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Dominant Harvick races to Southern 500 victory

By Tony Bolick, The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C. • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:20 PM

DARLINGTON, S.C. (MCT) – Kevin Harvick dominated the night and then managed his way through a pair of green-white-checkered restarts to retake the lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and win the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway Saturday night.

"This is the one race I told (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) I wanted to win," Harvick said in victory lane. "This is the Southern 500, this is as big as it gets in NASCAR racing."

Harvick was the car that ruled the front of the race that went seven laps over the advertised 367-lap distance, but when the caution came out with eight laps left, two-tire pit calls from a few teams left Kevin Harvick in fifth for the final sprint to the finish trailing teammates Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt at the head of the field.

After dueling with Jeff Gordon for a couple laps, Harvick got to third, but Jimmie Johnson appeared to be too far out ahead when a debris caution set up the first of two restarts in the extra laps.

Harvick helped pushed Earnhardt to the lead when the race got the green on lap 368 and slipped past Johnson for second but before a lap was in the books, Kurt Busch slammed into the backstretch wall to bring out the last caution for the second green-white restart.

This time, Harvick fell into line in second as they drove through turns one and two and then powered outside of Earnhardt off turn four and pulled away clear to the checkered flag.

The win, his 25th career Cup victory, ended a long struggle since his Phoenix win in 2014's second race where he had just one top 10 and four finishes outside the top 30 in the six weeks since. Harvick led 238 of the 374 laps in the win, was the first winner to start from the pole since Dale Jarrett did it in 1997 and guarantees his entry into the postseason Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

"After the last several weeks, we're nervous every lap," Harvick said. "Tonight, we were able to put a whole race together. Great night for us."

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