If NASCAR fans have learned anything from the first two races of the 2018 season, it’s that history repeats itself. In the Daytona 500 last week, the #3 car (driven by Austin Dillon) was in victory lane exactly 20 years after Dale Earnhardt. This weekend, 17 years after Kevin Harvick got his first-ever Cup series win at Atlanta, he got his second at the speedway after a performance of complete dominance. Even more ironic is the fact that Harvick took over for Dale Earnhardt following Earnhardt’s death, exactly 17 years ago.
On Saturday, NASCAR announced that it would be moving the start of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 up by one hour to try to get some racing in before the rain became an issue later in the afternoon. However, mother nature is no fan of the sport and decided to downpour just half-an-hour before the green flag was supposed to drop. Thus, making the revised start time useless. The race was delayed for 2 and a half hours and the rain held off long enough to encompass all 500 miles of racing.
The first stage was run entirely under green flag conditions with the exception of a competition caution on Lap 30 to check tire wear after the rain. When the segment came to a close, Kevin Harvick got the stage victory.
The second stage played out almost exactly as the first with an incredibly long green-flag run, followed by one caution. This time, with 11 laps to go until the stage end, Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Lowes Chevrolet blew a right-front tire coming out of Turn 3 and spun on the apron. Johnson would go on to finish in 27th position, 4 laps down. The race restarted with only a few laps remaining and Brad Keselowski took the stage win.
The third and final segment was uncommonly flawless, with a back-and-forth battle for the lead between Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. The stage also saw 4 green-flag pitstops for all front-running drivers as their tires began to lose speed faster and faster due to cooler evening conditions. The only major event in the entire race happened on Lap 298 when Trevor Bayne‘s engine expired on the back straightaway, causing a giant smoke show that left all drivers behind Bayne blind as to what was in front of them. Rookie Darrell Wallace Jr fell victim to the smoke as he unintentionally plowed into the back of Bayne’s teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Bayne was out of the race while Wallace and Stenhouse soldiered on to finish 32nd and 16th respectively.
The race restarted with 24 laps to go and Kevin Harvick claimed the lead like everyone knew he would. He drove off to an emotional win as he had waited 17 years to put his car back in Atlanta Motor Speedway’s victory lane. This was his second win of the weekend considering he had proved dominant throughout the Xfinity race the day prior.
Catch the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next week as they go west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Pennzoil 400. Get your tickets HERE!