Kevin Harvick wins for first time at Pocono in Saturday Cup race
If at first you don’t succeed, try 38 more times and you’ll finally break through.
That’s the situation for Kevin Harvick, who earned his first career NASCAR Cup win at Pocono Raceway in his 39th start at the “Tricky Triangle” on Saturday.
It was the 52nd career Cup win for Harvick, who now has won at every track on the current NASCAR Cup schedule, with the exception of Kentucky Speedway (two weeks from now) and the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway (later this season).
“As well as we’ve run here, you definitely talk about it,” Harvick said when asked by NBC Sports in a post-race teleconference if he was glad to finally get a win at Pocono. “For us, it was just one of those things that you joke around about it because we’ve run plenty good to win races here.
“It’s kind of like Texas. We finally knocked down the wall and won three years in a row. Hopefully, that’s the same thing that happens here at Pocono because it’s definitely a place where we could have been to victory lane several times. It’s just a matter of this or that happening.”
It’s not like Harvick has performed poorly at the Tricky Triangle over the years. On the contrary: Harvick came into the race with four runner-up finishes, 12 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes at the 2.5-mile track.
“Today was just like the last seven years here, we’ve run well, been in contention to win and today we wound up on top,” Harvick said. “It doesn’t bother me because we run well. But if we were just coming here and not running well and this was a place you didn’t like driving at, but I enjoy coming up here, I enjoy the racetrack, I enjoy the challenge it creates and we’ve run well.
“When you run well, that kind of takes away all the chatter about not liking the place or being frustrated.”
Because the top 20 finishers Saturday will be inverted in Sunday’s race, Harvick will start from 20th place in the second half of the first Cup weekend doubleheader in NASCAR’s modern era.
“We were back to 20th today, so I think in the end, it will come down to strategy and what you need to do,” Harvick told Fox Sports. “Thank you to all the fans. I wish you were here. This isn’t near as exciting (without fans in attendance). I feel I’m like my seven-year-old (son Keelan), I’ve got all this pent-up energy and I’m just going to share it with nobody.”
Harvick was unable to celebrate his third win of the season with a post-race burnout, as he -- as well as all other drivers (with the exception of those who may have to go to back-up rides) -- will have to use the same car in Sunday’s race at Pocono.
“I’m not doing any more celebrations,” Harvick said in a post-race media teleconference. “With nobody out there to celebrate with, until the fans come back, I’m not doing any burnouts, I’m not standing on the car, not doing any of that stuff.
“It doesn’t feel right not having my team in victory lane. It doesn’t feel right not having the emotions from the fans to share your emotion and everything you have being in the race car and being excited with what’s going on. You win the race and you get out to silence.”
Denny Hamlin finished second, followed by pole sitter Aric Almirola, rookie Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch.
Saturday’s race was the first of a two-day NASCAR Cup doubleheader at Pocono. With the inversion Sunday, Saturday’s 20th-place finisher, Ryan Preece, will start from the pole Sunday.
The start of the race was delayed nearly an hour to allow workers to dry the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped race track after rain throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. That morning rain forced NASCAR to postpone Saturday’s Truck Series race to Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Joey Logano (fourth stage win of season)
STAGE 2 WINNER: Aric Almirola (first stage win of season)
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Michael McDowell finished eighth, giving Front Row Motorsports consecutive top-10 finishes for the first time in the organization’s history. John Hunter Nemechek finished eighth last week at Talladega. ... Bell was the highest-finishing rookie, earning a Cup career-best fourth-place finish.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick were involved in a hard wreck near the entrance to pit road on Lap 72. Jones was checking up and trying to move around a slower car, while Reddick was unable to slow down and avoid Jones’ car. If one or both drivers has to go to a backup car for Sunday’s race, they would start from the rear of the field.
NOTABLE: After being forced to sit out last Sunday’s race at Talladega, IndyCar driver James Davison made his NASCAR Cup debut Saturday for Spire Motorsports. He finished 34th. He also has four prior Xfinity Series starts. ... The cars of Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer were found to have one lug nut not safe and secure in post-race inspection, but there were no other incidents.
WHAT’S NEXT: The second race of this weekend’s Cup doubleheader at Pocono Raceway will take the green flag Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.