Harvick wins at Fontana on final turn pass
Growing up as a driver, Kevin Harvick wasn’t taught to stomp the
gas as hard as he could all the time. Sit back, let the others bang
into each other, then make your move was the way he was told to do
It seems to be working out quite well for him.
Pulling off what’s become his typical linger-then-close move,
Harvick passed California king Jimmie Johnson on the final turn at
Auto Club Speedway to win after trailing the entire race.
”I always was taught to race, just go fast enough to put
yourself in position to be around at the end and make sure your car
still has all the fenders and tires and everything still underneath
it,” Harvick said. ”When it’s time to go, you have a little
something left, your car is hopefully fresher than the guys around
Kyle Busch had the dominant car most of the day and led a
race-high 151 laps, including off a restart with nine laps
Johnson, a five-time winner at Fontana, had the late burst,
chasing down Busch for the lead with two laps left.
Harvick, as he always seems to, nailed the finish.
He had a rough start to the season, finishing 42nd at Daytona
after a blown engine and hadn’t been able to pull it together since
despite having fast cars. His best finish was a fourth at
Harvick didn’t have a particularly strong qualifying session at
Fontana, either, to start 24th and wasn’t exactly ripping through
the field once the race started.
What he did was gradually work his way to the front, pulling up
behind Johnson after getting past Busch.
Taking advantage of a small gap to the outside, Harvick made his
move on Johnson going into Turn 3, then completed it coming around
Turn 4. Ahead going down the last straightway, he finished off his
becoming-a-trademark finish to take the checkers for the 15th time
in his career.
”I really felt good when they had that restart because I knew
his car was really fast on the long run,” said Richard Childress,
owner of Harvick’s No. 29 car. ”I knew if they didn’t get too far
out in front of us, we’d have a shot. All we needed was to get him
side-by-side and start racing. That gave Kevin a chance to catch
them and he made the right move going into 3.”
Unlike Saturday’s Nationwide race, which featured lead changes
seemingly every other lap, this one had drivers camped out front
for long stretches before the final flourish.
Part of it was the lack of cautions, the opening 75 laps coming
under green to set a track record. Overnight rain, which lingered
as mist until a couple hours before the race, also played a role.
Drivers who were able to get the setup right were able to get out
front and stay there while everyone else tinkered.
Mostly, that meant Busch.
He swept the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races last week at
Bristol, then opened with a Nationwide win at Auto Club, using a
late two-tire pit stop to beat Carl 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, but still managed to qualify eighth.
Busch took his first lead on Lap 22 and lost it a few times on
green-flag pit stops, but was back out front within a few laps,
pulling away on each of the four restarts.
He just didn’t have enough left after the leaders stayed out on
the last caution, spoiling his chance to pull off the NASCAR
weekend sweep two weeks in a row.
”It’s real unfortunate and disappointing and frustrating all in
one that we weren’t able to seal the deal today,” Busch said.
”You ask a little bit more from your race car at the last moments
and it just doesn’t have anything left to give. We were just a
sitting duck waiting for those guys to go around us.”
Johnson looked as if he were going to notch his fourth win in
six starts at California. He started 16th and worked his way toward
the front, tracking Busch down for the late pass after losing a
race off the line to him on the final restart.
Johnson just couldn’t hold off Harvick on those final two turns,
earning another solid finish at Auto Club Speedway that he had
hoped would be one place higher.
”Looking back, maybe if I could have got by Kyle a lot earlier,
maybe it could have made a difference,” Johnson said. ”But he
(Harvick) was rolling off the top really, really fast.”