Kevin Harvick had the car to win, but didn’t have enough to hold off Jimmie Johnson in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick led a race-high 116 laps in the 325-lap event, but still finished second, the same position he wound up with in last Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.
Even with Joey Logano’s win last week at Daytona and coming up one position short on Sunday, Harvick remains the hottest driver in NASCAR.
Dating back to the last three races of the 2014 season, Harvick has two wins and three second-place finishes – not to mention being the defending Sprint Cup champion.
Those wins came late last season at Phoenix and Homestead, while his runner-up showings were at Texas last fall and the first two races of the 2015 season.
Harvick qualified on Friday on the outside of the front row, but an engine failure in Saturday’s final Sprint Cup practice relegated him to a start at the back of the 43-driver field Sunday afternoon due to an engine change.
Starting that far back didn’t seem to bother Harvick, as he effortlessly and methodically worked his way up through the pack to quickly become a key player in the way the race played out.
To his credit, Harvick was closer than the nearly two-second margin of victory Johnson had. The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet got bogged down twice on late restarts and Harvick paid the price.
“I had one bad restart and spun the tires on the outside,” Harvick said. “We recovered from that one.
“And then we got behind the 55 (Brett Moffitt) and he was kinda shooting for the moon to go on the restart and he just didn’t go and we got passed again.”
Still, Harvick added, “All in all, it was a great day for our team.”