HARVICK EARNS 50TH WIN IN NASCAR’S RETURN TO RACING

Sunday's race was the first in ten weeks, and marked the second major sport in the U.S to return

Kevin+Harvick+does+donuts+after+winning+at+Darlington

FOX Sports

Kevin Harvick does donuts after winning at Darlington

Austin Travis, Editor-in-Chief

Kevin Harvick didn’t win either stage on Sunday, but took command in the final stage en route to the 50th win of his career, and his first of the 2020 season. Harvick’s win tied him with Hall-of-Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson on the all-time wins list, and vaulted him ahead of team owner Tony Stewart. Harvick was able to fend off Alex Bowman on a late restart and pull away, winning by over two seconds over Bowman. The race started off with chaos, as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed out on the first lap after making contact with another car coming off of turn two. Later in the race, on the final lap of the first stage, 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson crashed into Chris Buescher, a slower car he was lapping, and ended his day. The worst part, though, is that Johnson was the leader and was looking to end his 99 race winless streak, which spiked up to 100 after that mishap. “Gosh, what I would do to get that corner back to do it over again,” Johnson said. “Coming to the end of the stage, I was just trying to make sure I got a good run off of turn 2. I felt like I was going to be able to exit the corner side-by-side with him, things just went horribly wrong there.” (Courtesy of nascar.com)

One of the biggest miracles in recent NASCAR history was Ryan Newman’s recovery from his harrowing crash on the last lap of this year’s Daytona 500, where his car flipped and was vaulted into the air after further contact with Corey LaJoie, leaving many people wondering if Newman had even survived what was initially thought to be a fatal accident by many fans, including myself. Newman was transported to a local hospital, and was miraculously able to walk out of the hospital less than 48 hours later holding his two daughters’ hands. On Sunday, Newman made his return to the cockpit and earned a 15th place finish. Another fascinating story was the return of 2003 champion Matt Kenseth, who will drive the #42 for the rest of the 2020 season after Kyle Larson was released by Chip Ganassi Racing for using a racial slur. Kenseth, who last raced in 2018, earned a 10th place finish in his first race back on Sunday, an unbelievable result considering it was his first race in 1 1/2 years and his first race with his new team. “Here’s the thing about Matt Kenseth, he should have never quit,” race winner Harvick said when asked about the veteran’s return. Matt Kenseth was winning races when he retired. Matt Kenseth is going to be a huge part of that race team and making Chip Ganassi Racing better. He’s going to be great for the sponsors.” (Courtesy of nascar.com)

Sunday’s race was a groundbreaking race, as it was NASCAR’s first race since action was postponed at Atlanta due to the COVID-19 outbreak back in mid-March. This return from the ten week hiatus was strange to nearly the whole industry, as there were no fans at the track and the drivers didn’t get to practice or qualify; instead, the starting grid was set by a draw. In addition to all of this, there was an extremely limited media presence, as FOX only had one reporter and the play-by-play commentators stayed back in the Charlotte studios. The drivers had to wear masks in interviews with any reporters, and the reporters held an extension pole for the microphone so they could practice social distancing. However, the drivers and fans alike were adaptive to these unique circumstances, as they were just excited to have their beloved sport back. “It was odd with the limited number of people here,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “When you look up in the stands, you certainly missed the fans, that vibe, the energy. Even the music that was playing in the garage area doesn’t do it justice. I think the participants were able to create their own positive vibe knowing this was a big day for the sport, knowing it was a day we could showcase the sport to a live television audience and hopefully give some people a little bit of joy to watch them race.” (Courtesy of nascar.com)

Sunday’s race was the beginning of a stretch of seven NASCAR events in 11 days, including four total Cup races in that stretch. Here’s the schedule for these races in Darlington and Charlotte.

Tuesday, May 19th: Xfinity Series Toyota 200 at Darlington, 6 PM ET on FS1

Wednesday, May 20th: Cup Series Toyota 500k at Darlington, 8 PM ET on FS1

Sunday, May 24th: Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, 6 PM ET on FOX

Monday, May 25th: Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Charlotte, 7:30 PM ET on FS1

Tuesday, May 26th: Truck Series NC Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte, 8 PM ET on FS1

Wednesday, May 27th: Cup Series Charlotte 500k at Charlotte, 8 PM ET on FS1

 

Written on May 19th, 2020

 

Sources:

Albert, Zack. “Safety Meets the Surreal as NASCAR Makes Unique Return: NASCAR.” Official Site Of NASCAR, NASCAR.com, 18 May 2020, www.nascar.com/news-media/2020/05/18/nascar-return-darlington-raceway-coronavirus-safety/.

Cain, Holly. “Kevin Harvick Wins NASCAR Return at Darlington: NASCAR.” Official Site Of NASCAR, NASCAR Wire Service, 18 May 2020, www.nascar.com/news-media/2020/05/17/harvick-claims-career-win-no-50-in-nascars-return-at-darlington/.