Harvick out duels Johnson for California Victory

[media-credit name=”Patrick McBride” align=”alignright” width=”284″][/media-credit]Kevin Harvick won the battle with Jimmie Johnson and took the win at Auto Club Speedway in last corner on the last lap of the race.

Kevin Harvick had a tough day ahead of him as  many of the other front runners in the series point standings found themselves, starting in the middle of the field. Harvick’s reward of the day was leading one lap, but the most critical one, the final lap.

The showdown for Harvick would be a nine lap battle between himself, Kyle Busch and Johnson. As the final green flag restart of the race was displayed, leader Busch was out front, Johnson was to his inside as the field headed into turn one.

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Busch fought a tight car, forcing him to slow in the corners. This allowed Johnson and Harvick catch and overtake Busch and a two driver battle for the win with three laps to go.

Johnson threw blocks to the high and low side to keep Busch and Harvick in his mirror. As Busch faded back to third, the fans broke out into cheers.

The Johnson and Harvick took the white flag, Harvick would ride the high side in turns one and two, Johnson ran in the middle.

On the back stretch Harvick would tap the back of Johnson’s car several times to upset the corner entry for Johnson in turn three. Harvick continued his ride on the outside through turns three and four and pulled ahead of Johnson.

Johnson would try the crossover move on Harvick, but Harvick dropped to the inside of the track to quash Johnson’s chance of the win. Harvick crossed the finish line by a car length over Johnson. Busch would finish 1.1 seconds back in third.

A Day in Southern California –

Harvick’s day started back in 24th among top drivers in overall standings Carl Edwards (started 18th), Kurt Busch (23rd), Jeff Gordon (29th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (30th)

Harvick would be mired in three to four wide racing for the opening 30 laps of the race into the first round of green flag stops for the field. Harvick broke into the top ten by the second round of green flag stops around lap 67.

The rest of Harvick’s race would be battles between himself and Brian Vickers (Finished 8th), Matt Kenseth (4th), Ryan Newman (5th), Carl Edwards (6th) along with several others under gray skies in Southern California.

Harvick would find that the big challenge came in those last laps of the race after a late accident involving Bobby Labonte brought out a caution with 13 to go. The last laps that closed out the event seemed to be the most exciting of the day as the crowd erupted in cheers as Johnson and Harvick passed Busch.

This is Harvick’s first Sprint Cup win and his 8th top ten finish in his eighteen races at Auto Club Speedway.

Another Sweep Swept Away –

Kyle Busch began his weekend by winning the weekend’s Nationwide race. Busch looked for a back to back event sweep following last week’s Bristol races.

Busch started his race with a top ten start of 8th. Busch broke into the lead on lap 22 for ten laps. He then came back into the lead on lap 37. Busch would lead for a total of five times for an overall count of 151 laps.

The Joe Gibbs Racing team for Busch would keep their driver with the extra seconds separation during pit stops that he held the front over the majority of the race.

Busch rocketed away from the field anywhere on an average of four to nine seconds in front of the challengers. The day seemed to be going for him until the last caution flag of the day.

The top seven drivers including Busch, Johnson and Harvick would remain on the track while the rest of the lead lap cars would pit.

On the restart it looked like Busch would lock in another win, but his car would tighten up so much that he would have to slow down in the entry of the corners which opened the door for Johnson and Harvick.

With his third place finish, Busch moves up two positions to 4th overall.

Starting Upfront has its Challenges –

Juan Pablo Montoya started on the pole for the race to lead the first six laps of the day, which was the only time the Chip Ganassi driver would see clean air during his race.

Montoya did not seem to hit on the correct combination of setup for the car and would find himself challenged by stronger drivers to keep in the top ten for the opening laps of the race.

Running in front, as in the past at Auto Club Speedway was essential to have a winning car. Montoya would be in the mix with the front runners looking to have a strong car, but with the falling off in lap times, Montoya could not challenge for the lead.

In the last 70 laps of the event Montoya fell out of the top ten and held himself in the top fifteen. Montoya would finish his day 10th.

Engine, Engine, who has an Engine –

Gibbs Racing faced yet more challenges of the season as Joey Logano would start in the back of the pack after an engine change from a failed motor that he experienced this weekend. Logano finished 25th.

More trouble for the group hit when Denny Hamlin would be hit with engine issues on lap 83 to send him to the garage, ending his day with a 39th place finish.

A Big Mover –

Greg Biffle was the biggest mover of the day from his start of 32nd to just miss the top ten with a finish of 11th. Biffle moved into the top ten for a period of time by lap 120.

Biffle would flirt with the top ten battling with Montoya, Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers. The team would work with Biffle to keep the car in shape to give the driver help of three spots in the standings to the top twenty.

