Harvick wins at Darlington as NASCAR returns to tracks

Photo: NASCAR / MGN
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DARLINGTON, S.C. - Kevin Harvick was the winner as NASCAR resumed its Cup schedule following a 10-week layoff.

Harvick took the lead from Alex Bowman on a late restart and pulled away over the final 30 laps at Darlington Raceway. Bowman finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Harvick is the only drive to finish in the top 10 in each of the Cup Series' five races this season. He emerged from his car in victory lane wearing a black face mask -- what could become NASCAR's new normal.

It was the first Cup race in 71 days since the schedule was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event was run without fans and with an emphasis on masks and social distancing. Roughly 900 people were approved to be inside the gates, all considered essential.

Ricky Stenhouse crashed exiting the second turn on the first lap, calling the wreck embarrassing. His crumpled car was spitting flames as he drove to the garage, ending his race without completing a single lap.

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson wrecked while leading on the final lap of the first stage at Darlington Raceway. The mishap took Johnson out of the race and allowed William Byron to take the first stage.

NASCAR chose Darlington, the oldest speedway on the Cup circuit, as the safest place to restart the season after eight events were postponed. Sunday marked the first of 20 races across seven Southern states between now and June 21.