NASCAR at Darlington: Points leader Kevin Harvick gets his first win of 2020

Kevin Harvick ran up front all day and coasted to a more than two-second victory over Alex Bowman in NASCAR’s first race back amid the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday.

Harvick took the lead from Brad Keselowski on lap 216 of the 293-lap race and easily outpaced Bowman to the finish after a restart with less than 40 laps to go following a slide by Ryan Newman.

The win means Harvick has won at least one race in each of the last 11 seasons. His last winless campaign came in 2009 when he was driving for Richard Childress Racing and finished 19th in the standings. The 2014 champion has finished no worse than eighth in the standings since that season and Sunday’s victory is also the 50th of his career.

Only 11 drivers have more wins than Harvick, and he’s third among active drivers behind Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.

Kevin Harvick got his first win of 2020 at Darlington. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Harvick entered the race as the points leader through the first four races of the season before the NASCAR season was halted after the March 8 race at Phoenix Raceway. Sunday’s race at Darlington Raceway was held without fans and with everyone in attendance wearing a mask at all times when not wearing a helmet. While Harvick didn’t have a mask on during his post-race interview, the interview was conducted via a boom microphone to prevent the interviewer from being too close to Harvick.

Kurt Busch finished third, Chase Elliott was fourth and Denny Hamlin was fifth.

NASCAR instituted protocols to ensure that Sunday’s race could be held as safely as possible, though it didn’t procure any coronavirus testing for anyone in attendance. Approximately 900 team members, track staffers, NASCAR employees and other personnel were allowed to be at the race in South Carolina held a short drive from NASCAR’s home base in the Charlotte area.

Darlington will host two more races before NASCAR races at Charlotte Motor Speedway starting next weekend. The second-tier Xfinity Series will race on Tuesday, while the Cup Series returns on Wednesday for a shorter race held in the evening.

It appeared that NASCAR’s coronavirus protocols mostly worked well throughout the entirety of Sunday. Everyone who entered the track was scanned for an elevated temperature, and no drivers were unable to race for failing to pass the temperature screening.

Wednesday night’s Cup Series race will start based on the finishing order of Sunday’s race. The top-20 spots will be inverted from Sunday’s race, while the drivers who finished 21st through 40th will start in their finishing positions. That means Harvick will start 20th, while Bowman will start 19th. The front row for Wednesday’s race will include Ryan Preece (20th) and Ty Dillon (19th).

Jimmie Johnson crashes while leading Stage 1

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had a fast car in the first stage. He finished 38th after he crashed while leading the stage with less than a lap to go.

Full results

1. Kevin Harvick

2. Alex Bowman

3. Kurt Busch

4. Chase Elliott

5. Denny Hamlin

6. Martin Truex Jr. 

7. Tyler Reddick

8. Erik Jones

9. John Hunter Nemechek

10. Matt Kenseth

11. Austin Dillon

12. Aric Almirola

13. Brad Keselowski

14. Matt DiBenedetto

15. Ryan Newman

16. Ryan Blaney

17. Clint Bowyer

18. Joey Logano

19. Ty Dillon

20. Ryan Preece

21. Bubba Wallace

22. Cole Custer

23. Michael McDowell

24. Christopher Bell

25. Daniel Suarez

26. Kyle Busch

27. Brennan Poole

28. JJ Yeley

29. Reed Sorenson

30. Joey Gase

31. Corey LaJoie

32. Chris Buescher

33. Timmy Hill

34. Josh Bilicki

35. William Byron

36. Quin Houff

37. Garrett Smithley

38. Jimmie Johnson

39. BJ McLeod

40. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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