Kevin Harvick won the opening stage of Saturday’s Sport Clips Haircuts-VFW 200. (CSP/Chris Seelman photo)

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Kevin Harvick kept right on rolling Saturday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, winning the opening stage of the Sport Clips Haircuts-VFW 200.

Harvick passed polesitter and early leader Denny Hamlin on lap 30 of 45, leading the final 16 laps prior to the stage break and collecting his third NASCAR XFINITY Series stage win of the season.

Of note, Harvick’s Stage 1 win was the first time he’s topped the opening stage of an XFINITY race.

It barely took a lap for chaos to erupt at the 1.366-mile oval, with Matt Tifft getting tagged around by Ross Chastain off the exit of Turn 4 and making heavy contact into the inside wall with the nose of his No. 19 Toyota.

That set up an early restart on lap six, in which Hamlin took off from the outside lane, while Stewart Haas Racing teammates Cole Custer and Kevin Harvick fell back to fifth and seventh, respectively, on the bottom groove.

Lap nine saw the second yellow flag of the day fly when Ty Dillon spun off Turn 2 in a battle for third with Elliott Sadler and Harvick, though Dillon was able to avoid making contact with another car or the wall in an incredible save.

From there, the first stage settled out following the next restart on lap 13, with Hamlin reasserting his dominance while Hemric faded from second to ninth on the low lane.

However, Harvick was not about to let the leader get away without a fight. After moving to second on the restart, Harvick stalked Hamlin’s back bumper as the duo moved through slower traffic after lap 25.

Finally, Harvick found some momentum on the bottom of the track in Turns 1 and 2 and powered inside of Hamlin on lap 30 to take the lead – a lead he would not relinquish all the way to the green-checkered flag despite a late-stage caution for a spinning Ray Black Jr.

Slight contact between Harvick and Hamlin, while racing for the lead when the green flag returned with 10 to go, sent Hamlin back to fourth while Sadler ended the stage 2.081 seconds adrift in second.

Ty Dillon was sandwiched in between those two in third, with Joey Logano completing the top five.

Erik Jones, Brennan Poole, Austin Dillon, William Byron and Daniel Hemric were the rest of the points-scoring drivers inside the top 10.


About the Writer

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.

The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

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Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman, 24, is the founder and managing editor of 77 Sports Media and a major contributing writer for SPEED SPORT Magazine. He is studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. and also serves as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

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