By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Sunday night’s Southern 500 saw four playoff drivers crash out and a slew of others encounter mistakes and hardships across 367 laps. Kevin Harvick, relatively, was not one of them.
Leading 20 laps on the night, Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford managed to escape the chaos Sunday to come home in the fifth position. The result was his seventh top-five finish of 2021 and, more importantly, kicks off his playoff run above the cut line.
“It wasn’t super clean. There were little things here and there but relatively — compared to everybody else,” Harvick said. “This is always one of those races that has a lot of stuff happens and you have to keep yourself rolling. That’s what we did tonight. We had a few issues but we worked through them and were able to have a fast enough car to run top five.”
Exiting Darlington 22 points to the green with two races to go in the Round of 16, Harvick was not surprised to see so many issues with his fellow championship contenders.
To him, it’s classic Darlington and typical playoff-opening craziness.
“That really shouldn’t surprise anybody,” he said. “We’ve done this for a long time, so if anybody is surprised, they are very, very new.
“Darlington in general is one of those places that creates chaos in itself. There are a lot of places you can make a mistake. And it’s the first race of the playoffs. Everyone always loses their minds in the first race of the playoffs. It happens every year.
“If it’s not the first race, it’ll be one of the first three… or four, five and six… seven, eight or nine. At some point, they all lose their minds.”
So, how did Harvick keep his mind in check across the four-hour race?
“I’ve been to Darlington a whole bunch of times. You race the racetrack. It’s just what you do,” he said. “Just because it’s the first race of the playoffs, you can’t force the issue here. You just take what you can get and luckily tonight we had a good enough car to keep us up front.”