Kevin Harvick lived up to an old nickname of “The Closer,” taking command in the second half of the race and leading the final seventy-one laps to notch his second victory of the season. The race ended some twenty-three hours after it originally started on a Saturday night, when just forty-eight laps were run before rain moved in and pushed the event to a late-afternoon green flag on Sunday. Kyle Busch started third and was dominant throughout the first half of the race, leading 184 of the first 250 laps. But what appeared to be a broken part on the suspension of his Number-18 Toyota sent the car spinning across the track. Contact from Justin Allgaier ended Busch’s day with a thirty-ninth-place finish. Harvick entered the fray soon after, charging from his Number-24 starting spot to grab his first lead at Lap-286 of five hundred. Harvick ran consistently among the top five the rest of the way, passing Denny Hamlin seventy-one laps from the finish and never looking back to record his thirty-third career win – loosening Joe Gibbs Racing’s tight hold on short-track competition in 2016. Before Bristol, J-G-R had won all three races run on ovals less than one mile in length … Harvick’s margin of victory over runner-up Ricky Stenhouse Junior was two seconds with Hamlin finishing third, Austin Dillon fourth and rookie Chris Buescher fifth.
With Kevin Harvick’s win Sunday in Sonoma, California, the list of Monster Energy Series winners this season now stands at eleven. But remember … Joey Logano’s victory at Richmond International Raceway does not qualify him for the playoffs due to post-event penalties. If there are seven new names in Victory Lane over the final ten regular-season races (or six if Logano wins again with no penalties), then there’ll be one driver with a victory to his credit that will not get a spot in the 2017 playoffs – which will include only the top sixteen eligible drivers based primarily on race wins. The list of notable drivers still looking for their first Cup Series win of 2017 includes Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Junior, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth. Of those five drivers, all are former winners at Daytona International Speedway – site of Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola – except Elliott, who’s won two Cup Series poles at “The World Center of Racing” but is still looking for his first race win there. He was victorious in the X-finity Series in 2016 … If the NASCAR playoffs began today, Logano would qualify based on points despite his problems at Richmond. He’s tenth in the regular-season standings, seven points ahead of Clint Bowyer – who leads Kenseth by just four points in the fight for what would be the final playoff spot.
The 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway could send one lucky fan home with a cool one million dollars thanks to Busch Beer… Busch, sponsor of the number 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driven by Kevin Harvick, is launching their new consumer loyalty program Bush Bucks with a promotion that will award one lucky fan one million dollars if Harvick wins this year’s All-Star race exhibition… One fan will be picked from the entries at BuschBucks.com to attend the race and have the chance at matching Harvick’s potential payout of one million dollars… Entries will be accepted until May sixth.
Kevin Harvick survived a full-contact side-by-side duel with Carl Edwards on the final lap, claiming his first victory of the season in a photo finish. Harvick led the field on the day’s final restart and pulled away before a fast-closing Edwards reeled him in and tapped the rear bumper of Harvick’s Number-4 Chevrolet entering Turn-4 on the final lap. Edwards pulled alongside and leaned hard on Harvick as they exited the corner. Edwards and Harvick bumped again as they took the checkered flag with Harvick nosing ahead at the finish. The official margin of victory was a mere one one-hundredths of a second – identical to Denny Hamlin’s dramatic win over Martin Truex Junior three weeks earlier in the season-opening Daytona 500. Harvick dominated the second half of the race, leading all but eleven of the final 150 laps including the last seventy-nine trips around the one-mile desert oval. Hamlin finished third and pole sitter Kyle Busch was fourth after leading seventy-five laps. With Edwards’ runner-up showing, Joe Gibbs Racing grabbed three of the top four spots. Dale Earnhardt Junior completed the top five.
The next stop for NASCAR is Las Vegas for Sunday’s Kobalt 400, third round of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. With two races in the books under NASCAR’s new format, stage wins have yet to translate into race wins. Kevin Harvick leads the series with three stage victories and the other has gone to Kyle Busch. Yet Harvick’s best overall finish in two starts this season is ninth place. Busch has done no better than sixteenth … Brad Keselowski is the defending race winner in Vegas and another victory Sunday would make him the first driver with back-to-back wins there since Jimmie Johnson put three in a row together from 2005 through 2007 … This weekend’s race is the first of three straight Cup Series stops in the western United States, on three distinctly different types of tracks. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a high-speed mile-and-a-half oval. From there, we head to Phoenix Raceway’s flat one-mile layout. Then, it’s on to the high-banked two-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The Cup Series does not return to the Eastern Time Zone until the April 2nd S-T-P 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Denny Hamlin charged from fourth to first on the final lap, passing teammate Matt Kenseth for the lead and then surviving a dramatic side-by-side duel down the stretch with Martin Truex Junior that ended with Hamlin scratching out the victory by a mere one one-hundredths of a second. It’s the closest finish in the fifty-eight-year history of the Daytona 500. After taking the white flag, race leader Kenseth went to the high side to block a fast-closing Hamlin and when he did, the Number-11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota darted into the middle lane and into the lead. Truex briefly got a nose in front before Hamlin reclaimed the lead to win by an estimated four inches … Kyle Busch finished third and Carl Edwards was fifth, giving Joe Gibbs Racing three of the top five finishing positions. Kevin Harvick rode home in fourth place. After losing the lead to Hamlin on the final lap, Kenseth slipped back in the field and finished fourteenth … Pole sitter Chase Elliott suffered damage to his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in an early-race spin and lost a number of laps while repairs were made. He finished thirty-seventh.
