Kevin Harvick earns first Atlanta Cup win since 2001

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Kevin Harvick torched the field to win Sunday’s Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for his second Cup win at the track.

Harvick, who also won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, claimed his first Cup win at the track in 2001 when he made his third Cup start ever. He led a race-high 181 laps.

After the checkered flag, Harvick held three fingers up in the air as a tribute to Dale Earnhardt Sr., who he replaced following Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver beat Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.

“I’m just so proud of everyone on our team,” Harvick told Fox Sports. “That was the first win of my career (in 2001) and to be able to do that and pay tribute to Dale, that was pretty cool. I’ve been waiting a long time to do that. We’ve had so many days where we could do that here.”

Harvick has led the most laps inthe last five Atlanta races.

“It was great getting into this race car and knowing that everybody knew that they had to beat our car,” Harvick said.

Harvick led the final 25 laps following the final caution with 27 laps to go.

The No. 4 Ford left the field behind on the final restart with 21 to go.

Harvick earned the win after the threat of rain loomed north of the track all afternoon once it started. Initially scheduled to start at 1:06 p.m. ET, it did not begin until 3:32 p.m. ET once the track was dry following a morning full of rain.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kevin Harvick

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

MORE: Race results

MORE: Joey Logano leads point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Stewart-Haas Racing finished with three of its cars in the top 10, with Kurt Busch finishing eighth. Aric Almirola was in the top 10 for much of the first half of the race, but finished 13th … Martin Truex Jr. finished fifth after having to start from the rear. He did not get to make a qualifying attempt on Friday due to not getting through inspection. As a result, his car chief was ejected from the event. … Denny Hamlin is the only driver with two top-five finishes to begin the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Chevrolet teams. Only three finished in the top 15 with Kyle Larson (ninth), Chase Elliott (10th) and Austin Dillon (14th) … Ryan Newman led the first 17 laps of the race, but on Lap 80 his car got into the wall after his right-front tire gave out. He finished 22nd … Jimmie Jonson spun on his own exiting Turn 2 on Lap 159, causing damage to his right front fender. He finished 27th and has now gone 25 races without a win, the longest streak of his career … Trevor Bayne lost his engine with 28 laps to go. He finished 35th … Bayne’s engine emitted so much smoke, Darrell Wallace Jr. ran into the back of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Wallace finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Kevin Harvick’s win is his 38th in Cup and his 99th overall in all three of NASCAR’s national series …  The victory is Harvick’s 12th win on a 1.5-mile track, second most among active drivers … Chase Elliott has never finished outside the top 10 in any of his NASCAR national series starts at Atlanta … David Ragan finished 23rd in his 400th Cup start.

POST-RACE INSPECTION:Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Ford had one loose lug nut following the race. That penalty for that is a fine.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “We got a late-race restart that we drove off and won the race with, so there are so many demons that seem to haunt us here for a long time, but the coolest part was being able to try to replicate that first win celebration.” – Kevin Harvick

WHAT’S NEXT: Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on March 4 on Fox.

 

Results, point standings after second Xfinity race at Kentucky

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Austin Cindric dominated to win Friday night’s Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway, leading 130 of 200 laps.

He completed a sweep of the series’ doubleheader races at the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Chase Briscoe, Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the results.

Check back for the point standings.

Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton fight after Xfinity race

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Noah Gragson punched Harrison Burton after Burton repeatedly shoved him in the garage area as they discussed their contact on the track late in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

Gragson and Burton were battling for fourth on Lap 188 of the 200-lap race when Gragson, on in the inside of Burton, drifted up the track into Burton’s car. Both cars hit the wall. There was no caution and both fell back. Gragson finished seventh. Burton finished 12th. Austin Cindric won for the second consecutive night.

FS1 cameras caught Burton and Gragson having a discussion after the race. The cameras caught Burton pushing Gragson away. They continued to talk when Burton shoved Gragson again and Gragson punched Burton. Crew members jumped in. NASCAR officials broke up the fight.

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports that series officials spoke with both drivers and that no penalties are anticipated.

Burton told FS1: “Just frustrated. That’s two times since we’ve come back after the COVID-19 pandemic on restarts, same situation. We rallied all night to get … (into) fourth place and (Gragson) happens to start in third and just, I don’t know, forgets what racetrack we’re at or what. Both times puts us in the fence, Charlotte and now here. I had a lot of people coming up to me afterwards saying that was a long time coming, so I guess that was a popular move. But honestly, it’s about these guys that work on these racecars and give me fast racecars.”

