NASCAR Darlington: Harvick wins opening race of Cup Series playoffs

Kevin Harvick won the opening round of the 2020 NASCAR Cup playoffs at Darlington as long-time race leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott hit the wall late on

Truex had picked up both stage victories, though lost the race lead to Denny Hamlin at the start of the final stage.

Polesitter Elliot had started strong, finishing third in stage one, but fell backwards in a relatively uneventful second stage.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver was running an alternate pit strategy to those at the front of the field, giving him an advantage when a caution was brought out in the closing stages of the race due to debris on track.

Elliot led Truex at the final restart and the pair soon began to battle for position.

Both drivers rubbed against the wall, damaging their tyres in the process. Elliott dropped down the order while Truex was forced to pit with a right rear puncture.

Harvick inherited the race lead and was kept under pressure from Austin Dillon, who dropped to the back of the field with an issue early in the race.

Dillon tried to force a mistake from Harvick, but the Stewart-Haas driver kept cool to record his eighth win of the season.

Joey Logano took third ahead of Erik Jones, the highest placed driver not in the playoffs.

William Byron held onto fourth ahead of Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch. Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer completed the top 10.

Denny Hamlin, who has been pushing Harvick all season, ran into an issue in the final stage.

He had been battling at the front of the order all race before contact with Jimmie Johnson as he tried to enter the pits meant he missed the pit entry.

The incident dropped him out of contention and he finished 13th.

It was far from the worst performance of a playoff driver, however, as Ryan Blaney was forced to start from the back of the grid and lost 10 points due to improperly placed ballast.

He spent the race trying to fight his way through the field and finished 24th, while Matt DiBenedetto could only do a little better in 21st.

Brad Keselowski, running an alternate strategy, finished 11th.

NASCAR Darlington results

Pos Driver Team
1 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing
2 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing
3 Joey Logano Team Penske
4 Erik Jones Joe Gibbs Racing
5 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports
6 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports
7 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing
8 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing
9 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing
10 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing
11 Brad Keselowski Team Penske
12 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing
13 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing
14 Matt Kenseth Chip Ganassi Racing
15 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing
16 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports
17 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing
18 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports
19 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing
20 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports
21 Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing
22 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing
23 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing
24 Ryan Blaney Team Penske
25 Daniel Suarez Gaunt Brothers Racing
26 Chris Buescher Roush Fenway Racing
27 Ty Dillon Germain Racing
28 Brennan Poole Premium Motorsports
29 Ross Chastain Spire Motorsports
30 J.J. Yeley Rick Ware Racing
31 Quin Houff StarCom Racing
32 Josh Bilicki Tommy Baldwin Racing
33 Joey Gase Petty Ware Racing
34 Christopher Bell Leavine Family Racing
35 Timmy Hill MBM Motorsports
36 John Hunter Nemechek Front Row Motorsports
37 Corey LaJoie Go FAS Racing
38 Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports
39 James Davison Rick Ware Racing
- Reed Sorenson Spire Motorsports

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