NASCAR

Harvick earns dramatic Fontana win

Kevin Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin live it up after the win.
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Lisa Horne

Lisa Horne is entering her fifth year as a correspondent for FOXSports.com. She is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and a frequent guest on sports radio shows. Follow her on Twitter.

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Kevin Harvick led just one lap in Sunday's Auto Club 400, but it was the one that counted.

The 29 car came out of nowhere late, passing Jimmie Johnson on the final lap to earn the victory at Fontana.

"Yeah, we led the right one, that's for sure," Harvick said after earning his first victory of the season.

Despite a wet weekend and dark gray threatening skies, Mother Nature held herself in check for one of the most exciting finishes ever at Auto Club Speedway.

After the final restart with nine laps remaining, Kyle Busch held the lead while Jimmie Johnson was stalking in second place. Kevin Harvick appeared in third and was gaining ground fast.

"I knew I had a little left in the tank on that last restart," Harvick said. "It was tight, but it was the right time to go."

After Johnson pushed past Busch for the lead, Harvick quickly moved into second place and started to move outside on Turn 3.

"Him being that close and kind of breaking the plane of our bumper, certainly affects how my car drove," said Johnson, a five-time winner at Fontana.

NASCAR racing at Auto Club Speedway

California sun

Blue skies showed up just in time on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

Harvick completed the pass and took the checkered flag for his 15th career NASCAR Sprint Cup win. Harvick started the race in 24th.

"Well, we had them all beat last year here and I gave it away," Harvick said, who was quick to credit his crew chief Gil Martin for opting not to enter pit road with most of the field late in the race.

"All these guys did a great job on pit road and Gil made the right call," he said.

"When I saw those guys pit at the end, I said 'man we might be in deep trouble'. But we held those guys off and our car just kept going."

The win was an exciting conclusion to what ended up being a very successful Southern California weekend for Harvick, who finished third in the Nationwide series race on Saturday.

"I'll take third on Saturday and first on Sunday any day," he said.

Johnson took second while Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.

"Just real, real unfortunate and frustrating and disappointing all in one that we weren't able to seal the deal today," Kyle Busch said. "You're essentially a sitting duck waiting for those guys to drive by you.

Harvick agreed.

"Well, the 18, he got loose. He made a couple mistakes, took himself out of contention there at the end.

"Maybe his car was just loose that we was trying to do all he could do to stay up there."

Carl Edwards pulled off another impressive finish in sixth place; Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and Juan Pablo Montoya filled spots 7-10.

There was a dearth of cautions during Sunday's race, as the race started with a record-setting 75 laps without a yellow light.

Mostly, that meant Kyle Busch.

It was a disappointing end for Kyle, who followed last weekend's Bristol sweep with a win in the Nationwide series race. He used a late two-tire pit stop to beat Edwards and Harvick, who each took four tires.

Busch had a rough start to his Sprint Cup weekend, forced to a backup car after sliding into the wall on his first practice lap on Friday. He still managed to qualify eighth and led a race-high 151 laps.

"Today was a really, really good race for us anyways," Busch said, who also said his team "couldn't get anymore out of the car."

The first caution of the day was out on Lap 74 for debris on the track. While all of the cars on the lead lap pitted, Tony Stewart didn't. His tires only had six laps on them at the time, so he stayed out and took the lead with teammate Newman in second place.

Denny Hamlin ran into problems and fell to last among cars on the lead lap after telling his crew "It's electrical, I hear it." Hamlin had asked his crew chief to get an ignition set ready for the right side, but crew chief Mike Ford responded, "We got it. But it sounds like it's down a cylinder."

Hamlin's car was smoking on Lap 105 and after failing to fire the car back up in the pit, his car was pushed to the garage.

Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart and five laps later, his brother Kurt hit the wall but stayed straight and on speed. He had a very uneventful race after 100 laps and appeared to be a little frustrated.

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On Lap 113, Kurt couldn't contain his emotions. "You can take this back to (technical director) Tom German and tell him to shove it up his ...," he said into his radio.

Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne made a rookie mistake on the third lap when he slipped up high and rubbed the wall on Turn 4. His car sustained some damage along the right side but the caution flag didn't come out. Hamlin grabbed the lead from Montoya on Lap 8, but he didn't hold it for long.

Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Vickers made strong early pushes. Earnhardt had moved up 14 spots in 22 laps and Vickers had moved into eighth after 35 laps.

The Toyotas and Chevrolets looked strong early and held nine of the top 10 positions by Lap 40.

A tire changer in Earnhardt's pit suffered an apparent leg injury during a pit stop on Lap 43. The crew member was taken out of the pits via stretcher after suffering a hamstring injury.
 

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