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Kevin Harvick rallies for first career at Darlington

The SportsXchange

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Kevin Harvick dominated the Bojangles' Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway on Saturday night, leading 238 laps of a race that was extended to 511 miles by two green-white-checker attempts to claim the win.

While it was Harvick's first career win at Darlington, it was his second victory of the season, making him the first repeat winner after eight races.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, Jimmie Johnson was third, Matt Kenseth fourth, and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five.

Johnson started 26th and remained outside the top-20 through the first quarter of the race before his team plugged away, making the car better, enabling him to make his way toward the front.

He was second after a cycle of green flag pit stops completed just past lap 320. Johnson ran second to Harvick and took only two tires to Harvick's four during a caution on lap 357.

Earnhardt, Kenseth and Jeff Gordon also took two tires to restart second through fourth, while Harvick restarted fifth, the first driver with four fresh tires.

On the restart, Harvick pushed Earnhardt by Johnson and into the lead, taking the second position for himself. As a result, Earnhardt and Harvick lined up on the front row for the final restart for a two-lap sprint to the win. Harvick then took the lead just before the white flag.

Harvick also lost the lead on pit strategy during a caution that came out just past lap 250 and again on lap 271, but each time he quickly got back to the front.

Despite the dominance, Harvick didn't lead early after starting the race from the pole. Instead, Joey Logano took the lead on lap one and led the first 37 laps. Jeff Gordon then raced from third to the lead in lap traffic, just before the yellow flag waved for the first time on lap 40.

Harvick took the lead for the first time on the restart that followed. He lost the lead on pit road during the next caution just before lap 60. Harvick was back up front, though, on lap 76, taking the lead from Matt Kenseth. Kenseth was one of four drivers who got track position during the caution by taking only two tires.

By the time Kasey Kahne kicked off a cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 175, Harvick had already led a total of 115 laps. Kahne was in the lead after the restart by virtue of having new tires for a few more laps.

Kahne maintained his lead until the next yellow flag on lap 201 and got off pit road to restart first. As soon as the race returned to green, though, Harvick reassumed his position up front.

When the next caution came out on lap 222, Brian Vickers and Ryan Newman took two tires to get off pit road first and second and restart on the front row. Harvick lost additional spots on pit road and restarted in the back half of the top-10. He moved back into the top-five on lap 236. Soon after, Gordon got by Newman for second.

Kyle Busch finished in the sixth position, while Gordon finished seventh after running second to Harvick for much of the race. Kyle Larson was the highest-finishing rookie, taking the eighth spot. Tony Stewart was ninth and Newman rounded out the top-10.

Kevin Harvick was the dominant driver in the first 250 laps of the 367-lap race. But at lap 250, Brian Vickers was the race leader, with Jeff Gordon in second.

Despite the dominance, Harvick didn't lead early after starting the race from the pole. Instead, Joey Logano took the lead on lap one and led the first 37 laps.

Gordon, who came into the race leading all active drivers with seven wins at Darlington (NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson holds the record with 10), then raced from third to the lead in lapped traffic, just before the caution flag waved for the first time on lap 40.

Harvick took the lead for the first time on the restart that followed. He lost the lead on pit road during the next caution just before lap 60, but was back upfront by lap 76, taking the lead from Matt Kenseth.

Kenseth was one of four drivers who got track position during the caution by taking only two tires.

By the time Kasey Kahne kicked off a cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 175, Harvick had already led a total of 115 laps. Kahne was in the lead after the restart by virtue of having new tires for a few more laps.

Kahne maintained his lead until the next caution flag on lap 201 and got off pit road to restart first. As soon as the race returned to green, though, Harvick reassumed his position up front.

When the next caution came out on lap 222, Vickers and Ryan Newman took two tires to get off pit road first and second respectively, and restarted together on the front row.

Harvick lost additional spots on pit road and restarted in the back half of the top-10. He moved back into the top-five on lap 236. Soon after, Gordon got by Newman for second.

NOTES: Prior to Saturday's race, Harvick had only led a total of 63 laps in his previous 17 starts at Darlington. ... Joey Logano has led laps in seven of the eight races thus far in 2014. ... Harvick was the race leader at mile 100, mile 200, mile 300, mile 400, but not at mile 500. ... There were 22 lead changes among 12 drivers. ... There were 11 cautions for 50 laps.

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