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Kevin Harvick wins Southern 500 at Darlington

Kevin Harvick wins the NASCAR Cup Series Southern 500 playoff race at Darlington Raceway after Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott make contact and lose the lead.

Kevin Harvick took the lead with 13 laps left after the leaders hit the wall and went on to win Sunday’s Southern 500, the opening race of the Cup playoffs.

Austin Dillon finished second and was followed by Joey Logano, Erik Jones and William Byron, who scored his third consecutive top-five finish. Sixth through 10th: Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.

Harvick’s victory is his eighth of the season but he wouldn’t have gotten it without help from the leaders. The victory also moves Harvick to the second round.

“This is one of the most prestigious races in our sport and obviously everybody in our sport knows the history that Darlington has for our sport, so anytime you can win here is pretty special,” Harvick said.

MORE: Race results and driver points report

MORE: Crew chiefs for Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer suspended 1 race

Martin Truex Jr. passed Chase Elliott for the lead with 14 laps to go but did not clear Elliott and both hit the wall in Turn 1. Truex pitted a few laps later when he had a right rear tire go down after the contact. Elliott fell back in the field, allowing Harvick to take the lead.

“Sorry guys, hell of a car,” Truex said on his team’s radio after finishing 22nd. “Sorry, man, I was going for it. I guess I shouldn’t have.”

Said Elliott, who finished 20th: “He (Truex) had a run on me there off of (Turn) 4 and he just kind of cleared himself into one. He was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear, obviously. I hate it, obviously we had a fast NAPA Camaro - fast enough to contend. We needed a little pace there to extend our lead instead of playing defense, but regardless I thought we were in a good spot. I ran the bottom in (Turn) 3 and 4 to see if there was anything left down there, that’s what kind of gave him the run and then he just slid up into my left front, I felt like and on we went.”

The victory is Harvick’s 57th in his career and moves him past Kyle Busch on the all-time wins list. It is Harvick’s second win at Darlington this year. He won the first Cup race in May when the season resumed after a 10-week break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almirola holds the final transfer spot to the second round. He is tied with Bowyer but owns the tiebreaker of a better finish in this round.

Dillon scored his best finish since his win at Texas.

“Man, it would have been nice to get that win and lock us into the next round,” he told NBCSN.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Dillon had to start at the rear because of unapproved adjustments before the race and went on to finish second. The team discovered that the left and right front tires were on the wrong side of the car. Dillon also overcame a right rear tire going down, forcing him to make a green-flag pit stop early in the race. ... Joey Logano overcame a flat right front tire at one point and then damage when he was hit from behind by Corey LaJoie on a restart and finished third. ... Erik Jones, who finished fourth, has placed in the top 10 in all six Cup starts at Darlington.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Blaney had a miserable night. His team was penalized before the race for improperly mounted ballast. NASCAR penalized the team 10 points and suspended Blaney’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, for the race. Blaney had a flat left rear at the start of stage 2 and had to pit, putting him a lap behind the leaders. He finished 24th and is last in the 16-driver playoff field.

NOTABLE: Kevin Harvick has won four of the last seven Cup races.

NEXT: The series races at 7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 12 at Richmond Raceway on NBCSN. This is the second race of the opening round of the playoffs.