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Harvick’s easy NASCAR win in Atlanta ruined with late race penalty

Kevin Harvick leads the field, as he did almost all day, leading 292 laps on the day. Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Hampton, GA – Kevin Harvick’s Jimmy John’s Ford was “Freaky Fast” all day long, even when it shouldn’t have been as a late-race pit road speeding penalty took away a sure-fire win and relegated him to a ninth place finish.

Harvick started from the pole and jumped out in front of the field immediately. He won stage one and stage two of the race, earning 20 bonus points for the race as well as an extra two points for the playoffs. All total, he led 292 laps, roughly 90 percent of the race before things went downhill.

With 16 laps to go, Austin Dillon lost power heading down the backstretch and avoided hitting pit road. Because of that, he stopped in Turn 2, forcing NASCAR to throw the late-race caution that set up an exciting finish.

 

Because fresh tires are something of a delicacy at the worn down Atlanta track, all drivers on the lead lap pitted under the final caution. Harvick led the field down pit road, and he won the race off pit road, too.

Just before the race got back under green, NASCAR popped Harvick for going 50.07 mph on pit road, where the speed limit is 50 mph. The penalty forced the driver of the No. 4 to fall to the tail end of the field, ending any chance he had of visiting Victory Lane.

“I just made a mistake that I preach all the time that you don’t need to make and beat yourself and then you go out and make it yourself instead of following all the things you preach,” Harvick said. “That part is hard for me to swallow. It’s my own doing today. I really didn’t think I was even close on pit lane. It gets to bouncing around, I thought I was being conservative, apparently I wasn’t.”

In the final 10 laps, Harvick drove through the field after restarting 17th to earn a solid top-10 finish.

When Harvick crossed the finish line, he came on the team radio and simply said, “I am so sorry, guys.”

Harvick acknowledged in pre race interviews that while he has been dominant at Atlanta for the last several years, he hasn’t been able to figure out how to finish the races where he has run.

In four of the last five races minus Sunday’s race, Harvick has led the most laps but failed to convert it into a win. In those four races, he has led 543 laps, roughly 40 percent of the laps, but has an average finish of 8th.

“Yeah, this place, for whatever reason, I just feel like I’m snake bitten,” Harvick said. “Man, I just, one way or another I have figured out how to lose races here at Atlanta after being so dominant. We will pick ‘em up and start again next week.”

Zach Horrall is a NASCAR reporter for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by NASCAR and has full media access. Follow @ZHorrallBU and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter.

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