Race Wrap Up: AAA 400 Drive for Autism
We now return to your regularly scheduled 2018 NASCAR season.
For the fourth time in 2018, Kevin Harvick drove the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford into victory lane, cruising to a 7.4-second win in Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway. Along the way, Harvick swept both stages, keeping all the playoff points for himself, bringing his season total to 19 just 11 races into the season.
Harvick is now one win away from tying his career-best for victories in a single season. And there's still 25 races left!
How Harvick won the race: After restarting on the front row for the race's final restart, Harvick needed just 15 laps to chase down teammate Clint Bowyer and take the lead for the final time at the Monster Mile. He led the final 63 circuits en route to his second career win at Dover.
Prior to joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, Harvick was rarely a factor at the Monster Mile. In 26 starts with Richard Childress Racing, he led just 145 laps. Since climbing into the No. 4 car, Harvick's led 1,011 laps in nine starts, including 201 Sunday.
"When I started at Stewart-Haas Racing, one of Rodney's [Childers] main goals was to run good up here because he knew how much it frustrated me and felt like we had a lot to draw from at that particular time with having the partnership with Hendrick and the success that Stewart-Haas itself had up here.
"I like driving here. We just never had the speed that it took at the beginning of my career to do what we've been doing over the last few years."
Stewart-Haas-ome: Remember when the Ford teams were worried about competing with their "antiquated" Fusions? Boy, those concerns feel like they were from another lifetime. The blue oval brigade has now won six of the first 11 races, led by Stewart-Haas Racing's five checkered flags.
SHR celebrated another milestone Sunday by putting three cars in the top five for the first time ever with Harvick (1st), Bowyer (2nd) and Kurt Busch (5th). Aric Almirola, meanwhile, was "way back" in 11th, and found himself in the top 10 periodically Sunday.
Don't be surprised if Stewart-Haas has all four of its drivers in the playoffs and at least one driver racing for a title at Homestead in November.
Bowyer's rain dance comes up dry: Clint Bowyer found himself in the catbird seat on a restart with 114 laps to go. Sitting in sixth, Bowyer had the preferred outside groove and four fresh tires, unlike the drivers in front of him. After about 20 laps, Bowyer tracked down Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and took the lead before a red flag for rain with 80 laps to go.
Unfortunately for Bowyer, the rain went away quickly and the race resumed after a 41-minute break. From there, Kevin Harvick picked up where he left off and left the driver of the 14 in his dust. But for Bowyer, it was a good feeling to be competitive at the Monster Mile.
"You know, this is a huge confidence and a momentum builder for our 14 team, for our organization," Bowyer said. "Just proud of everybody's effort, proud of the opportunity, and you know, excited to go to my home track next weekend, and the rest of the year is going to be a lot of fun."
Daniel's big day: To say 2018's been a struggle for Daniel Suarez might be an understatement. The 26-year-old kept his No. 19 Toyota near the top 10 all day and capitalized on track position in the late going en route to a third-place finish, tying his career best.
It was Suarez's third-straight top 10 and third in three starts at Dover. In the last four races, Suarez has three top-10 finishes and an 11th-place result at Bristol.
Daniel Suárez and the No.19 team are definitely headed in the right direction! pic.twitter.com/U46jYRJcjW— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 6, 2018
"We just haven't been able to get the deal done, and especially in the first month-and-a-half of the season, just struggling a lot," Suarez said. "I feel like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself earlier in the season, trying to put a lot of pressure on the team to get the results. The last month-and-a-half has been more relaxed, just trying to have fun and trying to get things going by itself."
Golf isn't Bowyer's strong suit: During the rain delay, Kevin Harvick took an opportunity to poke fun at Clint Bowyer's golf skills (or lack thereof).
"Let's just put it this way. We played 18 holes one time, and he said, 'I want to bet you $100 a hole,'" Harvick said. "I took $1,700 from him."
Not to be totally outdone, Bowyer apparently got Harvick back with an exploding golf ball.
That's a lot of golfing money, @KevinHarvick. ??#AAA400 pic.twitter.com/GEtQmaq4br— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 6, 2018
Social spotlight: All the talk this offseason was about NASCAR's young talent that appeared primed to take the next step into superstardom.
You better believe Kevin Harvick took notice. The 42-year-old took to NASCAR's Twitter account after the race to let everyone know he isn't ready for the rocking chair.
"They told me I was too old for Snapchat. That's fine," Harvick said. "They can come see the confetti in victory lane. Old guys can still win."
"Old guys can still win." - @KevinHarvick@MonsterMile | #AAA400 pic.twitter.com/3KG8qMpkuy— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 7, 2018
When Harvick's motivated, he just might be the toughest driver in the garage to beat.
Kyle's driveshaft disaster: For the first time in nearly two years, Kyle Busch's day ended short due to a mechanical failure.
Just moments after the green flag flew on the AAA 400 Drive for Autism, Busch radioed to his crew that "it ain't gonna make it all day," telling Adam Stevens the vibration in the No. 18 was so bad it knocked the shifter out of his hand.
Busch was right. On Lap 271, smoke and fluid poured of his car on the frontstretch as pieces of a broken driveshaft littered the track with debris. Busch's crew determined they couldn't fix his wounded Toyota and he ended the day 35th.
Busch's DNF was the first mechanical failure he's suffered since Michigan in June 2016. Despite the disappointing day, the 2015 Cup champion still sits atop the point standings and has a series-best 19 playoff points.
And baby makes four: Kyle Larson and fiancé Katelyn Sweet welcomed their second child Monday, a baby girl named Audrey Layne Larson.
Congratulations to the entire family!
What an exciting night/morning! Baby came a few weeks early but glad I was able to be in town for it all. Katelyn did amazing and we are excited to welcome a baby girl, Audrey Layne Larson! Owen got to hang out with his new little sister this morning and loves her a bunch. pic.twitter.com/XPlADoIN5A— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) May 7, 2018
Bloomin' Monday: When Kevin Harvick wins, so do you at Outback Steakhouse! Race on into the nearest Outback Monday and tell your server you're there for Bloomin' Monday and they'll bring your table a delicious shareable Bloomin' Onion for free!
Next week: NASCAR races into America's Heartland for the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway. Last year, Martin Truex Jr. outdueled Ryan Blaney to score the first of a season sweep at Kansas. Saturday night's race is also the last chance for drivers not already qualified to clinch a spot in the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte in two weeks, and the Camping World Truck Series will be in action Friday night.