Kevin Harvick capped off a two-win weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a victory in the NASCAR Cup race that was 17 years ( and a couple of extra hours) in the making.
The 42-year-old won the rain-delayed Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 in dominant fashion, leading over half of the laps and beating Brad Keselowski to the checkered flag by over two seconds after a late restart.
Harvick's last Cup win at the track was also his first in the series. It came in 2001, when he took over Dale Earnhardt's car following his death at the Daytona 500. As he did back then, Harvick gave a three-finger salute after Sunday's victory, a reference to Earnhardt's car number.
Harvick wiped away tears as he grabbed the checkerd flag and said of Sunday's victory that "the coolest part was being able to try to replicate that first win celebration."
Harvick led 915 laps in Cup races in Atlanta over the last five years — including 181 on Sunday — but endured the long wait for his second win at the track. It brought back memories.
"That was the first win in my career and to be able to do that and pay tribute to Dale was pretty cool," Harvick said. "I've been waiting a long time to do that."
He said he was emotional on Sunday because he was moved to see his team so happy.
"For me there was just a lot of happiness," Harvick said, adding "There's nothing better than seeing all those guys smile."
The win came one week after Austin Dillon, who now has the No. 3 that Earnhardt made famous, won the Daytona 500 .
"You see that 3 back in victory lane and us back in victory lane tonight, it's almost, it's how it's meant to be," Harvick said, smiling.
The win completed an impressive weekend for Harvick following a similarly dominant win in the second-tier Xfinity event on Saturday.
Harvick started fourth in the Cup race and quickly proved he had the car to beat.
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