap 68 and served a pass-through penalty on the next lap. John Hunter Nemechek spun out on Lap 95 to trigger the second caution. 

Truex, who took the lead on Lap 87, held on for the Stage 1 win at Lap 105. He lost the lead in the pits to Clint Bowyer. The two drivers exchanged the point three times over the next 38 laps until a corded right rear tire on the No. 14 Ford forced Bowyer to pit on Lap 147. Although he regained the lead on Lap 164 and led an additional 21 laps, Bowyer was not a factor in the second half of the race. 

Truex worked his way to the front after Michael McDowell ignited the fourth caution on Lap 202 and scored his second stage win of the day and 40th of his career. But the second half of the race belonged to Harvick. After gaining the lead on Lap 218, he only relinquished the point to pit on Lap 268. 

Harvick’s 27th win under the direction of Rodney Childers proved to be the perfect birthday present for the 44-year-old crew chief.

“That’s pretty cool,” Harvick said. “We struggled most of the day with our car, and he definitely earned his birthday present today. They did a great job adjusting on our Busch LIght Ford.   

“It’s one of my favorite tracks, for sure, and I love to win here.”

With his second win of the season, Harvick extended his series lead to 24 points over Logano. 

Bubba Wallace was taken to the infield care center after he slumped in reaction to the extreme heat in Atlanta and had to be helped by his crew. Both Wallace and Josh Bilicki were treated and released.
 

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