On Sunday, May 17, NASCAR returned to racing at Darlington Raceway to kick-off a series of seven races. The race marked the return of major auto racing in America. Kevin Harvick took the win during this big return. It’s his first trophy of the season and although there were no fans in the stands, there was no shortage of TV and radio audiences who were eager to welcome the sport back.

The Real Heroes 400 was the first on-track activity in 71 days, since NASCAR suspended competition because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to track included specific guidelines unique to this unprecedented situation – no fans in the grandstands, temperature checks at track, a limit on number of team members and of course, social distancing. The field was set via random draw for Sunday. This was a result of no practice or qualifying sessions.

Harvick’s 2.154-second victory over Alex Bowman was his first of the season and extends his points lead in the standings to 28 points over Bowman. His only previous win at Darlington came from pole position in 2014, the same year Harvick went on to win the series championship. Sunday’s victory was the 50th win for the Stewart-Haas Racing veteran, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time wins list.

“The first thing I want to do is thank everybody from NASCAR, all the teams, the whole industry, for getting us back on the race track,” said Harvick, who led a race-high 159 laps in the 293-lap event. “I think everybody in this garage is so excited to be here. I was up this morning at 6 a.m., pacing around my porch trying to decide when I was going to leave. I was excited to get back in the car. Today was just a well-executed day.”

Bowman, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin followed Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to the finish line. Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top 10. It was the best showing of the season – and first top-10 finish – for the rookies Reddick and Nemechek. The next race will take place on Wednesday, May 20th at Darlington Raceway.

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