Kevin Harvick aka Happy Harvick, made it two for two in winning races this weekend, putting his No.4 Mobil 1 Ford in Victory Circle Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. He won the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Harvick was the 11th winner in the 16 Cup races so far.
Harvick, the California Kid, had never won a Cup race at Sonoma, the Cup track he considers ‘home.’ His team owner, Tony Stewart, won the race last year. This year, the Stewart Haas, owned by Stewart and Gene Haas, team switched to Ford.
“It’s been a lotta work, a lotta hours, and it’s paying off. This is worth the wait, to come to Sonoma for so many years. This weekend has worked out well.
“It means a ton to get this Sonoma win. To finally check this one off the list. I feel like we have been close a couple times but never put it all together. Being so close to home and having raced here so much, this was one that was on the top of the list and today we were able to check that box.”
Harvick hadn’t won a race this year, so this was his first win of the season, his 36th career victory, and his first win since his team switched to Ford for this season. The team has won twice, the other victory belonging to Kurt Busch. Ford has won seven races this season. Harvick’s win brings him up to third in the Driver points.
As race wore down, Harvick was slowing down to save fuel, but still maintaining a healthy lead ahead of contending SHR teammate,Clint Bowyer. Harvick led twice in the race, laps 65-66 and the last 21 laps.
Harvick beat Bowyer by 8.036 seconds. Harvick had slowed his pace to save on fuel, gambling on there being no late-race caution. Bowyer had some interactions with a couple of other drivers, but hung in there to finish runner-up. “You get there back in traffic and you’re so much faster than them you have to check up to save a mistake. You run over them and you don’t mean to; you get frustrated and get a little bit farther behind and a little bit farther behind. I saw the 42 (Kyle Larson) check up and I get into him and I was thinking, ‘Well, we’ll both survive this’. And then all of a sudden the 47 (AJ Allmendinger) was coming through him and I smoked him and hurt the left front. We were fast all weekend. With clean air and an long run, that’s always my strong suit. We got the long run, we just had to start dead last to get it.”
Bowyer had the CARS 3 racecar this weekend. For those who need more encouragement to go see the movie just out, which features substantial voiceovers from the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, here is another photo of the Pixar CARS.
Third through fifth were Brad Keselowski/No.2 Freightliner Elite Support Ford; Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Ground Toyota; and Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran as high as third, but finished sixth overall. He was asked what stood out for him in his 17-race career, making him the most proud. “I think the wins and everything, are great. I enjoyed celebrating those. But, long after your career; guys come along and win races and some of your accomplishments on the track sort of get forgotten. But, who you are as a person never gets forgotten. People never forget who you were. I hope people just thought I was good and honest and represented the sport well. I hope people that work with me enjoyed working with me, whether it was in the Late Model ranks or whatever; and I hope the guys I raced against enjoyed racing with me. That’s really all that will matter. And, what people I think will remember, is always you’re alive and beyond. Hopefully I left a good impression. I’ve had a lot of fun.”
Pole Sitter Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet led for the first nine laps before being passed by Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota. He then ran off course and fell backwards. Larson won four different races in the past week, but was lapped in the fading moments of the Cup race. He finished twenty-sixth. However, Larson maintain his points lead, 659 points, thirteen ahead of Truex.
Daniel Suarez/No.19 Stanley Toyota was the top Rookie, finishing sixteenth.
Harvick won Saturday’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Pro Series-West race, and said then, and now, that he wanted to keep busy on weekends, wanted to get more laps on a road course, and definitely wanted to bring more attention to and work with the Western series to help them get more attention and sponsorship. The Western drivers sometimes don’t get equal representation or focus as do the Eastern series, and Harvick wants to change that.
Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota won the first Stage, making it the eleventh stage he’s won this season, which helps him points wise. With two wins and 11 stages, he has 21 Playoff Points, more than any other Cup driver. His day didn’t end so well, however, as his engine failed and he retired on Lap 86.
Jimmie Johnson/No48 Lowe’s Chevrolet won Stage Two, his first. He already has two victories, so he’s in the Playoffs.
Danica Patrick/No.10 Code 3 Associates Ford had a character-building race. She had her best start this season, sixth. Patrick had contact with Earnhardt in the first stage, and finished thirty-seventh. That brought out a caution to rearrange the tire stacks. She started Stage Two from twentieth, and had another contact with Earnhardt which included AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroeger Chevrolet, which spun her wherein she was then hit by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr/No.17 Fastenal Ford. Patrick finished that stage in 34th. She started Stage Three from eighteenth spot and finished 17th, on the lead lap. “It definitely wasn’t the day the Code 3 Associates team was expecting, but we were able to battle back to a decent finish. The car was just awful in the final laps of the last two runs, but we made the most of it at the end.” Her boyfriend, Stenhouse, was evaluated and released from the infield care center.
Also into character-building was Allmendinger. He started fifth, led for four laps and then had encounters and excursions. He then lost power and finished thirty-fifth, six laps down. “I don’t know what happened there. I just noticed what was going to be our final pit stop I kind of looked down and just noticed the battery starting to die. From there that was it. Shutting all the switches off and everything wasn’t going to work. I’m mad at myself for not driving very well. The car was pretty good. That first stint was good. The No. 78 (Martin Truex) was pretty good, but thought we were going to be okay. I just didn’t drive very well and just bad luck again.”
Kasey Kahne/No.5 Microsoft Windows Chevrolet hit the wall hard on the last lap which brought out a caution but didn’t affect Harvick taking the victory. Kahne finished twenty-fourth, one lap down. He was evaluated and released from the infield care center. “It was a hard hit. No. 15 no clue who he is, I saw him a lot today lapping him, but he went low down the front stretch and then just, I was going to his outside and he just turned right and just hit me, put me straight in the wall getting the white flag there. No clue what he was thinking. You obviously don’t know what he’s doing either.”
There were ten leaders and thirteen lead changes. Other leaders were Truex three times for 25 laps; Hamlin twice for thirteen laps; Keselowski once for 17 laps; Johnson once for 12 laps; Kyle Busch once for three laps; JTG Daughtery Chevrolet teammates, AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroeger and Chris Buescher/No.37 Kingsford, each once for four laps; and Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet, once for a lap. McMurray also turned the fastest lap
As the race progressed, the average race speed increased to 77.710 mph, but never reached last year’s average of 80.966 mph. The three-stage race was interrupted by six cautions for 12 laps, but none for the third and final stage – 60 laps.
There were several speeding tickets, including Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and Joey Logano.
Other penalties included too many crew over wall or over wall too soon or not in contact with outside tire, and pitting before pit road open.
Post Race Tech Inspection Report: First and second place cars plus the random car, No.1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet passed the ‘At Track’ Inspection and left for the NASCAR R&D Facility in Charlotte. The third, fourth and fifth place finishing cars passed the ‘At Track’ Inspection and were released. NASCAR Tech had an issue with the No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota having two lug nuts not safe and secure. This means a one-race suspension for the Crew Chief and a $20,000 fine. The Kyle Busch team is already serving a Crew Chief suspension for having five lug nuts not safe and secure leaving the pits at Dover. That wheel left the car. At Sonoma, the No.18 Assistant Crew Chief was filling in. Now the No.18 team will go to the next backup Crew Chief.
The next race is 1 July 2017 at Daytona International Speedway.