CONCORD, N.C. — A powerhouse restart on the high lane led Kevin Harvick to his fourth stage win of the season in Sunday’s opening stint of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Harvick hauled around the outside of Chase Elliott on a lap 52 restart and then paced the final 39 laps of the stage en route to a 2.103-second margin at the green-checkered flag.
“It was kind of a guess today, but obviously the team did a great job guessing where we needed to be with the splitter not being too low and pace and everything,” said Harvick of his car. “Our Jimmy John’s Ford is running good right now. The only thing that’s got me concerned is that I feel like I’ve got a unique line compared to what everybody else can do.”
“I’m a little concerned if the VHT goes away, that (advantage) might go away. We’ll ride it while it’s working and try to score as many stage points as possible, because you never know what the weather’s going to do in the second half of this thing.”
On the initial start of the race, the inside lane rolled forward as second-starting Matt Kenseth spun the tires and bottlenecked the top groove, with polesitter Kyle Busch surging to the lead early on.
Kenseth settled into sixth before beginning his charge back forward, while Harvick challenged Hamlin’s inside flank on both laps eight and 18, to no avail.
A competition caution at lap 35 set up Elliott on Hamlin’s outside for a restart on the 41st round, where Elliott surged to the point before Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman came together off turn two three laps later, with Newman crashing hard and ultimately retiring from the race.
That sparked the stage’s final restart on lap 52, in which Harvick found his rhythm on the outside, cleared Elliott and never looked back from there.
Behind Harvick and Elliott, a strong performance by Jamie McMurray saw him finish third at the stage break and pick up eight points as a result, followed by Kyle Larson and Busch in fourth and fifth.
Hamlin, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson completed the top 10 runners at the first stage break.
Johnson’s run through the field started from 25th on the grid, but he passed 10 cars in the first 25 laps and cracked the top 10 with solid pit work during the competition yellow.
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Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
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