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NASCAR Saturday race at Pocono results: 3 takeaways from Kevin Harvick's victory

Alex Andrejev, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

Before Saturday, Kevin Harvick was one of a handful of NASCAR drivers with 51 Cup Series race victories. Now, he's a 52-time race winner who finally conquered Pocono Raceway after 39 career starts at the track.

"That's great to finally check Pocono off the list," Harvick said on Fox after winning the Pocono Organics 325. He had previously finished in second place four times, but never in first.

The No. 4 driver completed the race just ahead of Denny Hamlin, in second place, and in front of Aric Almirola in third.

Harvick the Cup Series points leader, now only has Kentucky and the ROVAL race at Charlotte to check off his resume. He will start 20th for Sunday's race at Pocono after the lineup is inverted.

PIT STRATEGY PLAYED OUT AT POCONO

After pit stops and fuel runs cycled through in the final stage, Harvick emerged at the race leader with 17 laps left in the race. Both Harvick and Stage 2 winner Almirola pitted at the same time after the second stage, but Harvick took only two tires, while Almirola's team changed all four. Still, Harvick was able to put over 10 seconds between him and Almirola in third place with 10 laps to go.

 

It was Hamlin, in second place, who ran up behind Harvick in the same line, but the No. 11 car complained about vibration and was unable to pass Harvick before the checkered flag.

Led by Harvick for the finish, Joey Logano in Stage 1 and Almirola in Stage 2, Ford cars handled the Tricky Triangle with ease. Almirola, who started on the pole by random draw, finished in second place in the first stage, then secured his first stage victory of the season at Pocono. Logano finished second in Stage 2, but dropped out of the top 10 in the final laps of the race.

Almirola led many laps of the 130-lap race, a first for the No. 10 driver this season. Team Penske's Ryan Blaney and Wood Brothers Racing driver Matt DiBenedetto also had strong races, as both finished in the top 10 for the first two stages to secure points for their teams and Ford manufacturer. Ford driver Clint Bowyer finished in seventh.

Although Hamlin was a contender for the win at the finish, Joe Gibbs teammate and reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Busch has had a quiet start to the season. Busch, who won a race at Pocono last summer, finished in fourth, eighth, and fifth place, respectively, in each of the three stages.

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