Two races into the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Tony Stewart is looking like a genius. Switching from Chevrolet to Ford has paid off with a win at Daytona and Kevin Harvick dominating the field at Atlanta. Harvick led 292 of the 325 laps winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2 in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Unfortunately, for the Stewart-Haas Racing team, Harvick was caught speeding entering pit road under caution with 15 laps to go. Harvick’s penalty? Restarting the race at the end of the longest line. With 35 cars remaining on the track, Harvick’s chance at victory went out the window.
On the restart, with 11 laps to go, Brad Keselowski lined up 3rd. As the green flag waved, Keselowski quickly moved to 2nd and began to run down leader Kyle Larson. The number 2 Ford Fusion took the top spot with 7 laps remaining and pulled away to seal the victory. Fellow Team Penske driver Joey Logano finished 6th, while Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch finished 7th. Harvick rebounded to take 9th place giving Ford four cars in the top 10. Clint Bowyer, Trevor Bayne, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ended up 11th-13th, giving the Blue Oval 7 of the top 15 finishing positions.
NASCAR’s policy on going to the garage during the race received more clarification this week. Wrecked cars going to the garage cannot return to the track, as we saw at Daytona. However, cars experiencing a mechanical issue, once repaired, are eligible to return. The requirement to run at competitive speeds applies to cars with mechanical issues as well. No accidents at Atlanta allowed all but 3 of the 39 starters to finish the race. Several teams made trips to the garage for successful repairs.
Playoff Standings Week 2
Harvick holds the lead in the points standings with Kurt Busch 2nd, Keselowski 3rd, and Logano 5th. Ryan Blaney in 8th and Trevor Bayne in 10th show Ford’s dominance after the first two races. Aric Almirola in 13th and Bower in 14th currently sit in playoff-qualifying positions as well. With next week starting the West Coast swing the Ford teams look forward to the domination continuing. The Kobalt 400 is set to run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 3:30 pm on Sunday.