Kevin Harvick Sweeps Sonoma; Becomes 11th Different Cup Series Winner Of 2017by Hunter Thomas June 25, 2017 0 comments
SONOMA, Calif. – Following a win in Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway, Kevin Harvick led the final 22 laps on Sunday en route to victory in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
Prior to Sunday’s race, Harvick had amassed five top-five finishes this year. He even finished runner-up at Pocono in early June; however, the driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Mobile Ford hadn’t reached Victory Lane this season until Sunday afternoon. The win marked the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion’s first victory at the California road course as well. It took the Bakersfield, California native 17 Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway, but he finally pulled the feat off. Harvick has now won at every active track on the schedule except Pocono, Texas and Kentucky.
“Yeah, we doubled our total in one weekend,” Harvick said. “But we definitely checked the most important one off, and that’s definitely in the Cup Series. You know, for me, it’s been a lot of close calls, and I think today with the car that we had all weekend, I felt like our car was fast enough to try to put ourselves in position towards the end of the race to have a chance to win.
“We gave up those ‑‑ I think we were second and fourth in the stages to come in and pit to try to win the race. I felt like that was definitely the right call, and then there at the end of the race, we were able to get to the end, saving the rear tires and still pulling away. It was a great weekend, and you just got to cherish the weekends when they’re like this because they don’t always go as smooth as this one did, so it’s nice to finally have that.”
For the third time in history, Stewart-Haas Racing finished one-two with Clint Bowyer crossing the finish line in second on Sunday. Bowyer, the driver of the No. 14 Cars 3 Ford tied his best finish of the season, but it certainly didn’t come easy. Just before Stage 1 ended, Bowyer spun off the nose of Brad Keselowski, and throughout the day, he certainly used his front bumper, but the long runs played in his favor as he was able to battle back.
“Well, let’s face it, short runs have never been my strong suit here, the long runs are, and thank God we got a long run there,” Bowyer said. “I was out of tires. By the time I got done tearing the hell out of my car, I was out of tires. Those stages, you know, I mean, obviously this is the first crack at it. That’s what lends to tore‑up race cars. It’s such a short stage, there was some technical strategy that you’ve got to try to play and get track position, and then all of a sudden you’re on the bad side of tires trying to hold guys off and you’re blocking. They’re stacked up behind them, and it’s just a recipe for disaster.”
Brad Keselowski was another driver who obtained heavy damage to his car, but he also battled back for a third-place finish. Keselowski’s Team Penske No. 2 Freightliner Elite Support Ford was all banged up as he captured his ninth top-five finish of the season.
“It was fun,” Keselowski said. “We had a really fast Elite Support Freightliner Ford, and man, when you have a car that great, you just ‑‑ you really enjoy every moment of it, and today was a day I really enjoyed. I had the slip‑up there and got into Clint and that really stank, but other than that, just an incredible race car, and really a pleasure to drive.”
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Jamie McMurray.
Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 saw a series record of lead changes at Sonoma Raceway. On 13 occasions, 10 drivers exchanged the top spot. Martin Truex Jr. led a race high of 25 laps, just one more lap than Harvick. Unfortunately for Truex Jr., engine issues took him out of the race on lap 86.
“It’s very disappointing, I mean, sitting there running second on seven cylinders and stayed right with the leader,” Truex Jr. said. “I mean this Toyota was so good today. Everyone at Furniture Row (Racing) did an awesome job with it. Everybody back in Denver, thank you for guys for just crazy fast cars. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) stuff has been really good for the past year and a half. You know sometimes these things happen, so appreciate all their effort out there at TRD. Make good power, it’s just this one wasn’t ready to go the whole distance today.”
With a 26th place finish, Kyle Larson now leads Truex Jr. in the standings by a mere 13 points.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will once again hit the high banks of Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, July 1 for the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola. Live race coverage will broadcast on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images