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Harvick beats Johnson & Busch to win Auto Club 400

NASCAR Sprint Cup at Fontana
Sunday, March 27, 2011

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Kevin Harvick goes around Johnson on the outside on the last lap to win
Hometown boy (finally) makes good.

Kevin Harvick, who grew up in Bakersfield—about 150 miles from Auto Club Speedway—needed a last-lap pass of Jimmie Johnson to win for the first time at the 2-mile track, in his 18th attempt.

Harvick won Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, powering his No. 29 Chevrolet to the outside of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy through Turns 3 and 4 and beating Johnson to the finish line by 0.144 seconds.

Harvick, who restarted fifth with nine laps remaining, surged to the front on the final two laps, passing Kyle Busch and Johnson in the process. The victory was Harvick’s first of the season and 15th of his career and moved him up six spots in the points standings to ninth.

Busch, who led a race-high 151 laps, came home third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top 10. Edwards took over the series lead by nine points over Newman.

Busch held the lead until Lap 198, when Johnson passed him to the inside after the cars crossed the stripe. The duel between Busch and Johnson allowed Harvick to gain ground.

A caution on Lap 185 of 200, after Bobby Labonte blew a right front tire and slammed the Turn 4 wall, meant decision time for the crew chiefs. With Labonte’s wrecked car blocking the entrance to pit road, the pits remained closed until Lap 189, when Labonte’s car was dragged to the garage by a wrecker.

Busch, Johnson, Tony Stewart, Bowyer, Harvick, Newman and Edwards stayed on the track during the caution, with Kenseth leading a group of cars to pit road.

“Those guys just started to race,” Harvick said. “They got side by side, and we were able to pull up in there. The more laps we got on our tires, the better we were, but I was really nervous about that last call—staying out—but it all worked out in our favor, and we were able to make up ground.

“(Crew chief) Gil (Martin) obviously knew that we were better after the tires had air in them (as pressure built during green-flag runs), and it all worked out today.”

Johnson’s battle with Busch opened the door for Harvick, who led one lap—the one that counted.

“If I could have gotten by the No. 18 (Busch) a lap sooner, maybe that would have made the difference, and I would have had enough of a margin to hold off the No. 29, but he was rolling on the top,” Johnson said. “I did all I could. I was dead sideways. I think I hit the fence one time off of (Turn) 2, chasing Kyle, with the right rear first because it was sliding off the corner.”

After a cycle of stops that began when Busch pitted from the lead on Lap 138, Busch held a 6.5-second lead over Stewart, who began to make up ground throughout the ensuing green-flag run. Stewart had erased all but 1.3 seconds of Busch’s advantage when another cycle of green-flag stops widened the lead to 2.5 seconds.

Andy Lally’s spin off Turn 4 on Lap 170, however, brought out the third caution of the race and bunched the field for a restart on Lap 175. Busch and Stewart took the green flag side-by-side, with Busch in the outside lane, and the driver of the No. 18 Toyota pulled away to a half-second lead within three laps.

Notes: Sunday’s race was Harvick’s 39th at Fontana in NASCAR’s top three series. He is winless in 17 NASCAR Nationwide Series and four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts. He finished third in Saturday’s Royal Purple 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. … Harvick’s victory was the first at Fontana for team owner Richard Childress. … Harvick teammate Paul Menard finished 16th, improving on his previous best finish of 18th at Fontana. Menard, who is seventh in the standings, has personal-best results at all five tracks this season. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home 12th and fell to 12th in points, 31 behind Edwards.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 24 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches 47/1 200 Running
2 16 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 43/1 200 Running
3 8 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 43/2 200 Running
4 11 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal 40/0 200 Running
5 9 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 40/1 200 Running
6 18 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 38/0 200 Running
7 17 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Reagan Presidential Foundation's Centennial Celebration / Childress Inst. for Pediatric Trauma 38/1 200 Running
8 19 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 36/0 200 Running
9 22 4 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 35/0 200 Running
10 1 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 35/1 200 Running
11 32 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 33/0 200 Running
12 30 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy / National Guard 32/0 200 Running
13 5 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 32/1 200 Running
14 20 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Best Buy 30/0 200 Running
15 7 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 29/0 200 Running
16 15 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Serta / Menards 28/0 200 Running
17 23 22 Kurt Busch Dodge Auto Club 27/0 200 Running
18 29 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 26/0 200 Running
19 14 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's / HP Partner of the Year 25/0 200 Running
20 10 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 24/0 200 Running
21 26 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 24/1 200 Running
22 6 6 David Ragan Ford UPS "We Love Logistics" 22/0 200 Running
23 12 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 21/0 200 Running
24 28 09 Landon Cassill Chevrolet Thank A Teacher Today / Security Benefit 0 200 Running
25 3 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 19/0 200 Running
26 21 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 18/0 200 Running
27 4 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 17/0 200 Running
28 13 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Dewalt 16/0 198 Running
29 25 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 15/0 198 Running
30 27 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 0 198 Running
31 37 34 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 13/0 198 Running
32 38 71 Andy Lally * Chevrolet Super Eco-Fuel Saver 12/0 198 Running
33 39 32 Ken Schrader Ford VA Mortgage Center 11/0 197 Running
34 35 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Speed Energy / Food 4 Less 10/0 197 Running
35 36 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 0 196 Running
36 42 37 Tony Raines Ford Race Fuel Energy Drink 8/0 190 Running
37 31 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Accell Construction 7/0 188 Out of Race
38 34 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Little Debbie 6/0 182 Running
39 2 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 6/1 105 Out of Race
40 41 60 Todd Bodine Toyota Big Red 0 50 In Pit
41 43 46 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Red Line Oil 4/1 47 Out of Race
42 40 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 0 39 In Pit
43 33 66 Michael McDowell Toyota HP Racing LLC 1/0 32 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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