By Leslie Marshall
Kevin Harvick snapped an 0-for-38 drought at Pocono Raceway, taking the checkered flag at one of two tracks where victory had eluded him
Harvick won the first of two NASCAR Cup races in front of no fans this weekend at Pocono and will start 20th today, with the field set by inverting the lead-lap finishers.
The 44-year-old California driver has won at every active track except Kentucky Speedway (nine tries), and the 2014 series champion has three wins overall for SHR this season. He has three career wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, though he has lost two races on the Roval configuration.
Harvick held off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin, whose efforts were hampered by a late vibration, for his 52nd career Cup victory. He had 12 top-5 finishes in his other 38 starts at Pocono.
“That’s great to finally check Pocono off the list,” Harvick said.
Aric Almirola was third, followed by Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch. Ryan Preece finished 20th and will start on the pole Sunday. Teams brought cars straight to the garage instead of lining them up on pit road.
The race was scheduled as the second Saturday, but rain washed out the Truck Series race. That sets up a small slice of history Sunday: Truck, second-tier Xfinity and Cup will all run Sunday. It marks the first time that three NASCAR National Series races will race on the same day at the same track.
NASCAR wanted the trip to Pocono to settle one of the most tumultuous weeks in its history after a noose found in Bubba Wallace’s stall last week at Talladega led to a federal investigation. The incident was not ruled a hate crime by the FBI. NASCAR president Steve Phelps said “the noose was real,” though it remains unknown who tied it. Wallace, who urged NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag, has become NASCAR’s advocate for social change. He acknowledged that his time in the national spotlight left him “wore the hell out.” He finished 22nd in the No. 43 Chevrolet.
Politics were in play at Pocono, though, as Corey LaJoie, who finished 23rd, ran with a Trump 2020 logo on the rear quarter panel of his Ford.
The weekend should have been one of the wildest ones in Pocono history. Track officials were optimistic that the infield would be packed with race fans who wanted to experience four NASCAR races in two days.