Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR race at Sonona for first victory of season

Alfredo Watts | 27 June, 2017, 09:02

Kevin Harvick took the lead with with 22 laps to go and then coasted - literally, to save fuel - to the checkered flag in Sunday' Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Sonoma Raceway road course.

Based on his strong start in Europe and the U.S. - he raced a full season in a sub-league of the Indy 500, the U.S. version of Formula One - Day was selected early previous year to be a part of the 2016-17 NASCAR Next program, which highlights young, up-and-coming racers. Sonoma was one of just four active tracks where Harvick had never scored a Cup Series victory. He did, however, win the K&N Series race at Sonoma on Saturday and it may have given him some inside knowledge.

"Once the 78 (Truex) fell out, I thought we were 100-percent in control of the race", said Harvick. "So it's something pretty remarkable for me, and every time I think about it, it's just insane". Denny Hamlin is just outside the Top 5 on this list due to his poor road course showing in 2015 but last season finished runner-up here at Sonoma and then won the race at Watkins Glen.

And it didn't hurt that NASCAR officials reined in their trigger finger on the caution light and didn't flip it for debris or spinning cars over the final 10 laps until a hard hit by Kasey Kahne on the final circuit around the 1.99-mile road course.

Clint Bowyer finished in second while Brad Keselowski earned a third-place finish.

Bowyer, the driver for the entry that Tony Stewart used for his final NASCAR victory a year ago at the track, was second and Brad Keselowski third as Ford cars went 1-2-3.

Stewart was standing in the reflected glory of Kevin Harvick, victor of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 and part of the Stewart-Haas Racing team that Stewart partially owns. Harvick had spent 16 years with Chevrolet. He had said in the weeks leading into the season that the switch from Chevrolet to Ford would have its hiccups.

Day last week won the NASCAR Whelen Euro race in England on June 11 at Brands Hatch.

The Furniture Row driver has notched up a massive 21 Play-Off points - thanks to two race wins, and a whopping 11 stage wins - five more points than his closest rival, and stage two victor at Sonoma, Jimmie Johnson, who recently signed a contract extension to stay at Hendrick, who has 16. "It's just a big undertaking, and one day I think when we get done with this year, I think everybody will actually learn all the details of all the things that it took to get to this particular point".

In a race with remarkably few cautions - other than those ending each stage - the race still contained plenty of incidents, including a race-ending engine blow-out for stage one victor Martin Truex Jr.

According to oddsmakers at Bovada.lv, Martin Truex Jr. is the favorite to win this race, as he has 5/1 odds. Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray qualified second and will start next to Larson in the first row.

Truex remained second in driver points, 13 markers behind Kyle Larson. Any top-25 finish, he said, would have seemed like a moral victory. Kurt (Busch) winning the Daytona 500 and we have run well.

Ryan Blaney was seventh and followed by Chase Elliott, who is in a backup vehicle following a Friday wreck.

Five drivers will be making their first premier-series start in Sunday's 110-lap race. You know sometimes these things happen, so appreciate all their effort out there at TRD.

Bowyer understood Harvick was eventually going to win. While he doesn't have a win at the track, he does have seven top-10 finishes in 15 starts.

"That team that's won a championship, won all these races in the last five years - you're not going to keep them out of winning", Bowyer said.