Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick stayed red hot on Sunday, cruising to a dominating victory in the Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The triumph was Harvick’s third win in five races dating back to the final two races of last season and it marked his sixth consecutive top-two finish.
For his career, the Bakersfield, Calif., native now has 29 career victories in 505 career Sprint Cup starts. And on this day, he clearly had the best car, as his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet led 142 of 267 laps.
"Man, it’s so cool to win here in Las Vegas," said Harvick. "To start the West Coast swing this way is pretty awesome — just to be in front of all these fans that I’ve raced in front of since the mid-‘90s. Pretty special to win here."
Martin Truex Jr. finished second in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet. Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin completed the top five.
The runner-up knew Harvick had the field covered all day.
"Harvick was so fast all day," said Truex. "I got the lead on him once on a restart and thought, ‘Ah, this is pretty cool.’ But I didn’t have anything to hold him off, so we’ll keep working."
Harvick qualified 18th, but quickly worked his way forward.
Joey Logano started from the pole after pole-sitter Jeff Gordon was collected in a crash with Danica Patrick during Happy Hour on Saturday and had to start the race from the rear.
Just as he did last week at Atlanta, Logano immediately broke to a big lead when the green flag flew to start the race.
Logano dominated early, with six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson going underneath for his first lead of the race on Lap 43.
But on Lap 92, Johnson had to pit from the lead under green for a loose right-front wheel. That handed the lead to Harvick for the first time, as Johnson fell one lap down.
Johnson’s hopes of victory ended completely on Lap 172, when he popped a right-front tire and his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet hit the frontstretch wall. Gordon got heavy front-end damage in the incident, as he ran into the back of Jeb Burton as Burton was forced to check up.
A second Johnson tire failure brought out the yellow again on Lap 187.
On a restart on Lap 192, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne tangled, with both cars getting damage and the yellow flying again.
"It’s completely my fault," said Edwards.
Shortly after the restart on Lap 193, Earnhardt went out front but stayed there for just a couple of laps before Harvick went back to the lead and quickly pulled away from Earnhardt.
The lead-lap cars all had to make one more stop for fuel and when the field cycled through Harvick led Earnhardt by 2.309 seconds with Truex third.
Then, Harvick radioed in and said he had a vibration, but he held on to win as Truex took second.
Asked what was going on, Harvick said, "I don’t know, but it wasn’t right. Luckily, we were able to hang on to it and had a good enough lead to where we could pace ourselves and keep the lead, I guess."
The last time a driver had six consecutive top-two finishes was Gordon in 1996. Now, the Sprint Cup teams head to Phoenix International Raceway, where Harvick has won five of the last six races. And if Sin City was any indication, he’s not finished winning yet.
VIDEO: Jeff Gordon talks about his frustrating finish at Las Vegas