Gragson told FS1: “This track is so much about track position and restarts. … We’ll go on to Texas and rebound.”

FS1’s Jamie Little told Gragson that Burton noted their incident at Charlotte and asked if he saw what happened Friday coming: “Not really. We’re all racing hard. Us teammates are beating and banging for the finishes at the end and whatnot. I really don’t have a comment.”

Austin Cindric completes Xfinity sweep at Kentucky

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A night after claiming his first oval track win in NASCAR, Austin Cindric followed it up with a victory in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

The Team Penske driver completed a sweep of the series’ doubleheader races on the 1.5-mile track, dominating with a stage win and leading 130 of 200 laps.

Cindric crossed the finish line with a 2.2-second advantage over runner-up Chase Briscoe.

The top five was completed by Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.

Unlike Thursday night, Cindric celebrated with a burnout on the frontstretch.

“I hope I laid enough rubber down to make up for Watkins Glen last year, that was pathetic,” Cindric told FS1. “I’m just so excited. … what we did tonight was really impressive. Because we ran one setup last night and won the race. We came with another setup and won the race again. That happens at the shop, that happens with the guys on the (pit box).”

Later in his press conference, Cindric said a change in setup was in part due to the tracks that are coming up, at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

“Obviously with mile-and-half-tracks being really important in the second round of our playoffs with Texas and Kansas, our next two races being Texas and Kansas, and the question of having practice or not is looming very big for me,” Cindric said. “Obviously, Phoenix (site of the championship race) is the most important race of the year, but you’ve got to get there first. I feel like those are two really important steps other than Martinsville to get there. So deciding on what we want to run at those race tracks given those characteristics and more … that’s why we decided to change the game tonight.”

After the race, Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson got into a scuffle. They had made contact on a restart with 13 laps to go. Gragson finished seventh and and Burton placed 12th.

STAGE 1: Noah Gragson

STAGE 2: Austin Cindric

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Chase Briscoe finished in the top two for the seventh time in 15 races this season … Justin Allgaier finished in the top five after he spent just 33 of 200 laps on the lead lap after a flat tire brought him to pit road early in the race and put him a lap down … Ross Chastain placed fourth for his 13th top-10 finish of 2020, most of all drivers.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Sieg spun in Turn 2 on Lap 3. He finished 35th … Riley Herbst finished 10th after he was caught speeding on pit road with 52 laps to go … Brandon Jones spun and wrecked with 22 laps to go while racing for second with Daniel Hemric. It’s his fourth consecutive DNF.

NOTABLE: Cindric is the first driver since Richard Petty in July 1971 in Cup to win races in the same series in consecutive days.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Texas Motor Speedway at 3 p.m. ET July 18 on NBCSN

NASCAR to teams: Address ‘complacency’ to COVID-19 mask protocols

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NASCAR sent a memo to teams earlier this week advising them to address “pockets of complacency” toward its COVID-19 mask protocols.

The memo was first reported by WCNC, NBC’s Charlotte affiliate.

In the memo, NASCAR said it was “seeing more and more van loads of crew members rolling up to the track without masks on, and people wearing their mask down around their chin.”

The memo stated that further flouting of the protocols “will threaten our ability to continue racing.”

“More people in our industry are going to contract the virus,” the memo added. “The key is limiting it.”

“It is important for everyone to do their part ALL THE TIME. One cluster outbreak can derail our season.”

In May, NASCAR issued a bulletin stating failure to comply with COVID-19 rules could result in a $50,000 fine.

The memo comes after seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 last week, forcing him to miss the Brickyard 400. Earlier this week Johnson had two negative tests, allowing him to be cleared for Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway.

Previously, Stewart-Haas Racing had two employees test positive for virus and Team Penske had one employee test positive.

In North Carolina, where most NASCAR teams are based, the state now has 81,000 cases and it has reached 1,000 hospitalizations for the first time.

The Cup Series is scheduled to hold its All-Star Race on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Northeast Tennessee. Tennessee has just over 59,000 confirmed cases and has had 86 deaths since Sunday, a single-week record.

NASCAR is scheduled to compete next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Texas has more than 235,000 cases and almost 3,000 deaths. On Thursday, it recorded 10,000 new daily cases for the second time.