DARLINGTON, S.C. —
Harvick earned his first pole here Friday night and had the most dominant car. But he had to make it through a restart with 10 laps left and two tries at a green-white-checkered finish — NASCAR's version of extra innings.
"We were able to hang on there at the end and I knew I had that high line I hadn't showed it to them all night on the restarts and I wanted to save it until the very end," Harvick said.
Earnhardt finished second, his best career showing at a track where his late father won nine times.
Harvick led 239 of the 374 laps, seven more than planned, and became the first two-time winner in the first eight races of the season. It also gave a bit of relief to those winners under the new 16-team Chase for the Sprint Cup championship that they wouldn't have to jostle with 26 winners — there are 26 races before the final 10 playoff events — to try and make it in.
Harvick had just three top-fives and six top-10 finishes in 17 career Darlington races before this. He hadn't finished better than fifth in his last 10 tries, but clearly had the strongest machine this time out.
He was cruising along with 10 laps left when
Earnhardt quickly moved past Johnson for the lead until
Earnhardt was still out front on that restart when
This time, Harvick and his fresher tires easily got past Earnhardt and drove on to his second win since joining
But there were plenty of powerhouse drivers who hadn't yet broken through — the three Hendrick stalwarts in Gordon, Johnson and Kahne among them — and that made for a frantic charge at the end on the quirky, country track.
Harvick was passed at the start by Joey Logano, who led the first 37 laps, then moved back to the front and led for 137 of the next 185 laps.
The worst looking of the seven caution periods was with
"I guess I was just in denial, I guess I didn't realize the right-front tire was down," Menard said.
Menard brought out another caution with 95 laps left, hitting the wall a second time.
The race teams get a break next week for the annual