Harvick catches late break, wins again at Darlington to open playoffs (AUDIO)

Kevin Harvick is indeed #1 in the playoffs after Sunday’s win at Darlington (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick is so good, he doesn’t need a lot of luck to win races. But he’ll take it when he can get it. Sunday night in the Cook Out Southern 500, the first of the ten NASCAR Playoff races, Harvick appeared headed to a third place finish at best when the drivers ahead of him, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr., collided on lap 353 as Truex slipped underneath Elliott for the lead. Both hit hard against the wall doing right side damage.

Elliott came off the pace and Harvick blew past him. When Truex went to the pits for a flat tire, Harvick went to the lead on lap 355 and fought off fast closing Austin Dillon for his third Southern 500 victory, his 8th win of the season and the second at Darlington since the restart in May. Harvick’s margin of victory was .343 seconds.

The win guarantees Harvick a spot in the second round of the playoffs, so he can run the next two races at Richmond and Bristol with no worries. Following Harvick and Dillon in the top five were Joey Logano, Eric Jones and William Byron. Elliott limped home 20th and Truex, who won the first two stages of the race, finished 22nd.

Harvick led the most laps with 196. Elliott was second with 114. Harvick, who’s average winning speed was 152.337, led a total of 32 laps. The victory is the 57th of his career.

Harvick, who is the #1 seed for the playoffs, now leads the points race by 19 over Denny Hamlin. Logano moved up a spot to third and Brad Keselowski dropped one spot to fourth.

It was a very clean race for Darlington on a beautiful night in the Pee Dee. Only two of the seven caution periods were for incidents on the track.

Final Results 71st annual Cook Out Southern 500

Kevin Harvick postrace press conference

Austin Dillon postrace press conference

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