Harvick wins for first time this season at Sonoma
SONOMA, Calif. -- California driver Kevin Harvick claimed his first win of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season in his home state Sunday by winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
"I am so excited," Harvick said. "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. Kurt (Busch) winning the Daytona 500 and we have run well. Everybody from Bush, Jimmy John's and Mobil 1, Outback, Hunt Brothers and everybody. It is a great day. It finally all came together and we were able to not have any cautions there at the end.
"Rodney had great strategy and I was able to take care of the car and get out front. I felt like the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) was the car we had to race, and then, he had problems and from there, we were in control."
The win also was his first win on the road course.
The race ended under the checkered and yellow flags after Kasey Kahne crashed on the final lap.
Harvick took the race lead from Kyle Busch with just under 45 laps remaining and then losing it to Truex a lap later. But when the field began cycling through green-flag pit stops in the last 40 laps, Harvick cycled ahead of Truex.
Truex lost a cylinder and retired from the race with engine problems inside the final 25 laps.
"It's very disappointing," Truex said. "I mean, sitting there running second on seven cylinders and stayed right with the leader. I mean, this Toyota was so good today. Everyone at Furniture Row (Racing) did an awesome job with it. Everybody back in Denver, thank you for guys for just crazy fast cars. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) stuff has been really good for the past year and a half. You know sometimes these things happen, so appreciate all their effort out there at TRD. Make good power, it's just this one wasn't ready to go the whole distance today."
Brad Keselowski stayed out longer and still needed to make one final pit stop when he lost the lead to Harvick with 22 laps remaining. Keselowski finally pitted inside the final 20 laps. By that time, Denny Hamlin was a distant second to Harvick and Clint Bowyer third.
Bowyer got by Hamlin to take second inside the final five laps and give Stewart-Haas Racing a one-two finish, with Harvick still holding a sizable lead.
"We were fast all weekend," Bowyer said. "With clean air and a long run, that's always my strong suit. We got the long run, we just hard to start dead last to get it."
Keselowski got by Hamlin on the final lap to finish third for his first career top-five Sonoma finish. Hamlin and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
"The Freightliner Ford was really good today," Keselowski said. "We didn't have the qualifying fun we wanted. We had amazing race pace. That's a credit to everyone at Team Penske. It felt really good. I just wish I could run this race again I think I might have had better car than driver today and I learned a lot. Just an amazing fun day."
Hamlin led early in the final third stage of the race that made up the last 60 laps of the 110-lap race when he stayed out after Jimmy Johnson gave up the lead to pit between the second and third stages.
"It was good, definitely had a great car," Hamlin said. "We didn't have quite enough at the end. We did have real short run speed. We didn't' really have great long run speed. We had just had good middle speed and that worked out for us. We had good pit strategy and really passed a lot of cars today and that's about what we had."
Johnson claimed his first stage win of the season by running up front at lap 50, the end of the second 25-lap stage. Keselowski and Matt Kenseth were second and third at the end of the stage.
Truex led the way early in the second stage but gave up the lead to pit during a debris caution on lap 39. When Truex hit pit road, Johnson inherited the lead. Truex lost several more positions with a slow stop, in addition to the varying pit strategies.
Several drivers pitted before pit road closed in the final laps of the second stage. The move didn't pay off for Bowyer, though, as he was nabbed for speeding on pit road.
Truex won the opening 25-lap stage, followed by A.J. Allmendinger and Kyle Larson in second and third. It was Truex's 11th stage win of the 2017 season so far.
Truex passed pole-sitter Larson for the lead on lap 10. After losing the lead, Larson ran off track, giving up second to Allmendinger.
The top three were shuffled outside the top 10, though, when the yellow flag waved for the first time on lap 15 for an incident involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick that resulted in slight damage to Larson's car.
Larson, Earnhardt and Patrick also were players in a second incident that brought out the third caution on lap 31 and ended the race for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the other driver involved.
"They were three-wide in front of us trying to go through turn four, which never works," Stenhouse said. "They were all dive-bombing each other and then the 10 (Patrick) got spinning and I tried to go low and she just kept coming down the track. We just clipped it a little bit and tore the left front up too bad to continue. It is a bummer for our day. We felt like we had probably a decent Sonoma car for us. Really just wanted to get out there and make laps. I thought we were decent on the long run, just trying to get there."
NOTES: The race was the first in stages for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on a road course. ... Matt Kenneth had to start in the back because of an engine change. Alon Day also started in the back after missing driver introductions. ... Erik Jones and Chase Elliott started the race in backup cars because of wrecks in practice. They started where they qualified, because they had already gone to backups by qualifying. ... Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma on Saturday. ... Kyle Larson's pole at Sonoma was his third pole of the season but marked the fifth time this year he started first. He started first in two other races by virtue of being the points leader when rain forced cancellations of qualifying. ... Tony Stewart won the 2016 Toyota/Save Mart 350 and Denny Hamlin finished second. ... Hamlin won the most recent Cup Series road-course race, the 2016 race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. ... Kyle Busch is the only Sonoma multi-race winner among active drivers with two wins at the track, most recently in 2015. ... With several teams going calling on road-course specialists for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, the race field included drivers making their Cup Series debut, including Day, Billy Johnson, Kevin O'Connell and Tommy Regan. When Day took the green flag, he became the first Israeli driver to start a NASCAR premier series race. ... Ten of the 38 drivers in the race hail from California.