DARLINGTON, S.C. — It was generally thought that the teams that performed well in Sunday’s opening race at Darlington Raceway would likely do the same on Wednesday.
Points leader Kevin Harvick was a prime example of that, and The Real Heroes 400 winner followed up his first win of the season with an impressive third-place finish in the Toyota 500.
But things didn’t run quite as smoothly as they did Sunday, Harvick said following Wednesday’s rain-shortened outing.
“Yeah, we had to start 20th, battled kind of an ill-balanced car tonight,” he said. “The track conditions were just a lot different. We made some adjustments going into the race. Just couldn’t get the front of the car to turn.
“…We never could get the front of the car to turn. Had to use a lot more throttle tonight. The things I could do with the car Sunday, I couldn’t do tonight.”
The difference between the two races was obvious — temperature. Sunday’s race started at 3:30 p.m. and was run mostly in daylight. Wednesday’s race didn’t start until almost 8 p.m. following a lengthy weather delay.
“Temperature is just a huge difference for our cars,” Harvick said. “Obviously with the rain all day, the low temperatures, it just affects the cars differently. It affected ours with the front tire not turning, the way the car traveled when it hit the ground off of turn two. We never could get the balance of the car like we had on Sunday with where the car was tonight.”
Still, Harvick managed to work his way into the leaderboard by the end, although at times it seemed as if his car took one step forward and two steps back.
“Every time we’d restart on the bottom, we’d lose four or five spots,” he said. “We were very slow gaining the track position to get a better handling car till the end of the race.
“…In the end our Mobil 1 guys did a great job of just battling. Sometimes you have great nights; sometimes you have nights you have to battle. It was a good two days in Darlington for us.”
Harvick is 34 points ahead of Joey Logano in the standings after posting his fourth top-5 finish of the year. It was also his sixth top-10 showing in the young season.
Sunday’s victory was also extra special as Harvick notched his 50th career Cup Series win to pass Tony Stewart — his team’s co-owner at Stewart-Haas Racing.
The victory went far beyond the world of NASCAR, however.
“Fifty was great, obviously to get 50 wins,” Harvick said. “I’m not knocking that by any means. Being next to Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett is quite an honor. I don’t want to degrade that at all. But the impact that Sunday had on the country, as I got text messages from Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy talking about how great it was for America, Joe Girardi talking about how great it was for sports, how it gave them hope for baseball.
“…I was just really proud of our sport at that particular point for putting on a safe event and doing the things we did.”