Lap By Lap –

The rain holds off from the area where the song it never rains in southern California. It rained earlier this morning, but NASCAR has the track ready to go.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Denny Hamlin will lead our 43 drivers to the green flag. We have a lot of clouds in the skies, so who knows what will happen.

We also will see 100 less miles for this race, so the action should pick up today.

The engines fire up and we are off and rolling. Joey Logano for yet another week, has issues with his car and will to the rear of the field. Dave Blaney and J.J. Yeley also head to the back.

GREEN FLAG as the cars get up to speeds of two-oh-ten as a famous broadcaster we all know says.

Montoya has the lead but look who’s coming but none other than Kyle Busch who started 6th is duking it out with his teammate Hamlin. Lap 3 Busch is 3rd. Lap 4 Trevor Bayne was way high and earns a California stripe in both turns one and four.

Lap 5 Montoya and Hamlin leave the field behind by 1.2 seconds. Busch continues his third place hold followed by Matt Kenseth and David Ragan.

Lap 6 we see some type of fire from under Tony Raines’ car out of turn two as he limps to pit road.

Lap 7 into 8 Hamlin challenges Montoya for the lead, taking it coming out of turn four.

Lap 10 we see early movers on the track of Clint Bowyer running 6th from his start of 17th, Jimmie Johnson up to 10th from 16th, Martin Truex Jr. 17th from 26th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 19th from 30th and Jeff Gordon 21st from 29th.

Lap 14 Kyle Busch is up to 2nd and 1.5 seconds behind Hamlin.

Lap 20 Kyle Busch for the lead on Hamlin in turns one and two, which does not work. Truex Jr. is up to 12th, battling for 11th with Ragan and closes in on Tony Stewart for 9th.

Lap 23 Busch takes the lead.

Lap 25 your top ten drivers are Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Montoya, Jeff Burton, Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Truex Jr., Carl Edwards and Stewart.

Lap 29 we are about 8 to 10 laps from pit stops. Lap 30 two start and parks are in the garage with Joe Nemechek being one of those who just pulled in.

Lap 31 Kyle Busch has a one second advantage over Hamlin. Montoya slips to 1.3 seconds back from Hamlin. Lap 33 pit stops begin.

About 12 drivers head to pit road along with the leaders of Busch and Hamlin. Lap 34 pit road is way busy as almost 2/3rd’s of the field is on pit road.

During the transition we see Bowyer and Johnson lead a lap.

Lap 35 as pit stops are complete for the leaders, Kyle Busch will be in the lead once Yeley comes down to pit road. Lap 37 trouble for Yeley as he is out of gas on the back stretch.

Lap 38 Busch has the lead. Battle between Bowyer and Truex Jr. for 5th. Lap 40 Burton and Bowyer fight for 6th after Truex Jr. pulls away and Burton follows the plan of attack to take 6th.

Lap 42 Truex Jr. is up to 4th place and the biggest mover from his start of 26th. Keep an eye on Kevin Harvick as he runs 12th from starting 24th. Lap 46 Greg Biffle has moved up in the field to 18th from his start 32nd.

Joey Logano who had to start from the back of the field is up to 20th. Lap 48 Todd Bodine, Michael McDowell, Nemechek and Yeley are in the garage.

Lap 50 (150 to go) with your top twenty drivers of Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Vickers, Truex Jr., Bowyer, Stewart, Burton, Montoya, Mark Martin, Kenseth, Edwards, Harvick, Ryan Newman, Johnson, Jeff Gordon, David Reutimann, Ragan, Biffle, Earnhardt Jr. and Logano.

Busch has led the most laps so far with 27. Truex Jr. moves up to 3rd. Lap 53 Kyle Busch leads new second place driver Truex Jr. by 4.5 seconds as Hamlin drops to 3rd.

Lap 57 we see the following on the lap down list – In the garage are Bodine, McDowell, Nemechek and Yeley. Raines is down 6 laps, Ken Schrader (who we have not seen in a while) is 2 laps down, one lap down we see Travis Kvapil, Blaney, Andy Lally, David Gilliland, Casey Mears, Landon Cassill, Robby Gordon, Bobby Labonte on the track.

Lap 62 in danger of falling a lap down is Bayne, Marcos Ambrose, Regan Smith, Jamie McMurray and A.J. Allmendinger.

So far we are setting a record for no cautions this early in the race, in fact we are going to see pit stops soon.

Lap 65 pit stops begin with the cars in the back of the field.

Lap 67 the field begins the trek into pit road.

Lap 69 Kyle Busch regains his lead over Truex Jr. and strings it out more to a gap of 6.6 seconds. Burton is busted for speeding.

Lap 75 (125 to go) with Busch with possibly another sweep? We will see. Busch is 6.5 seconds out in front followed by Truex Jr., Stewart, Vickers, Hamlin, Montoya, Bowyer, Harvick, Martin and Newman.

