Harvick wins on NASCAR return at Darlington

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Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick claimed victory at Darlington in the Real Heroes 400 on Sunday as NASCAR made its return following a two-month absence.

Held without spectators, Harvick dominated the final laps of the race after pole-sitter Brad Kesolowski had taken the victory in stage two.

Stage one was won by Chevrolet driver William Byron after seven-time NASCAR cup winner Jimmie Johnson spun out 100 metres from the line, although Byron then spun himself at around the halfway point.

The race began in unusual fashion with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashing out on the first lap, which brought out a saftey car, before a competition caution delayed proceedings further.

However, Harvick slowly took control as the race neared the finish, taking the checkered flag having led 159 laps.

The 44-year-old now leads the standings by 28 points from second-place man Alex Bowman, while Kurt Busch's third place finish has moved him up to 13th in the standings.

“I just want to thank everybody from NASCAR and all the teams for letting us do what we do,” Harvick told Fox Sports after the race.

“Then we won the race and it’s dead silent out here. We miss the fans. “It’s a pretty big honor to win 50 races in this deal and I just have to thank all my team guys and everybody for what they’re doing. We’re bringing home the trophy, it doesn’t seem real. Man, I’m excited. It is weird because there’s nobody up there. I’m speechless.”

Next up for NASCAR is the Toyota 500 on Wednesday, which will also be held at Darlington.