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Harvick ends Pocono drought with victory

Harvick ends Pocono drought with victory

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LONG POND, Pa. — Kevin Harvick snapped an 0-for-38 drought at Pocono Raceway, taking the checkered flag Saturday at one of two tracks where victory had eluded him.

Harvick won the first of two NASCAR Cup races in front of no fans this weekend at Pocono and will start 20th on Sunday with the field set by inverting the lead-lap finishers.

The 44-year-old California driver has won at every active track except Kentucky Speedway (nine tries) and the 2014 series champion has three wins overall for Stewart-Haas Racing this season.

Harvick held off Manchester High graduate Denny Hamlin for his 52nd career Cup victory. He had 12 top-five finishes in his other 38 starts at Pocono.

He held off on the celebratory burnout — Harvick needs the same car for Sunday’s race.

“That’s great to finally check Pocono off the list,” Harvick said.

Ryan Preece finished 20th and will start on the pole Sunday.

The race was scheduled as the second Saturday, but rain washed out the Truck Series race. That sets up a small slice of history Sunday: Truck, second-tier Xfinity and Cup will all run Sunday. It’s the first time three NASCAR national series races will race on the same day at the same track.

It will be the fifth time three NASCAR national series races will be run on the same day but those were at different tracks.

The rainout forced the Truck Series to run at 9:30 a.m., followed by 225 miles of Xfinity racing and the 350-mile Cup race.

NASCAR wanted the trip to Pocono to help calm one of the most tumultuous weeks in its history after a noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall last week at Talladega led to a federal investigation. The incident was not ruled a hate crime as the FBI found the noose, possibly fashioned as a garage-door pull, had been in the stall since October 2019.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps said “the noose was real,” though it remains unknown who tied it. Wallace, who sparked NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag, has become NASCAR’s advocate for social change and acknowledged his time in the national spotlight left him “wore the hell out.” He finished 22nd in the No. 43 Chevrolet.

The weekend should have been one of the wildest ones in Pocono history. Track officials were optimistic the infield would be packed with race fans who wanted to experience four NASCAR races in two days.

“The infield would have been a sight to be seen, one that probably hasn’t been seen on the NASCAR circuit in decades,” Pocono CEO Nick Igdalsky said. “We just couldn’t see it this year. Hopefully, next year we get the opportunity to really show what we can put out here.”

Brad Keselowski, who raced to his lone Pocono win in 2011, tweeted a love letter of sorts tied to his memories of the track that date to his childhood when he tagged along to watch his father, Bob, compete in ARCA races.

“Perhaps that brings out the saddest emotion, not having fans this year at Pocono for our races,” Keselowski tweeted. “The energy and enthusiasm here from the infield crowd has a realness to it unlike other tracks. In Pocono, the community makes NASCAR feel truly loved, we miss you race fans.”

There was a new look all around the 2½-mile trioval.

The track cloaked its leader board in advertisements because the pandemic wreaked havoc with plans to upgrade to a modern LED scoring tower. Pocono also had 1,250 fans virtually sign the start/finish line. Staff members hand wrote each name on the start/finish line ahead of race weekend. The 1,250 number matched the scheduled number of miles to be run this weekend. Pocono even sold on its website a race weekend T-shirt with “Quarantined” stamped over the logo.

Talladega Superspeedway was allowed up to 5,000 fans for its race weekend and only 1,000 fans mostly military members and their guests, were allowed two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Pocono sits in Monroe County, which entered Pennsylvania’s green designation. The green phase limits public gatherings to 250 people. But Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidance to professional sports mandates no spectators, even in green.

“I wish you were here,” Harvick said to the fans watching at home. “This wasn’t nearly as exciting.”


(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (9) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 130; 2. (3) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 130; 3. (1) Aric Almirola, Ford, 130; 4. (36) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 130; 5. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 130; 6. (11) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 130; 7. (18) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 130; 8. (26) Michael McDowell, Ford, 130; 9. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 130; 10. (24) Chris Buescher, Ford, 130

11. (22) Matt Kenseth, Chevy, 130; 12. (2) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 130; 13. (21) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 130; 14. (16) William Byron, Chevy, 130; 15. (13) Ryan Newman, Ford, 130; 16. (25) Cole Custer, Ford, 130; 17. (14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevy, 130; 18. (7) Kurt Busch, Chevy, 130; 19. (17) Austin Dillon, Chevy, 130; 20. (30) Ryan Preece, Chevy, 130

21. (12) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy, 130; 22. (23) Bubba Wallace, Chevy, 129; 23. (29) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 129; 24. (20) John Hunter Nemechek, Ford, 129; 25. (5) Chase Elliott, Chevy, 129; 26. (34) Ty Dillon, Chevy, 129; 27. (10) Alex Bowman, Chevy, 129; 28. (37) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 128; 29. (27) Brennan Poole, Chevy, 127; 30. (15) Tyler Reddick, Chevy, 126

31. (33) JJ Yeley, Ford, 125; 32. (40) Josh Bilicki, Chevy, 125; 33. (31) Garrett Smithley, Chevy, 125; 34. (35) James Davison, Chevy, 125; 35. (38) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 125; 36. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 124; 37. (28) Joey Gase, Ford, 121; 38. (19) Erik Jones, Toyota, 70, accident; 39. (39) BJ McLeod, Chevy, 36, transmission; 40. (32) Quin Houff, Chevy, 19, accident

Stage winners: Logano (first), Almirola (second)

Race statistics

Average speed: 134.467 mph; Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes, 1 second; Margin of victory: .761 seconds; Cautions: 6 for 21 laps; Lead changes: 10 among 8 drivers

Lap leaders: Almirola 1-19; Logano 20-30; Almirola 31-45; Truex Jr. 46-59; Hamlin 60-66; Almirola 67-93; Hamlin 94-96; Newman 97-109; McDowell 110; Buescher 111-113; Harvick 114-130

Wins: Hamlin 3, Harvick 3, Logano 2, Keselowski 2, Blaney 1, Elliott 1, Truex 1, Bowman 1

Points: 1. Harvick 534; 2. Blaney 505; 3. Logano 487; 4. Elliott 477; 5; Keselowski 472; 6. Hamlin 465; 7. Truex 463; 8. Bowman 436; 9. Kyle Busch 420; 10. Kurt Busch 393; 11. Almirola 390; 12. Johnson 369; 13. Bowyer 358; 14. DiBenedetto 346; 15. Byron 342; 16. Reddick 313


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