Kevin Harvick, drive of the number four, was the first car across the finish line with a 2.154- second lead over second place Alex Bowman (88) clinching the victory in Sunday’s “The Real Heroes 400” at Darlington Raceway under beautiful partly cloudy skies in Darlington, South Carolina.
May 17th, 2020 marked the return of the first major professional sport since the COVID-19 virus shut the entire world down back in early March. As far as anyone could tell, with the exceptions of a few wrecks and mishaps, the event went off without a hitch. The Real Heroes 400 was slowed by caution 10 times for 57 laps, one caution at lap 30 for a competition caution, two of which were the stage breaks at lap 90 and lap 188. There were 10 lead changes between six drivers. The race took three hours, 27 minutes and 21 seconds to complete with an average race speed of 110.310 mph.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that much different, then we won the race and it is dead silent out here,” Harvick told Fox reporter Regan Smith at the finish line. “So, we miss the fans!”
As predicted by a lot of industry insiders the first yellow flag was displayed before the field completed the first lap, and caused by Ricky Stenhouse Jr (47) spinning coming out of turn two and hitting the inside wall on the back stretch.
Other newsworthy cautions were the third caution involving Jimmie Johnson (48), the leader at the time and Chris Buescher (17), as Johnson was coming to take the green and white checkered flag on the last lap of stage one. The 48 got loose coming out of turn two and slid up bumping the 17 causing the 17 to bang off the outside wall, while the 48 slid to the inside shorting the front of Johnson’s car up quite a bit. Buescher was able to continue while Johnson’s car got a tow truck ride back to the hauler, and Johnson an ambulance ride to the infield care center, where he was checked and released.
The last report from Johnson was a live tweet he put out as he was headed back to Charlotte to prep for Wednesday’s race back in Darlington. Then, on lap 150 was the start of a caution that any other year would seem weird and out of the ordinary, but with all the happenings in 2020 it was about par for the course.
An adhesive sponsor banner for “Blue Emu” stuck to the wall in turn two apparently wasn’t glued well enough to withstand being hit by a stock car driving by at 110 mph. This happened when Kyle Busch (18) picked up a Darlington Stripe.
Normally the sponsor banners are actually painted straight on the walls, so they don’t come unglued during a race. With everything going on in the rush to get the track “race ready” for today’s race the track had to compromise and improvise and used an adhesive banner on the wall.
Of course, if something falls off a wall to the middle of the racing groove in the middle of a race while cars are on the track, someone’s going to hit it, this time it was Denny Hamlin (11). After a few laps Hamlin was able to get up behind Clint Bowyer’s (14) car and get enough air turbulence to cause the sign to come off the nose.
It then blew straight back and stuck to the nose of Tyler Reddick’s (8) machine. By the time this all happened, four laps had passed and NASCAR put up a caution for debris on lap 154. During the yellow flag track workers went out and finished removing the banner off the wall.