NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
                === Harvick wins Southern 500 at Darlington ===
 
 Darlington,  SC  (SportsNetwork.com)  -  Kevin Harvick  ended  the  streak  of
 different  race winners to  start the 2014 Sprint Cup Series season as well as
 snapped his streak of bad luck over the last several weeks by winning Saturday
 night's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
 
 Harvick  started on the pole and led a total of 238 laps but had to rally late
 in  the race for  the win. The scheduled 501-mile race at Darlington went into
 overtime twice, extending it an extra 10 miles and making it the longest event
 in the 65-year history of this famed track.
 
 Harvick held a 1.8-second lead over Jimmie Johnson when the ninth caution came
 in  the  closing laps for  fluid that dropped on  the track from Joey Logano's
 car.  It  set up  the first green-white-checkered  finish. During the caution,
 Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon each made a two-tire
 change  and came out  of the pits 1-4, respectively, while Harvick had a four-
 tire stop and exited in fifth.
 
 After the restart for the first overtime, Clint Bowyer bumped into the back of
 Kurt  Busch, causing Busch to spin out and slam into the inside wall along the
 backstretch.  Earnhardt  had passed  Johnson for the  lead while Harvick moved
 into second just before the caution flag waved for Busch's crash.
 
 Earnhardt  led the way for the final restart, but Harvick moved around him for
 the top position with less than two laps to go. Harvick then beat Earnhardt to
 the  finish line by  0.6 seconds to become the first repeat winner in NASCAR's
 premier series this season. There had been seven different race winners before
 Darlington.
 
 "I  needed  those  green-white-checkers,"  Harvick said.  "The  last  one  was
 probably  the one I  needed the most, just for the fact that I was able to get
 really  good restarts and  be able to time the restarts really well. And those
 guys had older tires and were spinning their tires...It was a good night. It's
 the Southern 500."
 
 Harvick  won at  Phoenix International  Raceway on  March 2  but had  finished
 outside  the  top-35 in four  of the  next five races.  He placed 42nd in last
 Monday's  rain-delayed  race at Texas Motor  Speedway due to engine failure on
 lap 29.
 
 "We've  had  to overcome a  lot through the last  several weeks, but we've had
 really fast race cars," he said. "Just kept our heads down and kept doing what
 we had to do."
 
 Harvick  claimed  his 25th career  Sprint Cup  victory, including his first at
 Darlington  in 18 starts here. He also became the first driver to win from the
 pole at this track since Dale Jarrett in 1997.
 
 With  two  victories this  season, Harvick  is now guaranteed  to be among the
 top-15  winners  that will  earn  a  spot in  the  Chase  for the  Sprint  Cup
 championship.  His  Darlington win  moved him  from 26th to  22nd in the point
 standings.
 
 Earnhardt's  runner-up  finish is his  career-best at Darlington. His previous
 best  finish  here was fourth  (2002 and '08).  Earnhardt began this season by
 winning the Feb. 23 Daytona 500.
 
 "It's a little disappointing to come that close, because I know I don't really
 run  that  well here  and the  opportunities to win  are going  to be very few
 compared to other tracks," Earnhardt said. "It hurts a little bit to come that
 close, because we worked so hard to try to win races. Running second is great,
 but nobody is going to really remember that. But we're proud of it."
 
 Johnson  ended  up finishing third, while  Kenseth, who won this race one year
 ago, took the fourth spot. Greg Biffle was fifth.
 
 "Just  very happy  to finish there in the top-three," Johnson said. "I thought
 we  had  a shot at  a win. I  think if things stayed  green after our last pit
 stop, we had a good chance at it, good shot at it. I'm happy with [crew chief]
 Chad [Knaus'] decision to go with two [tires], and there were enough cars that
 took  two that it gave us a little bit of a cushion, maybe enough of a cushion
 to make it four or five laps there."
 
 Starting  26th,  Johnson dealt with an  ill-handling car early in the race but
 eventually made his way through the field before taking the lead for the first
 time on lap 360.
 
 "Solid  performance,  granted  we  struggled in  qualifying,"  he  added.  "We
 struggled  the first run or two of the race, but we got the car turning for me
 and  came to life and really did it the old-fashioned way and kind of drove up
 through the field before the last pit stop. So proud of the hard work."
 
 Kyle  Busch  finished sixth, while Gordon  wound up in seventh. Kyle Larson, a
 rookie this season, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman completed the top-10.
 
 Logano,  who won at Texas five days ago, passed Harvick on the opening lap and
 led the first 37 laps. He finished 35th after suffering a damaged front hub.
 
 The  series  takes its first  break of the season  next weekend for Easter and
 then  resumes its  schedule on  Saturday, April  26 at  Richmond International
 Raceway.
 
 04/13 00:52:02 ET

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