Kevin Harvick doesn’t win poles.
Qualifying has never been his forte. Winning, yes, but logging laps for a starting position wasn’t that big of a big priority.
That’s why sitting on the pole for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway caused so much (necessary) buzz.
Harvick remained dominant throughout Saturday’s race and won, leading a total of 238 laps. After a horrific weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, the win was nothing short of a boost. His second win of the season, the driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet was the first driver to win from the pole since Dale Jarrett did it in 1997. The mystic air around Darlington isn’t lost on him, either.
“To come here each year and know you only have one shot to win, it’s pretty phenomenal to be a part of. It’s one of the crown jewel races. I told [Rodney Childers, Harvick’s crew chief] that, if we win one, let’s win Darlington.”
“To be able to celebrate all these wins is more than some get to celebrate in their careers, yet to celebrate them is phenomenal.”
Saturday also marked a comeback for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also faltered in Texas. He finished second after two hectic restarts. On the first, the race winner gave him a push, yet he knew things wouldn’t be friendly for long.
“We really weren’t a top two car,” Earnhardt Jr. said post-race, “I was pretty sure [Harvick] was going to get around us somehow.”
He also knew that Harvick would be a major factor. “The performance of the 4 car, I saw it coming because I know how good Rodney [Childers, Harvick’s crew chief] is, and I know how good [Harvick] is, and pairing them together, that’s one of the best pairings in the garage.”
Rounding out a Chevy-filled top three was Jimmie Johnson, the reigning champion that has went surprisingly winless in the first eight races. The finish came after falling to 31st early in the race. At that point, crew chief Chad Knaus had “no idea” for a solution.
“Yeah, I’m just happy to finish there in the top three. I thought we had a shot at a win. I think if things stayed green after our last pit stop, we had a good chance at it.”
Harvick’s results during his first year with SHR and Childers have impressed everyone, including his fellow competitors. As the teams head to Richmond International Raceway in two weeks, the drivers are breathing a sigh of relief after dealing with The Lady in Black, a temptress with a new agenda every lap.
Point Standings after the Bojangles’ Southern 500
1. Jeff Gordon (–)
2. Matt Kenseth (-1)
3. Carl Edwards (-19)
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-26)
5. Jimmie Johnson (-27)
6. Kyle Busch (-28)
7. Brad Keselowski (-51)
8. Joey Logano (-52)
9. Ryan Newman (-61)
10. Austin Dillon (-62)
11. Greg Biffle (-70)
12. Tony Stewart (-73)
12. Brian Vickers (-73)
14. Kyle Larson (-74)
14. Denny Hamlin (-74)
16. Clint Bowyer (-78)