Kevin Harvick waited until the final seconds, but he can finally take a gulp of Busch beer in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Victory Lane.
Taking the lead from Brad Keselowski with 20 laps to go in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing driver maintained his fuel load to score his first victory of 2017 and first at the 1.99-mile road course.
“It’s been a lot of work,” Harvick said of SHR’s change to Ford for 2017. “We’ve been competitive. We just haven’t been the Victory Lane. This is worth the wait. To come to Sonoma for so many years. Really proud of everybody, we had a great strategy.”
A great day for SHR went even further as Clint Bowyer drove to second, more than eight seconds behind teammate Harvick.
“I tore the hell out of it,” Bowyer said, having a banged-up nose by the checkered flag. “To get a finish like that, you just can’t give up. You’re not down and out. Long run there, that is my strong suit.”
Keselowski stayed out late to lead 17 laps in his No. 2 Ford, using fuel strategy in an attempt to get the win. Eventually losing the top spot to Harvick, the pit strategy did not bring the two-time winner to Victory Lane once again, and he wound up third. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch completed the top five.
The dusty 12-turn circuit witnessed numerous on-track incidents and record-breaking competition. The day’s issues were surrounded with action up front, as Sonoma saw records in leaders (10) and lead changes (13). Additionally, Harvick’s victory makes it 11 different winners for the 2017 Cup season.
Danica Patrick qualified sixth and was swallowed up in the race’s first incident when Dale Earnhardt Jr. wheel-hopped his No. 88 into Turn 11. Patrick was again nudged by Earnhardt in Turn 7 when she spun and collected Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Patrick rebounded to 17th while Earnhardt earned a sixth-place finish.
The biggest heartbreak of the afternoon came when Martin Truex Jr. blew a motor with 25 laps to go. Leading a race-high 25 laps, the Stage 1 winner was denied a second Sonoma victory, finishing 37th. It’s his third engine failure since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2014.
“TRD [Toyota Racing Development] has been really good the past year and a half,” Truex said. “Sometimes these things happen. It just couldn’t run long distance today.”
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