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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

No win, but plenty of success for Harvick in Atlanta

RELATED: Full race results | Series standings

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Kevin Harvick has led 100 or more laps in five of the last six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, including a whopping 292 of 325 Sunday.

None, however, have ended with Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team celebrating in Victory Lane, and that included Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the 1.54-mile track.

It took a pit road miscue to do something the rest of his competitors could not -- wrest the lead away from the 2014 series champion.

Harvick was one of 13 instances where a driver was penalized for speeding on pit road during the course of the race, but his appeared to be the most painful of the lot. Forced to restart outside the top 15 with only 11 laps remaining, the best he could manage was to bring the black-and-white Ford home ninth in the field.

Brad Keselowski (Team Penske Ford) passed Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet) with seven laps remaining en route to earning his first career win at Atlanta.

Big picture? It was the second consecutive race the No. 4 team and the SHR organization came out strong (teammate Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 a week earlier), and once again Harvick made the most of NASCAR's new stage format, winning the first two stages Sunday to collect an additional 20 points.

Sunday's finish and points total vaulted him atop the point standings after the first two races of '17.

He now also has three points for use if he should qualify for NASCAR's 16-team, 10-race playoff.

"The good part about it is our Ford has been really fast," Harvick said. "We didn't know what we were going to have when we got here and we had a great weekend the whole time."

Harvick is a one-time winner at Atlanta, scoring his first career victory at NASCAR's top level here in 2001, shortly after he was chosen to drive the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet following the death of Dale Earnhardt.

"This place, for whatever reason, I just feel like I'm snake bitten," Harvick said. "It's my own doing today. I really didn't think I was even close on pit lane. ...

"I thought I was being conservative, apparently I wasn't. ... I was just pushing too hard."

RELATED: Harvick edges Gordon for 2001 win

Harvick started on the pole and led the first 36 laps, gave the lead up briefly during a round of green-flag pit stops, then led 88 more before another trip to pit road cycled another driver into the lead briefly.

And that's how it went most of the day, big chunks for Harvick, crumbs for a handful of others. Which is what made it a bit more difficult to digest for Harvick.

"I just made a mistake that I preach all the time that you don't need to make and beat yourself and then you go out and make it yourself instead of following all the things you preach," he said. "That part is hard for me to swallow."

If Harvick was down on himself, crew chief Rodney Childers told his driver not to worry as they spoke on pit road afterward.

"I'm going to make a hell of a lot more mistakes than he is," Childers said.

Childers did agree with Harvick's snake-bit feeling though, saying "I think Kevin's got a jinx on him ever since he won that race in Big E's car."

"Man he is so good here, he knows what he needs, he knows what the car is supposed to feel like. It's so much fun coming here with him," Childers said.

"Everybody talks about Phoenix all the time, but I enjoy coming here more than I enjoy going to Phoenix. He's unbelievable."

Great car, great effort, just one "little deal" near the end made a big, big difference.

Childers isn't concerned about any fallout moving forward. He has faith in his team and his driver.

"If he keeps the attitude he's had the last two weeks," Childers said, "we're going to be in good shape."

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