Harvick dominates en route to Atlanta win

Fords look fast in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ second race of 2018

Feb 24, 2018; Hampton, GA, USA; NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Kevin Harvick (98) celebrates winning the Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA — Rain may have delayed the start of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but Kevin Harvick wasn’t wasting any time.

On a late restart with 21 laps to go, Harvick shot out to his final lead of the night, the only one he would need, and cruised to the win.

Feb 25, 2018; Hampton, GA, USA; Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick (4) during the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

He won at the place where he earned his first Cup win back in 2001, replacing the legendary Dale Earnhardt.

And he had led so much of the race Sunday, it was seldom in doubt barring a late caution to throw a wrench into his day.

The race was scheduled to start at 1:06 p.m. after NASCAR officials moved up the start time Saturday due to expected bad weather, but rain in the morning delayed that until 3:32 p.m. ET. The green flag dropped, and they were off and running.

Kyle Busch started from the pole thanks to being fastest in Friday qualifying, with Ryan Newman starting on the outside of Row 1.

However, Newman dropped back quickly in his Chevrolet, and while Busch was competitive in his Toyota, it was Ford’s day.

Harvick dominated the first stage of the race, shredding through the field to lead 65 of the first 85 laps to win the stage going away. He started 15th in his Ford Fusion, and the Fords have shown speed in the preseason and last week at Daytona.

Ford had a redesign in NASCAR last season, but the teams running the Fusions appear to have a mature car set to compete in 2018 — led by Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing team — after the Toyota Camry of Martin Truex Jr. took the title in 2017.

However, issues in the pits set Harvick back to start the second stage 19th, the last car on the lead lap on Lap 93 when the race resumed.

It took him only another 20 laps to get back in the lead.

Then pit stops late in the second stage set Harvick back and Brad Keselowski won it in his Ford, while Harvick finished fifth.

Teams went for full fuel and four tires to start the final 155 laps to the finish.

A Chevy Camaro won last week’s Daytona 500 with Austin Dillon at the wheel, but Daytona is a roll of the dice, and cars that possess horsepower, which Chevy seldom lacks, have a chance. However, the bulk of the schedule is about horsepower and aerodynamics, and the Fords appear to be ahead as the 2018 season carries on.

As the race wound down, Harvick and his Ford proved to be dominant until the end.

Keselowski came in second. Rounding out the top 10, in order, were Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Truex, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott.