Kevin Harvick already had won three times this season, but it would be hard to argue against his runaway win Sunday at Dover International Speedway as his most dominant so far.
He won the 120-lap Stage 1 easily, did the same over the next 120 laps to win Stage 2 and then was the boldest and fastest driver on the track over the final 160 laps, beating Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer by 7.450 seconds.
“Awesome weekend all around,” Harvick said over the in-car radio as he crossed the finish line. “Thank you guys so much.”
Mexico’s Daniel Suarez finished third, his best as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver. Martin Truex Jr. and SHR’s Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
“Definitely now we’re moving in the right direction,” said Suarez on FS1 after the race.
The only question for Harvick and his No. 4 Ford Fusion team was if a mechanical issue, the weather or a bad pit stop would throw a wrench into things.
And Mother Nature did show up with a caution for rain with 85 laps to go with Bowyer in the lead, Harvick second, Joey Logano third, Truex fourth and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five.
But after the 41-minute delay, Bowyer’s car began handling poorly, and Harvick was back in the lead with 62 to go with a pass on the outside.
The “Monster Mile” is notorious for eating up tires and collecting wrecked cars when grip suddenly gives way or those tires run flat.
It claimed its share of victims again Sunday as strategies centered on managing tire wear and fuel mileage.
Keselowski held the lead late in Stage 1 before giving it up to Harvick with 12 laps to go in the stage as Keselowski had to conserve fuel to make it to the end of the 120 laps.
On the cool-down laps after the stage before being allowed to pit, many drivers switched their engines off and on for fear of running out of fuel after most had pitted no later than Lap 25. Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Ryan Newman ran out.
Harvick proved to be the class of the field though 240 laps and the end of the second stage, winning Stage 2 going away over Keselowski.
Kyle Larson, who was supposed to start on the pole after running the best qualifying time Friday, had to start from the rear after his car failed prerace inspection three times. His car chief, David Bryant, was also ejected from the track for the infraction as per NASCAR rules. Larson battled back to finish ninth.