With Sunday's win, Kevin Harvick (4) broke a tie with Tony Stewart at 49 wins and is now tied with Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett for 12th on the all-time wins list. File Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
May 17 (UPI) -- Kevin Harvick edged Alex Bowman to win The Real Heroes 400 on Sunday at Darlington Raceway in NASCAR's first race back following a 10-week layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Harvick led a race-high 159 laps in Sunday's 293-lap event in Darlington, S.C., which took place without fans in attendance. The victory marked Harvick's 50th at NASCAR's top level, as he became the 14th driver in Cup Series history to reach that milestone.
With the win, Harvick broke a tie with Tony Stewart at 49 wins and is now tied with Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett for 12th on the all-time wins list.
After the race, Harvick thanked health care workers for their efforts in combating COVID-19. NASCAR's first event was called "The Real Heroes 400" in honor of those fighting the virus.
The names of health care workers across the United States were substituted for the drivers' name above the door on each of the 40 cars in the race. Harvick paid tribute to Dr. Josh Hughes, whose name was listed on Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, following the race.
"It's a pretty big honor to win 50 races in this deal," Harvick told reporters. "Just got to thank all my team guys and everybody for what they're doing. This Dr. Josh Hughes is one of my really good friends. [I] spent a lot of time with him and [saw] how this whole pandemic has affected our front-line workers and persons on a weekly basis."
Bowman finished in second, followed by Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top 10.
Kenseth, 48, made his NASCAR return after retiring from racing at the conclusion of the 2018 season. He replaced Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. The organization previously fired Larson after he used a racial slur during an iRacing event.
Ryan Newman, who was involved in a serious crash at the end of this year's Daytona 500, also returned to the track and finished 15th. Brad Keselowski, who earned the pole position from a random draw, ended in 13th.