It took 14 years for Kevin Harvick to earn a win at the Monster Mile. It only took three years to get his second, cruising to victory Sunday (May 6) at Dover International Speedway.
Harvick earned his series-best fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the year by over seven seconds in the AAA 400. Leading a race-high 201 laps, he was never challenged down the stretch, breezing to the front after a 41-minute, one-second red flag for rain. In the process, he earned a second Dover trophy that’ll hopefully stay intact after son Keelan had a little accident with the first one.
“Miles [the Monster] is pretty popular with the kids,” he said. “The first one that we won, we took it home and put it in his playroom. First day I came home, he had the arm broke in half off the thing. When we talked after [this] race, he said, ‘Dad, are you bringing that trophy home?’ I said, ‘I’m bringing it home, but do not break the arm off this one.'”
Clint Bowyer, in position to win when the rains came held on for second. Bowyer held off Harvick as long as he could but was no match for the No. 4 Ford over the long run.
“I just needed a run in clean air to work on my car,” he said. “We put the pressure on him, and [my crew] got us back out in the lead and gave me the opportunity. That’s all you can ask for as a team.”
Daniel Suarez tied a career best with a third-place finish. He was one of just three Toyota teams to crack the top 15 on Sunday.
“It’s pretty cool to finally get moving in the right direction,” he said of his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team. “We struggled the first month and a half.”
Hometown boy Martin Truex Jr. was fourth, a strong recovery for the No. 78 Toyota after an unscheduled green-flag pit stop. Kurt Busch wound up fifth, making Dover the first time ever Stewart-Haas Racing has placed three cars inside the top five.
“It’s days like today that build the momentum in the organization,” said SHR co-owner Tony Stewart. “It’s just a bunch of people that have our eye on the prize, so to speak.”
Brad Keselowski was Harvick’s main challenger most of the day but a slow pit stop late in the final stage left him stuck in traffic. He fell to sixth. Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10.
Larson could never recover from failing pre-race inspection three times, sending his No. 42 Chevrolet from the pole to the rear of the field. Alex Bowman and Austin Dillon were also sent to the back; neither one wound up inside the top 20.
Johnson, the top Chevy driver suffered through a poor pit strategy call. Crew chief Chad Knaus chose to pit the No. 48 early in the final stage but only a handful of lead-lap cars went with him. The team never recovered from the loss of track position even though Johnson had the fastest car during much of the final 50 laps.
That’s just one example of a difficult day at the Monster Mile for several front-running teams. Passing was near impossible as the dreaded aero push tightened drivers up in traffic.
“I was just stuck there,” fourth-place driver Truex said of his track position. “At the end, we were just hanging on.”
Kyle Busch, winner of three of the last four MENCS races failed to finish after his driveshaft gave out on lap 271. It’s the first DNF for the No. 18 Toyota team this year.
But other than Busch’s mechanical breakdown, the race was relatively clean. Just eight cautions on the day came for a variety of mostly single-car incidents.
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