CONCORD, N.C. – Nothing can stop Kevin Harvick these days, not an experimental rules package or a field of racers with nothing but pride on the line, and the hottest driver in NASCAR scored a $1 million payday by winning the All-Star race.
Harvick’s win Saturday night came exactly 11 years to the day of his only other win in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s exhibition event. This time the victory is part of a raging hot streak that brought him into the All-Star race with five points race victories, including the last two.
It’s technically three in a row now, although the All-Star race is for cash only. But the stat sheet shows that Harvick has won six of the 13 races since the season-opening Daytona 500, and Ford drivers have eight of those wins.
Because the All-Star race is a made-for-TV event, NASCAR could play with the rules and try to spice up a race that has been beyond boring the last 10 years. No amount of tinkering to the format or the rules could liven the event, so NASCAR made a radical change this time. The aerodynamic package included a controversial horsepower-sapping restrictor plate, and it slowed the cars into a tighter pack that allowed for increased passing.
The package Saturday night did make for better racing, but the same result: Harvick celebrating again. This time it was the 50th Cup victory for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Daniel Suarez won a stage in an earlier qualifying race to make the main event, and he finished second in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Suarez had one shot at trying to beat Harvick when the race went into overtime and he lined up next to Harvick on a restart with two extra laps ahead. Suarez got a push from teammate Denny Hamlin but he never could clear Harvick, and Harvick won by 0.325 seconds.
Joey Logano was third in a Ford for Team Penske and Hamlin was fourth.
Chase Elliott, winner of the fan vote to earn his spot in the All-Star race, was fifth.
Jimmie Johnson remained winless for more than a year with a sixth-place finish, and Kyle Larson was next at seventh. Larson tangled on the track with Logano, who was shoved into the wall in the closing laps by Larson. Logano didn’t deny intentionally sending Larson on a long slide through the grass as retaliation.
That caution sent the race into overtime and forced Harvick to withstand one final restart before collecting his $1 million.
More from the All-Star Race:
QUALIFIERS: The race was for only 21 drivers, and had three spots open to winners from a qualifying event. They were claimed by Alex Bowman, Suarez, and AJ Allmendinger. It was Allmendinger who put on a shot to get into the main event, and he ran hard for the $1 million prize. He finished eighth.
Elliott won the fan vote to take the fourth and final open slot in the All-Star race.
The Coca-Cola 600 on May 27. It is NASCAR’s longest race, a crown jewel on the schedule and Austin Dillon is the defending winner. The Daytona 500 winner used fuel mileage strategy to win last year’s 600, and his Daytona win came with a last-lap bump in overtime to take the checkered flag. The Coca-Cola 600 will use the traditional rules package.
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