NASCAR got back to racing after a 71-day shutdown at the hands of COVID-19.
Sunday afternoon engines fired up once again and NASCAR’s best took on the famed Darlington Raceway in front of a rather mundane crowd. Thousands of bleachers and not a clap to be heard when Kevin Harvick finished his victory donuts at the start-finish line.
Instead, Harvick was met by a winded Regan Smith who appropriately socially distanced himself while holding a mic on a pole for Harvick to speak into. The new “normal” was certainly interesting to watch but appropriately done.
Kevin Harvick picked up his 50th NASCAR Cup Series victory on Sunday and for once he can thank his #4 pit crew for helping him get there.
Blessed with the #1 pit stall Harvick’s pit crew consistently made up spots for Harvick on pit road outside of one-stop. Harvick in return kept the Busch car upfront most of the day hanging around the Top-5 nearly the entire day.
On what would be the final restart Harvick restarted alongside Alex Bowman and the two had a fantastic two-lap battle. Each driver knew whoever cleared the other would likely win the race. Ultimately Harvick got by Bowman who skated the front end getting into Turn 3.
The rest is history as clean air remains king with this package and Harvick sailed to his 50th career win.
Kenseth Returns And Doesn’t Miss A Beat, Others Shine As Well
Matt Kenseth spent the last 18 months hanging out with his kids, running marathons, and winning the Slinger Nationals. Sunday was the first time he had been in a car since Homestead 2018, and he didn’t miss a beat.
Kenseth turned in a 10th place finish after having no practice, no prior experience in this car with this package. The 49-year old grandfather looked like he belonged out there on Sunday because he does. Kenseth has an opportunity to be strong in this car for the remainder of the year.
John Hunter Nemechek turned heads on Sunday as well, the rookie brought his #36 Front Row Motorsports car home 9th. A phenomenal run for the underfunded team and only their 4th Top-10 ever on a non-Superspeedway. With more runs like this JHN could find himself mentioned in Silly Season talk.
Tyler Reddick also put together a complete race on Sunday as well. RCR’s much-heralded rookie came home 8th, ahead of his more experienced teammate. Reddick ran well at Phoenix back in March, this run shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Overall NASCAR and teams did a phenomenal job adhering to the CDC’s recommendations. Every person on the grounds Sunday wore a mask, Harvick wore a mask in Victory Lane even.
Teams didn’t converse with other teams, everyone stayed in their own boxes. Some teams even went so far as to have a tent behind their box where their team would go while the team next to them would stay around their pit box. That ensured they could be as distanced as possible while still accessible if their car had a problem.
Twitter was in an uproar over a FOX live shot of the spotters who were moved to the top row of the grandstand to allow them to distance. The live shot made it appear the spotters were standing shoulder to shoulder. Optically from the side, that’s what it looked like, however, when you looked from pit road all the spotters were socially distanced and it was a non-issue.
There were no reports of anyone being turned away during screening pre-race. A positive for the sport who will continue their preventative measures indefinitely.
The Cup Series is back in action Wednesday night from Darlington at 7:30 PM on FS1. The green flag is scheduled for 7:53 PM.
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