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(Chris Keane/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer Throwback Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 06, 2020 in Darlington, South Carolina.
(Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, was in the right place at the right time in winning the 71st running of the Cook Out Southern 500® at Darlington Raceway (Darlington). After Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 19 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing and Chase Elliott of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports pancaked the second-turn wall with just 15 laps remaining while battling for the lead, Harvick pulled ahead to hold off a late-charge by Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing to claim his second NASCAR Cup Series Darlington triumph in 2020.

NASCAR’s original superspeedway race that began in 1950, this year’s version – with limited fans in the grandstands – of the Cook Out Southern 500® was dominated by Truex Jr. and Elliott, who led a combined 310 (Truex Jr. 196, Elliott 114) of the 367-lap event. In the late stage of the race, they were comfortably in front of the field and it seemed to be a two-man battle for the win. However, when Truex made his move to pass Elliott through turns one and two, he went to slide up in front of Elliott but had not completely cleared him. The two got together and both received their Darlington Stripe.

“First thing I want to say is welcome back, fans. This Busch Beer Ford Mustang wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but the leaders got tangled up there and the next thing you know we were racing for the win,” said Harvick, who claimed his NASCAR Cup Series-high eighth win of the season and 57th overall (9th on all-time list).

“Our car wasn’t very good, but we just kept fighting and kept ourselves up in the front with some great pit strategy and were able to stay up there and fight and wound up in the right spot. Anytime you can win the (Cook Out) Southern 500 it’s a good day. This is one of the most prestigious races in our sport and this is one of the most prestigious racetracks in our sport, so anytime you can win at Darlington it’s a big deal, but, man, the (Cook Out) Southern 500!”

To download celebration images of Kevin Harvick’s victory at Darlington, click here.

Harvick’s victory in the Cook Out Southern 500® was his first in the iconic Labor Day weekend classic and his second of the season after he captured NASCAR’s return to racing in May as a result of the COVID pandemic break. He becomes the 10th driver in Darlington history to record two victories during the same season, joining the likes of Richard Petty (1967), LeeRoy Yarborough (1969), Bobby Allison (1975), David Pearson (1976), Bill Elliott (1985), Dale Earnhardt (1987 & 1990), Jeff Gordon (1996), Jeff Burton (1999) and Jimmie Johnson (2004).

Elliott, with a battered right side of his Chevrolet Mustang, soldiered on to finish 20th while Truex, Jr., had to make a pit stop after cutting down a tire. He wound up 22nd, one lap down.

“He (Truex) had a run on me there, off of four and he just kind of cleared himself into one. He was close, but wasn’t all the way clear, obviously. I hate it, obviously we had the fast NAPA Camaro – fast enough to contend. We needed a little pace there to extend our lead instead of playing defense, but regardless I thought we were in a good spot. I ran the bottom in three and four to see if there was anything left doen there, that’s what kind of gave him the run and then he just slid up into my front, I felt and on we went,” said Elliott, who was trying to join his father Bill, who did it three times, as a Cook Out Southern 500® winner.

“Two drivers going for the same spot,” explained Truex Jr., the 2016 Cook Out Southern 500® winner, of the incident with Elliott. “It was close obviously and I thought I had enough momentum and distance on him that he was going to let me in there. I didn’t expect him to be on my right rear and I was committed. Once I figured he was still there, nothing I could do. Obviously, it was nothing intentional, just two guys going for the win and not enough room for both of us there. If it was my fault, I apologize. I really felt like I had the position to get in there to one. That’s how it goes, and we’ll see what goes on from here,” added Truex, Jr., who won the first two stages of the event.

Dillon, driving a special Junior Johnson No. 3 throwback paint scheme, came up just .343 second short of his first Darlington triumph in the race which was the first of the opening round of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. What was more impressive is the fact he had to come from the back of the pack at the start after inspection issues. It was third top-10 finish in ten races at Darlington, and his eighth top-10 finish of the 2020 season.

“So close,” Dillon exclaimed. “We love the big races…so freakin’ close…made a great run at it.”

