Kevin Harvick dominated the Real Heroes 400 Sunday afternoon at Darlington Raceway to win NASCAR’s first race in 10 weeks.
Leading a total of 159 laps, Harvick grabbed his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series win. He took the lead for the final time on lap 216 and went untouched to the checkered flag with a 2.1-second margin of victory. Without fans in attendance, Harvick celebrated alone on the frontstretch and was the only person from Stewart-Haas Racing permitted in victory lane to pose with the trophy.
“I just want to thank everybody from NASCAR and all the teams for letting us do what we do,” said Harvick. “I didn’t think it would be that much different if we won the race, but it’s dead silent here.”
Alex Bowman was the runner-up. He showcased the strength of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet early in the race and led 41 laps.
Completing the top five were Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin. Martin Truex Jr. wound up sixth, with rookies Tyler Reddick eighth and John Hunter Nemechek ninth. In his first race since the end of 2018 and first race with Chip Ganassi Racing, Matt Kenseth finished 10th.
Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski led 80 laps and finished 13th. Ryan Newman finished 15th in his first race since suffering a head injury in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500.
The 400-mile race was the fifth event of the NASCAR Cup Series season, which now has a revised schedule due to COVID-19. Holding the race with limited personnel, masks, and social distancing protocols, the event went smoothly from an operations standpoint and had plenty of action on-track.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. kicked off the day with a crash off Turn 2 on the opening lap. Taking the blame for putting himself in a bad position, Stenhouse admitted he was embarrassed to be out of the race so early. He finished 40th.
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson ended the day 38th. However, Johnson looked to be a strong contender early by running inside the top five and leading nine laps. However, while in the lead on the final lap of Stage 1, Johnson crashed off the exit of Turn 2 when diving underneath Chris Buescher.
In all, there were 10 cautions for 57 laps and 10 lead changes among six drivers.
“It’s a pretty big honor to win 50 races in this deal,” said Harvick. “I just have to thank all my team guys and everybody for what they’re doing. I have to say hi to (wife) DeLana and my kids at home. I guess we’ll bring home the trophy.”