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Harvick scores one for the old guard at Atlanta

Harvick scores one for the old guard at Atlanta

It was his first at the track since his inaugural victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2001, three races after replacing Dale Earnhardt.

The Mayetta, N.J., native started ninth and finished eighth in last year's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The win means more about stress level than it does about how Harvick will perform the rest of the season.

Harvick overcame an early pit road issue to dominate the race and make amends for last season's penalty that cost him the race. Truex (fifth) and Kyle Busch (seventh) were among those who also had problems Sunday.

His first win of the season was not wire-to-wire despite leading 181 laps on the day. Harvick would lead until the competition caution on lap 30, where Busch regained the lead through pit stops.

STAGE TWO TO KESELOWSKI - Keselowski outran Kurt Busch to win the second stage on lap 170. Sunday he was already a lap down when he spun in turn 2 at roughly the halfway mark of the race. Johnson is now in a winless streak that is the longest of his career.

Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch all had issues. Brad Keselowski won the second stage. His Chevrolet was off the pace during the race's first stage, and he was lapped by leader Harvick on lap 83. It was at this time that an imminent rain threat was issued to the drivers, but the rain would hold off for the remainder of the race.

Even rivals Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano employing out-of-the-box strategies wasn't enough to slow Harvick, whose speed over long green-flag runs was too overwhelming.

Harvick was comfortably in the lead when Trevor Bayne's engine blew with 28 laps to go. As the caution flag flew, Bubba Wallace, his vision hampered, slammed into the back of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s auto, causing significant damage to the left front of Wallace's Chevrolet. I suppose it's easy for a fan to poo-poo a race when his or her driver falls off the lead lap and has no chance of winning. On the restart, Harvick cleared Keselowski, who spun his tires.

"You see that 3 back in victory lane and us back in victory lane tonight, it's nearly, it's how it's meant to be", Harvick said, smiling.

Sure, he hadn't won there since 2001 in just his third career series start, but Harvick has dominated the place since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Along with Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick is now in the 2018 NASCAR Playoffs.

Over the years, Harvick has come incredibly close to getting his second win at the 1.5-mile oval, including 13 top-10 finishes, seven of which have come in the last eight years.

Harvick earned his 38th career Cup Series victory, and he will nearly certainly be back in the playoffs unless he somehow falls outside of the top 30 in the points at the end of the year - which is highly, highly unlikely. This week, Elliott travels to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube.

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