Dillon was followed by Joey Logano in the No. 22 Ford Mustang for Team Penske, Erik Jones in the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing and William Byron in the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports.

The rest of the top 10 included Alex Bowman in the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports, Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, Kurt Busch in the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro for Chip Ganassi Racing, Aric Almirola in the No. 10 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, and Clint Bowyer in the 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing.

In fact, 12 of the top 13 finishers (lone exception Jones) were playoff contenders with Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Ford Mustang for Team Penske, Cole Custer in No. 41 Ford Mustang of Stewart-Haas Racing, and Denny Hamlin of the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing claiming the next three spots. Custer was also the highest finishing rookie.

Elliott and Truex, along with Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang for Team Penske, who wound up 24th, completed the playoff driver results.

As with most races since NASCAR’s return, the event was held without practice or qualifying. Harvick started eighth. Average speed of the race was 132.249 mph, which was slowed by seven cautions for 34 laps. There were 18 lead changes among six drivers with Harvick leading four times for 32 laps, including the final 13.

Harvick leaves the track Too Tough To Tame with a 19-point lead in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings over Hamlin with Logano 46 back, followed by Keselowski (-51) and Bowman (-54). The bubble drivers (four will be eliminated after the Round of 16) are Bowyer/Almirola (-73), Custer (-76), and Blaney/DiBenedetto (-90).

 NASCAR Cup Series Race - 71st Annual Cook Out Southern 500
Darlington Raceway
Darlington, South Carolina
Sunday, September 6, 2020
               1. (8)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 367.
               2. (12)  Austin Dillon (P), Chevrolet, 367.
               3. (13)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, 367.
               4. (30)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 367.
               5. (3)  William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 367.
               6. (4)  Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 367.
               7. (15)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 367.
               8. (16)  Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 367.
               9. (10)  Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 367.
               10. (9)  Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 367.
               11. (5)  Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 367.
               12. (14)  Cole Custer # (P), Ford, 367.
               13. (2)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 367.
               14. (26)  Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, 367.
               15. (31)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 367.
               16. (19)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 367.
               17. (35)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 367.
               18. (22)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 367.
               19. (29)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 367.
               20. (1)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 367.
               21. (11)  Matt DiBenedetto (P), Ford, 366.
               22. (6)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 366.
               23. (24)  Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 366.
               24. (7)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 366.
               25. (28)  Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 364.
               26. (20)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 364.
               27. (25)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 363.
               28. (23)  Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 362.
               29. (34)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 360.
               30. (37)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 360.
               31. (32)  Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 357.
               32. (38)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 356.
               33. (39)  Joey Gase(i), Ford, 351.
               34. (21)  Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 349.
               35. (33)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Overheating, 296.
               36. (18)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, Accident, 245.
               37. (27)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, Accident, 234.
               38. (17)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Transmission, 217.
               39. (36)  James Davison, Chevrolet, Engine, 162.
Average Speed of Race Winner:  132.256 mph.
Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 47 Mins, 26 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .343 Seconds.
Caution Flags:  7 for 34 laps.
Lead Changes:  18 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders:   C. Elliott (P) 1-71;D. Hamlin (P) 72;K. Busch (P) 73-74;C. Elliott (P) 75-83;K. Busch (P) 84-85;M. Truex Jr. (P) 86-117;C. Elliott (P) 118;M. Truex Jr. (P) 119-172;K. Busch (P) 173;K. Harvick (P) 174-181;A. Bowman (P) 182;M. Truex Jr. (P) 183-231;D. Hamlin (P) 232-247;M. Truex Jr. (P) 248-306;D. Hamlin (P) 307-308;K. Harvick (P) 309-319;C. Elliott (P) 320-352;M. Truex Jr. (P) 353-354;K. Harvick (P) 355-367.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Martin Truex Jr. (P) 5 times for 196 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 4 times for 114 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 3 times for 32 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 3 times for 19 laps; Kurt Busch (P) 3 times for 5 laps; Alex Bowman (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,48,9,11,1,88,22,24,18,4
Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,11,4,88,48,18,20,3,14,1