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Kevin Harvick rolled into Atlanta Motor Speedway over the weekend as the odds of favorite to win the rescheduled Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 as the Stewart Haas driver’s past performances makes this one of his favorite tracks.

He will forever be linked to the track as it was site of his first victory in the series after taking over for Dale Earnhardt Sr. after he lost his life in a crash in the season opening 2001 Daytona 500.

The win came just three weeks after replacing Earnhardt and on Sunday he took another Atlanta checkered flag for his 51st win in the series. Every driver has a track that seems to fit their style and Atlanta has to be that track for Harvick as he entered Sunday’s race having led 1,138 laps at the Georgia track which is more than any other active driver.

He added to that total as he led a race high 151 laps including the last 55 on his way to a 3 ½ seconds win over second place driver Kyle Busch. It was Harvick’s second win since the series resumed its schedule starting at Darlington without any fans in the stands and it is when the winner crawls out of his car at the start/finish line that you notice their absence as the lack of cheering creates an eerie silence.

This time was a little different for Harvick as he honored the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. by doing a reverse victory lap as he held three fingers outside of his car. This trip to Atlanta for the series was an emotional return to the track that was originally scheduled to host the race on March 15 but became the first race postponed due to the pandemic.

The return over the weekend came at a time when the country is in the midst of social unrest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

NASCAR acknowledged the social unrest when it addressed the situation just before the start of the race by stopping the entire field of 40 cars in front of the front stretch grandstands to listen to a message delivered by NASCAR president Steve Phelps and then observe a 30-second moment of silence. FOX also showed a video that featured several drivers from the series that promised to do more to push for changes that could help heal the country.

PIT NOTES: The 2020 season marks the end of the five-year agreements NASCAR had with the tracks that make up the Cup schedule. The 2021 Cup schedule has long been rumored to be the break from what has become a very traditional schedules that only has slight changes from previous seasons. The postponed races due to the pandemic may have forced NASCAR’s hand somewhat as midweek races have been held and met with approval from both drivers and fans. A doubleheader was on the original schedule for this season and is still expected to take place at Pocono. Both midweek races and doubleheaders are ways in which the sanctioning body can reduce the length of the season. One change for next year’s schedule features an agreement between NASCAR and Dover Motorsports, Inc. to host a Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway. The 1.33-mile track was built in 2001 and has a history of hosting NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series races. Dover International Speedway currently hosts two Cup Series races a season but will only host one race in 2021 in return for the Nashville race date. One interesting note in the agreements with Dover and Nashville is that there is a minimum attendance clause. It states that the Promoter will use best efforts to ensure a minimum spectator attendance in grandstand seating during the NASCAR Cup race portion of the competition of at least seventy percent.

Steve Mickey writes about NASCAR for HD Media.