Kevin Harvick added to a sizable list of good memories at Atlanta Motor Speedway when he won Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the 1.5-mile oval in Hampton, Ga.
The victory was the third for the Stewart-Haas driver at Atlanta – the site of his very first NASCAR Cup Series win way back in 2001.
That first win came just two races after he took over the ride of the legendary Dale Earnhardt, who died at the Daytona 500.
“Obviously,” Harvick said, “the first win came for me here at Atlanta and this is just a race track that I’ve taken a liking to, and you always come back and have those memories and now you want to celebrate everything that Dale Earnhardt did for this sport. To come here and be able to do that with wins and go to victory lane is pretty special.”
Harvick celebrated Sunday by taking a reverse victory lap while holding up three fingers in honor of Earnhardt.
“There’s so many thoughts going through my mind that day and everybody was confused, and to be able to celebrate how much Dale Earnhardt has meant to this sport at a race track where I got my first win because he wasn’t in the car is pretty awesome.”
Harvick also won two years ago at AMS.
Harvick, who started the race with a series-best – by far – 1,197 laps led at the track, collected his second victory of the season. His first came at Darlington on May 17.
The 2014 Cup champion took the lead for the final time on Lap 219 of the 325-lapper and from there was never seriously challenged.
Finishing second was Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch, the defending series champion, is still looking for his first victory of the season. He finished 3.527 seconds behind Harvick.
“We ended up second,” Busch said. “We ended up not too far behind (Harvick) who’s the best here. It’s hard to beat him when you come to his home turf, if you will, at Atlanta, they are really fast.
“We were able to keep it up front all day. We had good pit stops all day. I didn’t screw up and speed on pit road today.”
Third was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 Cup champion who was looking for his first victory in 22 starts at Atlanta. Truex won the first two stages Sunday,
Fourth was Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney. Denny Hamlin of the Gibbs team – who was the winner of this year’s Daytona 500 – finished fifth.
Following the race, TV crews caught driver Bubba Wallace, who finished 21st, appearing to get lightheaded while talking to members of his crew before collapsing in their arms. FOX then interviewed Wallace on live air as the driver sat on the wall along pit road, but during the interview he appeared to again get lightheaded, bowing his head down and closing his eyes.
As a member of his crew grabbed him, a voice could be heard saying, “where’s medical?”
“He is not OK,” FOX pit road interviewer Jamie Little said before cameras cut away.
FOX later showed Wallace sitting on the wall, alert and surrounded by crew members, with FOX NASCAR announcer Mike Joy saying, “Bubba Wallace is OK, being tended to by medical personnel.”
Sunday’s race was the 10th of the season and sixth since racing resumed after a two-plus-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of the pandemic, the race was run without fans in the grandstands.
Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports started the race from the pole and held the lead until pitting for a competition caution on Lap 25. Those were the first laps that the Georgia native and the sport’s most popular driver led in his five starts at his home track.
Elliott, whose hometown is Dawsonville, would not lead again after losing the lead in the pits and would finish eighth.
The series will be back on the track on Wednesday evening at Martinsville Speedway’s short track.
Prior to the green flag to start the race, the field was brought to a stop during the final warmup lap. As the cars sat on the front stretch, NASCAR president Steve O’Donnell addressed the teams and the television audience on the radio.
His message was that the sport and the country “must do better” when it comes to racial injustice. His message was followed by a moment of silence.
The words were related to the recent death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 in Minneapolis when white officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.