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Sixteen years later, Kevin Harvick still looking for second Atlanta Cup win

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Kevin Harvick has won a lot in the 22 years since he first began competing in NASCAR.

In all three national series, Harvick has accumulated 95 wins and two championships. But the win that will likely define his career long after it’s over is his first Cup Series win, at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 2001.

Making his third start in the No. 29 car for Richard Childress Racing, Harvick was the driver who replaced Dale Earnhardt after his death in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 the previous month.

The rookie from Bakersfield, California, fended of Jeff Gordon to win a photo finish by .006 seconds.

Sixteen years later, it remains Harvick’s only Cup win at the 1.5-mile facility, which is statistically his worst track.

“You can’t ever win the first one twice,”  Harvick said in a team release. “To come back here and know everything that was attached to that first win is something you look back on and realize the magnitude of the situation. I guess the second thing is I can’t believe we haven’t won there since.”

Harvick, now in this fourth season with Stewart-Haas Racing, returns to Atlanta this weekend for the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500. It will be his 27th Cup start at the track where he got his first of 35 Cup Series wins.

Following his win in 2001, Harvick has only earned five more top-five finishes, with two coming since 2012. He also has 11 top 10s. After the initial win, Harvick failed to finished better than 19th in 11 of his next 12 Atlanta starts.

In his three starts since joining SHR, Harvick has results of 19th, second and sixth. In all 26 starts, he has an average finish of 17.6, which is his worst among active tracks on the Cup circuit.

“It’s definitely one of my favorite racetracks and we’ve led a ton of laps there,” said Harvick, who has led 679 laps at Atlanta. “For whatever reason, on Sundays, we haven’t been able to put the finishing touches on it. Fridays and Saturdays in the Truck Series and the Xfinity Series, we’ve won a ton of races but, hopefully, we can end that Cup Series streak this weekend.”

In the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, Harvick has earned five wins at the track. He won three straight Xfinity races from 2013-15.

This weekend will mark the final race on the track before its first repaving since 1997.

“I just love the abrasiveness of the racetrack,” Harvick said. “It still has a lot of speed for the first three or four laps, but then it has a lot of fall-off and a lot of bumps that give it character. As a driver, you just love the challenge that comes with racing at Atlanta. This is always one that I circle on my calendar as a favorite.”

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Coca-Cola 600 resumes after rain delay

Coca-Cola 600
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The Coca-Cola 600 is back under way following a rain delay.

The caution was issued on Lap 49 for rain and the field was brought to pit road. The red flag was issued at 7:07 p.m. ET and lifted at 8:16 p.m. ET.

The top five at the time of the stoppage was Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano.

Check back for updates.

 

Denny Hamlin team faces potential penalty after ballast falls off car

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Denny Hamlin was involved in an incident even before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 got underway that could result in a hefty penalty.

A chunk of tungsten ballast — which teams use to bring Cup cars up to minimum weight standards — fell off Hamlin’s car on a parade lap.

The incident puts Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart and several others on the team in violation of the NASCAR rule book, which means a hefty penalty could be in the offing.

According to the NASCAR rule book, the penalty is 12.5.2.7.4.d: Minimum safety penalty options — “Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle will result in a four Race suspension of the crew chief, car chief, and head engineer. If NASCAR cannot identify which series or vehicle the lost ballast originated from, all vehicles entered for that Event from and associated with the team organization identified on the lost ballast may receive the suspensions.”

If NASCAR implements the potential penalty, Gabehart and others could miss the following four races: May 27 at Charlotte, May 31 at Bristol, June 7 at Atlanta and June 10 at Martinsville.

Several of those tracks are good for Hamlin, including winning the Bristol summer night race last year, as well as was fourth at the Martinsville playoff race last fall and 11th at Atlanta.

NASCAR ordered Hamlin back to pit road where the No. 11 crew added a new chunk of ballast to Hamlin’s car. He returned to the race eight laps down.

Here’s what a fabricator from rival team Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted about the incident:

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Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

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Chevrolet drivers swept the top three rows for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600, led by Kurt Busch‘s pole-winning lap of 181.269 mph.

Jimmie Johnson was next with a lap of 181.214 mph. He was followed by Chase Elliott (181.002 mph), Matt Kenseth (180.923), rookie Tyler Reddick (180.905) and Austin Dillon (180.741).

Ford driver Joey Logano, who starts seventh after a lap of 180.451 mph, was the top qualifier not driving a Chevrolet.

TO THE REAR: Matt DiBenedetto (backup car), Brad Keselowski (unapproved adjustment), Aric Almirola (unapproved adjustment), JJ Yeley (unapproved adjustment) and Timmy Hill (unapproved adjustment)

Click here for Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Kurt Busch on pole for Coca-Cola 600

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Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 after claiming the pole Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It is Busch’s 28th career pole and first at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch is joined on the front row by Jimmie Johnson. Chase Elliott qualified third and is followed by Matt Kenseth and rookie Tyler Reddick. Austin Dillon was sixth, as Chevrolet drivers took the top six spots.

Click here for qualifying results

Aric Almirola spun coming to take the green flag to begin his qualifying lap. He grazed the wall with his rear bumper.

Matt DiBenedetto slapped the wall off Turn 4 during his qualifying lap and will go to a backup car and start at the rear of the field.