FONTANA, Calif — By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service — Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America photo —
It’s about time to start reserving a spot on the NASCAR podium for Kevin Harvick.
With a dominating victory in Saturday’s Drive4Clots.com 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race, Harvick won his second race of the season, his first at Auto Club Speedway and the 46th of his career, third-most all-time.
Incredibly, Harvick scored his 28th consecutive top 10 in the XFINITY Series, dating to 2013. With two victories and two seconds in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year to go with two wins and a third in the XFINITY Series, Harvick has recorded seven podium finishes in seven starts in both series combined.
“I’m just a lucky guy to be piloting really fast cars,” Harvick said in Victory Lane. “We’ve just got to keep riding the wave.”
It doesn’t seem to matter whether Harvick is driving his No. 4 Sprint Cup car for Stewart-Haas Racing or the No. 88 Chevrolet he drove to victory for JR Motorsports on Saturday. Once he got to the front from his sixth-place starting position (taking the lead for the first time after a restart on Lap 38), he stayed there, leading 100 of the 150 laps and giving up the top spot only during cycles of green-flag pit stops.
JR Motorsports car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who competes against Harvick at NASCAR’s highest level, hasn’t been surprised by Harvick’s dominance in both series this year.
“They’ve got something figured out,” Earnhardt said. “Kevin’s an amazing driver. He’s really focused, and his work outside the car helps him inside the car and helps his team… It don’t last forever, so you’ve got to enjoy it while it’s happening.
“Sooner or later, what they know will be common knowledge, and somebody will be in search of the next advantage — and find it. But they’ve got it right now.”
Harvick finished 3.317 seconds — roughly three football fields — ahead of runner-up Brendan Gaughan, who moved from eighth to second after the final restart of the race on Lap 122.
There were three cautions in the race. Trailing Harvick by more than three seconds in the closing laps, Gaughan was praying for a fourth.
“I love the fact that I’m pissed off at being second,” Gaughan said. “I love my restarts. My restart got us there… Any time you finish second to Kevin Harvick, come on, but — I don’t care if we would have finished fifth — I would have loved a shot at it. I know we’re pretty good on restarts.
“I would have loved one shot at a restart, just to see if I still had something for him.”
But the caution never came, and Gaughan had to settle for second. Polesitter Erik Jones ran third, followed by defending series champion Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher.
Ty Dillon finished 14th and retained the series lead by five points over Buescher, with Elliott 15 points back in third.