Kevin Harvick passed off Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer and returned to victory lane for the first time this season at Sonoma Raceway. The victory marked Harvick’s first road course win since 2006 when he took the checkered flag at Watkins Glen International.
The former NASCAR champion came to Sonoma winless in 20 races since Kansas last fall and has been overshadowed in this season of NASCAR’s young new superstars. But at a track where experience and ability can separate the field, it was Harvick and a bunch of veterans who led the way.
Executing an ideal strategy for the long green-flag run that consumed the second half of the race—minus roughly 200 yards—Harvick won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event for the first time this season, the first time at Sonoma and the first time in a Ford, after Stewart-Haas Racing made an offseason switch from Chevrolet.
After winning for the 36th time in 590 career starts, Harvick took the checkered flag under caution after Kasey Kahne’s Chevrolet bashed the concrete barriers near the start/finish line. By then, Harvick had a comfortable lead of more than eight seconds—and just enough fuel in the tank of the No. 4 Ford Fusion to complete a celebratory burnout on the front stretch.
Bowyer, now the driver for the entry Tony Stewart used for his final NASCAR victory last year at the track, was second and Brad Keselowski third as Ford cars went 1-2-3.
Martin Truex Jr. led 25 laps but suffered an engine failure and finished 37th. Truex won the first stage of the race, his series-leading 11th stage victory. Truex handed the series lead back to Kyle Larson, who started on the pole but faded to 26th at the finish, one lap down, after a series of run-ins on the asphalt. Jimmie Johnson won the second stage, his first stage victory of the season, but finished 13th overall.
Most of the top-10 driver’s list was comprised of veterans. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were fourth and fifth in Toyota, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sixth and the highest-finishing Chevrolet. Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch was seventh.
Then came Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, who along with Larson are part of the newest faces of NASCAR.