DARLINGTON, S.C. — Kevin Harvick capped his biggest weekend at Darlington Raceway with his first Southern 500 victory Saturday night, passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. two laps from the end of the longest race in the track’s 65-year NASCAR history.
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, Jimmie Johnson was third, last year’s Southern 500 winner Matt Kenseth fourth and Greg Biffle fifth.
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.
Harvick led 239 of the 374 laps, seven more than planned.