Photo by: Jared C. Tilton
If there were ever any concerns about 2014 Champion Kevin Harvick reaching victory lane this season, those quickly diminished at the end of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
Harvick dominated the final stage of the event, leading 24 laps, and holding more than an eight-second lead before Kasey Kahne’s hard hit brought out the caution on the final lap.
“I’m so excited,” Harvick said in Victory Lane. “I think, as you look at it, getting our first win with Ford, this has been a great journey for us as an organization and team. (Teammate) Kurt (Busch) winning the Daytona 500, and we have run well.”
Stewart-Haas Racing secured the top two spots during Sunday’s event, as Harvick’s teammate Clint Bowyer used strategy to his advantage for another second place finish this season. Kurt Busch finished seventh and Danica Patrick finished 17th.
Stage 1 winner Martin Truex Jr. finished 37th after leading a race-high 25 laps. Truex reported issues with his No. 78 Toyota for several laps before the engine gave out on Lap 86 while on pit road.
“For about the past 20 laps, I’ve been on seven cylinders,” Truex said of his sputtering engine. “After we made that last pit stop, when we lost the lead to (Kevin) Harvick, soon as I left pit road, I lost a cylinder. I was surprised we were able to keep up with them as well as we could on seven, but just shows how strong the car was. Just wasn’t meant to be today.”
Kyle Larson now holds the series points standings 13 points ahead of Truex. Larson finished 26th in his fourth attempt at the road course.
Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and 2015 Sonoma winner Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. battled back for sixth after contact with Patrick and a speeding penalty.
NASCAR returns to NBC on July 1, 2017 when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Daytona at 7:30 p.m ET.