Harvick at Atlanta: 20th race he led most laps yet failed to win in last 110 starts

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For Kevin Harvick, it was love at first sight – and race – at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He won his first-ever Cup race there in 2001 after replacing the late Dale Earnhardt in the renumbered No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Sixteen years and 26 races later, Harvick is still waiting to get back to victory lane at the challenging 1.54-mile oval. He’s had a pair of runner-up finishes (2009 and 2015), but once again came up short Sunday.

Harvick dominated the Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 at AMS, leading 292 of the 325 scheduled laps.

But one mistake turned out to be a huge error and wound up costing Harvick the win.

With 15 laps left in the race, the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion was caught speeding on pit road.

End result, Harvick was busted back in the field, rebounded slightly but could never get past ninth place, where he ultimately finished at.

“I was going too fast on pit road, apparently,” Harvick told Fox Sports after the race. “I really hate it for everyone on the Jimmy Johns Ford. They put a great car under me and did everything we thought we needed to do.

“I knew I had to be close to pit road speed because we were having trouble getting out of the (pit) box, but I didn’t think I was pushing it that close.

“But it gets to bouncing there and you don’t know where you’re at and that’s why there’s so many pit road speed penalties here and you have to run it close. I was too fast.”

Harvick’s 292 laps led was a single-race record at AMS – for leading the most laps and failing to seal the deal with a win. It was also the fourth consecutive race at Atlanta that Harvick has led the most laps (led 131 last year) and still lost.

That’s 734 laps led out of 1,315 laps contested at AMS since 2014.

But there’s more: it was the 20th time in Harvick’s last 110 NASCAR Cup starts that he has led the most laps (not including races he won) and came up short of victory lane.

Break that down even more and in the 38 NASCAR Cup races since the start of 2016, Harvick has led the most laps in seven of those – and yet failed to win: Atlanta, Fontana, Dover, Kentucky, Darlington in 2016 and Daytona and Atlanta thus far in 2017.

Even though Harvick loves AMS, it’s apparent that the track doesn’t have the same regard for him.

“This place, for whatever reason, I just feel like I’m snake-bitten,” Harvick said. “It’s my own doing today. I really didn’t think I was even close on pit lane.

“I thought I was being conservative; apparently I wasn’t. I was just pushing it too hard.”

Ironically, Harvick did exactly the same thing he has railed against his entire career.

“I just made a mistake that I preach all the time that you don’t need to make and beat yourself,” Harvick said. “And then you go out and make it yourself instead of following all the things you preach.

“That part is hard for me to follow. … Man, I just, one way or another, I have figured out how to lose races here at Atlanta after being so dominant. We will pick ‘em up and start again next week.”

And likely be grateful that he won’t return to Atlanta for another 12 months.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR America: NASCAR’s stars hit the track for the ‘Little 600’ (video)

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Like more than three dozen of his NASCAR Cup counterparts, Joey Logano is gearing up for the longest race of the year, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

To warm up, Logano, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Darrell Wallace Jr. and other NASCAR drivers headed to the GoPro Motorplex in North Carolina for the “Little 600.”

Check out how they fared in the above video that was on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America.

 

Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin Harvick will start on the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, marking the second consecutive race at Charlotte Motor Speedway he has led the field to the green flag.

Harvick, a two-time Coke 600 winner, earned the top starting spot Thursday night with a lap of 193.424 mph in his Ford. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch, who won last weekend’s All-Star Race.

Chase Elliott starts third and is followed by Matt Kenseth and rookie Erik Jones.

Points leader Kyle Larson will start 39th in the 40-car field after not making a qualifying attempt. He hit the wall in practice and then his team couldn’t get through qualifying inspection until one minute remained in the opening round of the session. The team was unable to get Larson out of the garage in time to make an attempt.

Click here for Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Slugger Labbe: How do crew chiefs prepare for grueling Coca-Cola 600? (video)

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Veteran crew chief Slugger Labbe stopped by the NASCAR America studio in Charlotte on Thursday.

Labbe gave his perspective on how NASCAR Cup crew chiefs will prepare for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. While the race length will be the same as it has been for decades, one significant change will have crew chiefs developing strategy that they’ve never had to deal with in the 600, namely, four different race stages.

Labbe also gave his take on the positives and negatives of the Laser Inspection Station for both pre- and post-race inspections.

Check out the above video.

NASCAR: Remembering Martin Truex Jr.’s dominating 2016 Coca-Cola 600 win

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In one of the most dominating performances in NASCAR history, Martin Truex Jr. turned last year’s Coca-Cola 600 into a runaway one-man show, leading the field for 392 of 400 laps.

Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America took a look back at Truex’s record-setting win.

Check out the video above.