YELLOW FLAG lap 76 (after setting a record for amount of green flag laps on the start) for debris. Smith is the lucky dog. Burton was about to be lapped for the stop and go and a big save for him.

Most of the leaders head to pit road. The race back to the track is Newman, Martin, Busch, Truex Jr. and Johnson. Stewart remained on track as the field has only been on the current set of tires for six laps. We will see if that works or not.

GREEN FLAG lap 80 as Stewart and Newman lead the field into turn one. ON the next lap Newman has the lead with Kyle Busch grabbing second from Stewart. Lap 82 talk about racing in the back of the pack as we see a big three and four wide move in turn one.

Lap 83 trouble for Hamlin as he is falling back in the pack like a rock, so far back to 27th and still going backwards. Lap 85 we see about four to five different race lines on the track at the start of the corner and middle of the corner to shrink back into one and a half at the exit of turn two, and it comes back quick.

Lap 87 Busch closes in on Newman for the lead. Lap 88 look out from behind as Stewart teams up with Newman to lock out Busch and push him back to third. Lap 89 Stewart is back in the lead again.

Lap 92 Busch drops to the low side of Stewart in turn four to take the lead. His teammate of Hamlin is the last driver on the lead lap running 27th. Lap 94 it looks like an L.A. freeway with all the drivers driving where they want to.

Lap 95 pole setter Montoya runs 9th after passing Bowyer, but he is in a battle with Harvick as they race in the turns in their own line. Lap 98 Stewart is holding good in second but he will have to stop short as he has those six laps less than the rest of the field.

Lap 100 (Halfway home) with your top twenty drivers of Kyle Busch, Stewart, Newman, Vickers, Johnson, Harvick, Truex Jr., Martin, Kenseth, Bowyer, Montoya, Jeff Gordon, Edwards, Biffle, Burton, Paul Menard, Reutimann, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Earnhardt Jr.

So far we have seen 14 lead changes among 9 leaders. 26 drivers remain on the lead lap and we have had one caution so far, but…

YELLOW FLAG lap 103 as Stewart has a big save for him as Gilliland blows a tire and throws debris on the track. Hamlin is the lucky dog. The leaders head into pit road for the second time under caution. The battle for the first to the track is won by Kyle Busch who throws his car in front of a three wide battle for second of Vickers, Newman and Stewart.

GREEN FLAG lap 108 with Busch and Vickers leading up to speed. A big restart by Busch and Vickers with less experience allows Busch to jump ahead by almost a half seconds as the drivers exit turn two.

Lap 109 talk about nail biting as we see Truex Jr. in the middle of Logano and Logano as they head into turn one fighting for 15th.

Lap 112 Kyle Busch over Stewart by a half second. We se a good battle between Harvick, Montoya (Like we haven’t see a battle between them before) and Bowyer for 5th place. Vickers drops back to 5th after a Newman pass.

Lap 113 (87 to go) as we hear that Hamlin is done for the day with a sour engine. It looks like Joe Gibbs Racing is going to have some work to do on what to do with the engine department.

Lap 117 movers on the track see our biggest mover at the moment being Greg Biffle up 21 spots to 11th from his start of 32nd. Harvick looks to be on the move this round up to 5th. We also see Truex Jr. slip back to 15th but Earnhardt Jr. move into 16th followed by Jeff Gordon.

Lap 123 other movers on the track are Harvick +19 to 5th, Earnhardt Jr. +15 (15th), Vickers +14 (now 5th as Harvick is 4th), Jeff Gordon +12 (17th) and Truex Jr. +12 (15th as Earnhardt moves into 14th).

Lap 125 (75 to go) with the top ten of Kyle Busch over second place Stewart by 2 seconds, 3rd place Newman is 4.4 seconds back, 4th place Harvick is 4.8 seconds back, 5th place Vickers 6.3 back, 6th place Johnson 7.4 seconds, 7th place Kenseth 8.3 back, 8th place Bowyer 8.7 back, 9th place Menard is 10.4 seconds back and 10th place Biffle is behind by 12.4 seconds.

70 to go with drivers who have slipped back in the field at this time being McDowell slipping down 10 positions to 43rd and out of the race, Jamie McMurray down 10 running 22nd, Montoya from his pole down to 13th, Ragan down 15 to 21st, Ambrose down 17 to 30th and a lap down, Logano down 20 to 23rd, Smith 22 markers down to 26 and Hamlin 37 spots to 39th and in the garage.

Lap 135 Earnhardt Jr. in the middle of a battle of Truex Jr. and Montoya for 13th. Montoya holds the position. We are closing in on green flag stops as Smith and Gilliland head to pit road. We see a shot of Smith getting his Auto Club stripe.

62 to go as the leaders head into pit road. 60 to go as we see some pretty good stops this round. After this round, Kyle Bush is 6.5 seconds in front of Stewart and a gain of 4.4 seconds from the stop.

