What we learned from NASCAR's long awaited return
Sunday’s Real Heroes 400 at Darlington, won by Kevin Harvick, marked the first time in 71 days that there was a NASCAR race. In addition to discovering what a weird atmosphere a track with no fans made, there were three important things to take away from this race.
"The Closer" is consistent
Harvick, the betting favorite to win the year-end championship, is the only driver to place in the Top 10 in all five races this season. He should be happy to race again at Darlington this Wednesday night in the Toyota 500 (7:30 p.m., FS1), as he’s been 10th or better in eight straight races at the South Carolina oval, the longest active streak in the sport.
However, Harvick will start 20th in Wednesday night’s race, in a unique attempt by NASCAR to level the playing field without qualifying. He could be an underlay to sweep the Darlington doubleheader at +400, but will be hard to side against in any head-to-head matchups.
Alex Bowman is blossoming
Alex Bowman, who recently signed a one-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports, has an average finishing position of 7.5 over his last four races after placing second in Sunday’s Real Heroes 400.
His win at Auto Club Speedway, the second of the 28-year-old driver’s NASCAR career, was one of the more dominant efforts of the year. However, it remains to be seen how his car will fare starting from 19th on Wednesday night after being forwardly-placed for most of Sunday’s race.
Kyle Busch is human
The Real Heroes 400 could not have gone much worse for Kyle Busch.
He started at the back of the 40-car field due to a failed pre-race inspection. "The Candy Man" would peak at ninth place during Stage 2 before a costly unscheduled pit stop during Stage 3 to fix a loose wheel sunk his chances at a Top 20. On Wednesday night, he’ll start exactly where he finished Sunday’s event – 26th.
Busch has a mediocre (by his standards) 16.0 average finishing position through five races this year.