NASCAR returned on Sunday afternoon with The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway. There were no fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the drivers provided excitement for viewers at home. Kevin Harvick secured the victory during the race and added to his points total as the season resumed.
Early in the race, it appeared that Alex Bowman would be fighting for his second win of the season. He has shown an ability to succeed on low-grip tracks, such as Darlington, and he continued to spend his afternoon in the top-three. However, Harvick took the lead during Stage 3 and built upon his advantage for the remainder of the race. The veteran continued to put space between him and Bowman, which led to his first win of the season. He entered Sunday's race with the points lead and only further proved that he is once again a contender the championship.
NASCAR fans initially had no idea who would take home the victory during The Real Heroes 400 in the hours leading up to the race. The coronavirus forced the governing body to make changes to the traditional schedule, including cancellation of the practice laps. Additionally, there were no qualifying laps held on Thursday or Friday. NASCAR instead determined the starting order through a combination of owner's points and a lottery system.
With no practice laps, the fans could only guess about which drivers would perform the best on Sunday. Many opted for those that have considerable experience at the Lady in Black. Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin both have multiple wins at the track, so they were near the top of the list. The returning Matt Kenseth, who replaced the fired Kyle Larson, was also viewed as a contender in his season debut due to winning the Bojangles' Southern 500 in 2013.
Of course, several fans were rooting for Ryan Newman as he returned from a long absence. He crashed during the final lap of the season-opening Daytona 500 and spent the past few months recovering. Sunday's race marked Newman's return to the track, and many fans expected him to announce that he is back with a decisive victory at Darlington.
The race played out differently than what the fans expected. Johnson was fighting for a Stage 1 win early, but he crashed into the wall and was knocked from the race. William Byron, who passed Johnson for the stage win, suffered an incident of his own and dropped from first place down to the mid-30s.
There were several incidents early on Sunday, leading to an abundance of yellow caution flags. The race continued and featured battles between Bowman, Harvick and Kurt Busch. Ultimately, Harvick secured the win and did some burnouts to celebrate a day in which he led 159 of the 293 laps.