Harvick sweeps Cup, Xfinity races at Atlanta


The salute to Dale Earnhardt Sr. replicated the one he made 17 years ago after his first win as a NASCAR Cup Series driver.

Harvick somberly made the same salute almost 17 years ago after he won at the same track with Earnhardt's team just three weeks after Senior's passing in the 2001 Daytona 500. One week later, Kevin Harvick earns a victory at Atlanta reminding us once again of NASCAR history.

"So, I'm a little nervous about that, but at the same time, it's the same for everyone". "There's no way I could sit up here and complain about anything they've done because I can't imagine taking that on during the winter, and what they did over a two-month span or a three-month span trying to get all that stuff ready for the teams. Finally. It took a while". It's hard to say, but it is safe to say that Kevin Harvick has established himself as a prime contender for a second NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series championship.

Team Penske also did well, placing all three cars in the top 12, not too shabby for a manufacturer that Brad Keselowski said could potentially take a drubbing this season. "This is a great start to getting ourselves into the playoffs".

"That was the first win in my career and to be able to do that and pay tribute to Dale was pretty cool", Harvick said.

The problems may have become more apparent Sunday than in last weekend's Daytona 500 because Atlanta has a very abrasive track surface and teams easily would make between eight to 10 pit stops during the race.

Martin Truex Jr., who finished fifth, had two slow pit stops because of the pit gun.

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Kyle Busch won the pole. As the caution flag flew, Bubba Wallace, his vision hampered, slammed into the back of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s vehicle, causing significant damage to the left front of Wallace's Chevrolet. Points leader Joey Logano ran top 10 in both stages and finished sixth, and while Ryan Blaney had a quiet day, he also matched his auto number in 12th. The Bowtie Brigade was led by Kyle Larson in ninth, Chase Elliott in 10th and Daytona 500 victor Austin Dillon in 14th, the first vehicle a lap down. And the decisive restart with Keselowski to his outside was even less of a hindrance, with Harvick quickly pulling away and building up a comfortable advantage.

Rodney Childers, crew chief of Harvick's pit team, pointed out that Paoli shouldn't be blamed because NASCAR requested the guns on short notice.

STAGE TWO TO KESELOWSKI - Keselowski outran Kurt Busch to win the second stage on lap 170. Kyle Larson, No. 42, finished ninth, and Dawsonville's Chase Elliott, No. 9, finished 10th after starting 27th. There were no wrecks but there was a caution after Johnson's spin in turn 2 on lap 160.

The race rolled past lap 170, the end of the second stage, at about 5:25 p.m., making the race official, meaning that drivers and teams wouldn't have to return to the track Monday.

PIT PROBLEMS - Harvick pitted twice during the caution that ended the first stage. The Stewart-Haas Racing crew got a new pit gun for the remainder of the race and didn't have any additional issues. He dropped from the lead to 19th place but methodically moved through the field to regain first.

"I said it all offseason", Bowyer said after the race.

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