SONOMA, Calif. — After 16 years of trying, California native Kevin Harvick scored his first victory in wine country on Sunday with a dominating performance in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
Harvick’s victory completed a weekend sweep for the Bakersfield driver and also capped a wild afternoon that saw several front-running contenders fall by the wayside in the closing stages.
After winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race one day earlier, Harvick led 24 laps en route to his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in a Ford, becoming the first driver in the history of Sonoma Raceway to sweep the weekend.
Harvick’s win was his first of the season in NASCAR’s first road course race of the year, and he marks the 11th different winner and 10th driver locked into the playoffs so far.
“The first thing I want to do is thank everybody at Ford and Stewart-Haas Racing for everything that they’ve done,” Harivck said in victory lane. “It’s been a lot of work, a lot of the guys have put in a lot of hours and it’s paying off. I feel like we have a lot of room to grow and for us, it’s been okay. We’ve been competitive, we just haven’t got to victory lane. I feel like we had a couple of opportunities to get there, but we just came up a little bit short, so this is worth the wait.”
“To come to Sonoma for so many years, to win yesterday in coming back to the K&N Series and come back here today … I guess we’ll have to do that again because it worked out pretty good. Just really proud of everybody. They had great strategy and we were able to make it happen.”
After Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson won caution-filled stages earlier in the race, an unexpected 56-lap run to the checkered flag forced crew chiefs into strategic thinking and fuel-saving for their drivers, with Harvick not even taking the lead for the first time until 46 to go after out-muscling Truex to Turn 1.
From there, the lead duo made their final stops with 40 laps left, watching as Brad Keselowski cycled through to the top spot on an alternate strategy, hoping for a late caution flag to fly and earn him some track position for the finish.
That yellow never materialized, however, and Keselowski was eventually overhauled by Harvick’s fresher tires with 22 to go, giving the 2014 champion a lead he would not relinquish again.