There’ll be forty-two drivers starting tonight’s twin 150-mile qualifying races with forty advancing to Sunday’s fifty-ninth running of the Daytona 500. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott, who qualified on the pole, and Dale Earnhardt Junior, the Number-2 qualifier last weekend, have front-row starting spots locked in for “The Great American Race” regardless of where they finish in tonight’s doubleheader. With NASCAR’s “Charter” system that was introduced last year, thirty-six teams are guaranteed starting spots in the “five hundred.” Among non-Charter teams, two drivers – Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan – are assured of a spot by virtue of their qualifying speeds. That leaves two drivers competing for one available Daytona 500 berth in each of tonight’s races. Race-1 will feature Reed Sorenson and Corey LaJoie scrapping for the one available transfer spot. Race-2 has D-J Kennington and Timmy Hill in the hunt … Notable drivers in the first half of tonight’s twin bill include two of the last three Cup Series champions: Kevin Harvick from 2014 and Kyle Busch (2015). Race-2 includes reigning seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson and defending Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin.
Kevin Harvick was masterful on the day’s final restart Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, roaring past race leader Matt Kenseth to claim victory and advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick started nineteenth and led just eight laps all afternoon. But after dispatching Kenseth on the decisive restart, he kept his Number-4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in front over the final six circuits to notch his third victory of the season and at the same time, deny Kenseth his third straight win on “The Magic Mile.” Harvick, the Number-4 seed, now joins Martin Truex Junior in the Round of Twelve that opens October 8th in Concord, North Carolina. Kenseth took second place on Sunday, a half-second behind Harvick. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch completed the top five. Chase drivers filled the top eight spots in the final running order with Kasey Kahne the highest-finishing non-title contender, in ninth place … Carl Edwards started from the pole, led the first thirty laps and finished sixth. Truex dominated the first half of the race, leading 141 of the first 178 laps en route to a seventh-place finish … Keselowski’s fourth-place finish was enough to lift him into the post-season points lead, by one over Truex and two over Kyle Busch … Toyota drivers dominated the day by leading all but twenty of the laps run on the one-mile oval … Sunday’s race included fourteen lead changes among eight drivers.
Martin Truex Junior started from the pole and led all but eight of the four hundred laps run Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, rolling to one of the most lopsided Cup Series wins in NASCAR’s sixty-eight-year history. He darted away from the field at the drop of the green flag and kept the Number-78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in front throughout the night – beating runner-up Kevin Harvick to the checkered flag by two-and-a-half seconds. At one point with just under a hundred laps remaining, Jimmie Johnson had whittled Truex’s lead down to three-quarters of a second. But Truex quickly reasserted his dominance coming out of a restart less than a hundred miles from the finish, easily motoring on to his fourth career victory and first this season. Johnson finished third with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski completing the top five … Defending race winner Carl Edwards placed eighteenth in his bid for back-to-back “Six Hundred” victories, slowed by a speeding penalty on pit road … Joey Logano, winner of last weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race, was seeking to become just the eighth driver to win both the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 in the same season. But he was penalized when his Team Penske pit crew went over the wall too soon on a stop during the second half of the race, though Logano did rally from that adversity to finish ninth … Truex becomes just the second driver in eighteen years to win NASCAR’s longest race from the pole position. The other is Johnson, who did it twice: in 2004 and 2014 … There were just nine lead changes Sunday, thirteen fewer than last year’s race, among four drivers: Truex, Johnson, Logano and Paul Menard.
Kevin Harvick has signed a long-term contract extension to remain with Stewart-Haas Racing as driver of the Number-4 Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet, ending recent speculation that he would depart after completion of the current season. Through the first twelve races of the year, Harvick has one win and leads the regular-season point standings entering the All-Star break.