By REID SPENCER
NASCAR Wire Service
Kevin Harvick’s answer to NASCAR’s new competition package was the same old song — another victory in a season that already has produced a surfeit of success.
This time it was Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with a restrictor-plate limiting the horsepower and a large blade on the rear of the cars providing downforce and maneuverability.
Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was still the strongest car in the field, and the driver who already has five points wins this season added another in the marquee exhibition race, taking control of the event with an overtime surge at the end of the 20-lap third stage and sealing the victory by outrunning Daniel Suarez in the final two-lap drag race to the finish.
With lane choice on the final restart, Harvick picked the top lane in front of eventual thirdplace finisher Joey Logano. The choice paid off, as Logano gave the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford a strong push off the second corner, allowing Harvick to clear the No. 19 Toyota on the backstretch.
“I thought on that last restart that my best opportunity was Logano,” Harvick acknowledged. “He’s one of the best on the restarts. I knew he would work with me as good as possible, because that’s just the way that most of us do it from Ford. We were able to just stay even through (turns) one and two, and I really thought once we got to the backstretch we could clear him.
“I didn’t want to be on the bottom. I didn’t feel my car was stable enough to be under someone when they were on my right side. I had to take my lumps through one and two and hope that the guy behind me was still with me when we got to the exit of two, and we were able to win.”
The third-stage victory also proved critical. In the second attempt at overtime, Harvick passed Kyle Larson for the top spot and held on to win the stage. That gave him lane choice for the final stage, and he never relinquished the lead. Harvick picked up his second victory in the All-Star Race, the first won coming in 2007. The winner of the previous two cup points races, at Dover and Kansas, Harvick didn’t earn championship points for his victory at Charlotte, but he did claim the $1 million prize that goes to the winner.
Leading every lap of the final 10-lap segment of the scheduled 80-lap event, Harvick crossed the finish line .325 second ahead of Suarez, who came close to clearing Harvick off the second corner after the final restart but didn’t have enough room to slide up in front of the No. 4.
Denny Hamlin was fourth, followed by Chase Elliott, who earned the last spot in the 21-car main event via the Fan Vote. Jimmy Johnson, Kyle Larson, A.J. Allmendinger, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne completed the top 10. Kahne rallied from four laps down after contact with the frontstretch wall on lap 56.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John's Ford, celebrates after winning the Monster Energy
NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday.
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images