Kevin Harvick won the opening round of the 2020 NASCAR Cup playoffs at Darlington as long-time race leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott hit the wall late on.
Truex had picked up both stage victories, though lost the race lead to Denny Hamlin at the start of the final stage.
Polesitter Elliot had started strong, finishing third in stage one, but fell backwards in a relatively uneventful second stage.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver was running an alternate pit strategy to those at the front of the field, giving him an advantage when a caution was brought out in the closing stages of the race due to debris on track.
Elliot led Truex at the final restart and the pair soon began to battle for position.
Both drivers rubbed against the wall, damaging their tyres in the process. Elliott dropped down the order while Truex was forced to pit with a right rear puncture.
Harvick inherited the race lead and was kept under pressure from Austin Dillon, who dropped to the back of the field with an issue early in the race.
Dillon tried to force a mistake from Harvick, but the Stewart-Haas driver kept cool to record his eighth win of the season.
Joey Logano took third ahead of Erik Jones, the highest placed driver not in the playoffs.
William Byron held onto fourth ahead of Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch. Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer completed the top 10.
Denny Hamlin, who has been pushing Harvick all season, ran into an issue in the final stage.
He had been battling at the front of the order all race before contact with Jimmie Johnson as he tried to enter the pits meant he missed the pit entry.
The incident dropped him out of contention and he finished 13th.
It was far from the worst performance of a playoff driver, however, as Ryan Blaney was forced to start from the back of the grid and lost 10 points due to improperly placed ballast.
He spent the race trying to fight his way through the field and finished 24th, while Matt DiBenedetto could only do a little better in 21st.
Brad Keselowski, running an alternate strategy, finished 11th.
NASCAR Darlington results
|1||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|2||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing|
|3||Joey Logano||Team Penske|
|4||Erik Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|5||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports|
|6||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports|
|7||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|8||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|9||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|10||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|11||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske|
|12||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|13||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|14||Matt Kenseth||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|15||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing|
|16||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports|
|17||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|18||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports|
|19||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|20||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports|
|21||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood Brothers Racing|
|22||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|23||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing|
|24||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske|
|25||Daniel Suarez||Gaunt Brothers Racing|
|26||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing|
|27||Ty Dillon||Germain Racing|
|28||Brennan Poole||Premium Motorsports|
|29||Ross Chastain||Spire Motorsports|
|30||J.J. Yeley||Rick Ware Racing|
|31||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing|
|32||Josh Bilicki||Tommy Baldwin Racing|
|33||Joey Gase||Petty Ware Racing|
|34||Christopher Bell||Leavine Family Racing|
|35||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports|
|36||John Hunter Nemechek||Front Row Motorsports|
|37||Corey LaJoie||Go FAS Racing|
|38||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|39||James Davison||Rick Ware Racing|
|–||Reed Sorenson||Spire Motorsports|