Lap 142 Harvick is up to 3rd and 9.5 seconds, Vickers 4th and 11.8 seconds back with 5th place Johnson 12.7 seconds back.

Lap 145 as we see a challenge from Johnson on Vickers for 4th place with making the pass in the turn.

Lap 150 (50 to go) and the top twenty led by Kyle Busch over Stewart by 4.6 seconds, 3rd place Harvick is 8.4 seconds back, 4th place Johnson is 11 seconds back, 5th place Vickers is 12.5 seconds back. Then we see 6th place Kenseth, followed by Newman, Bowyer, Menard, 10 place Biffle (down by 20 seconds), Edwards, Montoya, Burton, Earnhardt Jr., 15th place Martin (25 seconds back), Kahne, Truex Jr., Ragan, McMurray and 20th place Jeff Gordon down by 32 seconds.

45 to go Brad Keselowski falls a lap down who is 25th, Kurt Busch 24th is down a lap with Allmendinger in danger of going a lap down with Reutimann, Logano and Jeff Gordon.

42 to go as Bowyer challenges Newman for 7th and takes it coming out of turn two.

40 to go as Stewart closes in a bit on Busch to 3 seconds, but the drivers have one more stop to go where we may see some stops as early as the next ten laps.

38 to go the gap between Stewart and Busch continues to shrink as the gap is now 2.1 seconds. Busch has led 117 laps so far and the most for him at this track.

36 to go Menard and Edwards battle for 10th. This changes tough as Menard moves into 9th passing Biffle. 34 to go Stewart moves in closer to Busch to 1.3 seconds.

34 to go pit stops begin. 32 to go with Busch heading for his stop.

YELLOW FLAG 30 to go as Lally was heading into turn three, bobbled, bobbled again, looked like he was going to save it and by turn four spins out. Cassill is the lucky dog. This will be a quick caution period.

GREEN FLAG with 26 to go and Busch and Stewart leading the field into turn one. From 5th place on back it is three wide racing into the turn with the field getting through it with no issues.

25 to go as four wide racing is afoot with Earnhardt Jr. on the high side around Montoya, Biffle, Logano and Menard for 12th. 24 to go as the action continues between Allmendinger, McMurray, Kurt Busch, Reutimann and Menard for 16th.

21 to go as Johnson begins his fight for second on Stewart as they are one second back with Harvick, Newman and Bowyer closing in on the two.

20 to go as Johnson grabs second. Neman and Bowyer for 4th, Earnhardt Jr. vs. Vickers for 11th.

18 to go as Reutimann and McMurray fight for 20th.

17 to go as Johnson closes in on Busch to a half second. Stewart and Bowyer fight for 3rd.

16 to go Burton up to 9th.

YELLOW FLAG 15 to go as Bobby Labonte blows his right front tire in the middle of one and two to head straight for the outside wall. Big damage on his right side. Kurt Busch is the lucky dog. Who is heading into pit road. We see a fire under Labonte’s car.

Pit road is closed as Labonte’s car came to a stop at the entrance to pit road and the laps click away to 12 to go and we may get down to 10 to go before it opens up.

11 to go and it is open as the top 7 stay out but the rest of the field heads in. We see Busch, Johnson, Stewart, Bowyer, Harvick, Newman and Edwards from the front stay out. We then see Cassill, Edwards, Kenseth and Burton round out the top ten.

GREEN FLAG with 9 to go and Busch and Johnson for the first time today fighting for the lead into turn one.

Johnson looked to have the lead, but Busch holds the outside to grab the lead.

8 to go as Stewart slips back to 11th. Logano is busted for passing before the start finish line.

7 to go as Kahne battles with Harvick for 4th.

6 to go as Johnson hangs in on the rear of Busch.

5 to go Bowyer slides between Vickers and Kahne.

4 to go Johnson tries to get Busch on the front straight, but no dice. Turn three Johnson on the apron in turn three and four.

3 to go as Johnson takes the lead in turn one. Harvick is all over Busch.

2 to go as Johnson keeps throwing the block on Busch. Heading into turn one Busch overdirves the corner which allows Harvick to take second.

WHITE FLAG and on the back stretch Harvick tapping on the back of Johnson as they headed to turn three. This causes Johnson to get out of shape where Harvick takes the outside line.

The drivers swap positions and Johnson tries the cross over move but Harvick drops to Johnson’s inside as they head out of turn four where Harvick heads to the apron to lock Johnson back by a third of a car and take the win.

Your unofficial top ten of the race is Harvick, Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Newman, Edwards, Bowyer, Vickers, Kahne and Montoya.

The race lasted for two hours and forty-five minutes. We saw 18 lead changes among 10 leaders. 25 drivers finished on the lead lap. 4 yellow flags were displayed during the race that lasted for 16 laps.

Busch led the most laps with 151, Harvick 1 lap.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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