SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. (March 27, 2011) –Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Jimmy John Chevrolet) claimed his first victory at Auto Club Speedway in a stellar finish at Sunday’s Auto Club 400 before an announced crowd of 88,000, the Speedway’s largest since 2006.
Despite early rain and overcast skies throughout the day, Southern California race fans turned out en masse to watch California natives Harvick of Bakersfield and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) of El Cajon battle in a fight to the finish. Harvick overtook the No. 48 car on the final lap to win by a margin of .144 seconds. Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota) led a total of 151 laps during the race and finished in third.
“Well, we had them all beat last year here and I gave it away,” Harvick said. “What a great day! All these guys did a great job on pit road and Gil (Martin) made the right call. We just had a lot of diversity that we fought through. We know our cars are fast enough to win races. Today we had a fast car and the circumstances played in our favor.”
Defending race winner and five-time Sprint Cup champion Johnson couldn’t hold off Harvick on the lap of the race.
“Having Kevin so close at the end certainly affected how my car drove,” Johnson said. “He did exactly what he needed to do. This reminded me a lot of the spring race here. I just couldn’t hold him off this time. I knew (Harvick) was coming, they said he was coming. If I could have gotten by the No. 18 (Busch) a little sooner I think we could have gotten the margin I needed.”
Busch nearly followed up his victory in Saturday’s Nationwide Series Royal Purple 300 with a win on Sunday.
“It’s real unfortunate, frustrating and disappointing all in one that we weren’t able to seal the deal today,” Busch said. “You ask a little bit more from your race car at the last moments and it just doesn’t have anything left to give so essentially you’re a sitting duck waiting for those guys to drive by you. We just couldn’t get any more out of the car.”