Kevin Harvick looking very strong, leads halfway in Atlanta Sprint Cup race

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Even though he started at the back of the field with a new engine, Kevin Harvick has been a man on a mission, leading at the halfway point of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Harvick had his original race engine blow up during Saturday’s final Happy Hour practice. On Friday, the defending Sprint Cup champion had qualified on the outside front row with that engine.

But judging by how dominant his car has been in Sunday’s race, it almost seems that the replacement engine is even more powerful than the original.

After 163 laps of the scheduled 325-lap event, Harvick led 66 laps. He’s going for a weekend sweep, having won Saturday’s Hisense 250 Xfinity Series race.

Pole-sitter Joey Logano had the strongest car early in the race, leading 84 laps, before falling back slightly closing in on the midpoint.

There has been eight leaders and 15 lead changes.

There have also been four cautions, including Austin Dillon’s spin from a tire issue on Lap 59 that spewed debris striking and causing minor damage to several cars, including those of Sam Hornish Jr. and Landon Cassill (Cassill would lose his engine later on at Lap 94).

Dillon went to the garage for repairs and returned to the track 39 laps after his mishap.

There was a competition caution on Lap 25 because overnight and morning rain washed away most of the rubber laid down on the track during Friday and Saturday.

Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck told drivers and crew chiefs prior to the race that cars would be given an extra set of tires (from 12 to 13), and that only two crew members would be allowed on pit road after the race to minimize chances for brawls as occurred last November in Texas.

NASCAR was also to strictly enforce the number of pit stalls cars go through on pit road, Buck said. The maximum number of stalls a car can legally go through is three.

MORE: NASCAR issues additional instructions in driver/crew chief meeting

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