Kevin Harvick sweeps to sweet Sonoma weekend

After winning the Carneros 200 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series on Saturday afternoon, Kevin Harvick was hopeful the victory would prepare him for Sunday’s main event: the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

His wishful thinking paid off, as Harvick stormed to the checkered flag Sunday to complete the weekend sweep at Sonoma Raceway and marking his 36th win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Reflecting on the weekend, Harvick attributed Sunday’s win to his participation on Saturday:

“It kept me from sitting around and finding something to do on Saturday … That seat-time in the car is definitely something we were trying to focus on. And whether I learned anything, it can’t hurt to make laps.”

For Harvick, the win was the ideal ending to NASCAR’s annual weekend in Northern California’s wine country. But Sunday’s win required several fortuitous incidents that opened the door for the No. 4 Mobile One Ford.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (42) leads the first lap at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Sunday, June 24, 2017.

Hometown kid Kyle Larson led the first nine laps of day from the pole. But a tangle that involved fan-favorite driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick on turn four would damage Larson’s car enough to take him out of the lead pack for the rest of the day.

That crash brought out the third yellow flag of a race already peppered with cautions. The stoppages altered the pitting patterns for many, race leaders including Brad Keselowski.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2) takes turn 4 at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Sunday, June 24, 2017.

Starting the third and final stage of the race, Keselowski led the pack to the start/finish line but would wind up on the wrong end of final stage pit stops. His reign as race leader ended after being forced to stop for fuel and tires midway through the 60-lap sprint.

With Larson and Keselowski reduced to non-factors, the next casualty of the day came at the expense of Martin Truex Jr. Truex, who had led the most laps until the final stage, experienced engine trouble that would knock him out of the race entirely.

When asked if he felt bad about Truex’s misfortunes, Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers said:

“Are you talking about before or after he told Harvick ‘kiss my ass?’ After he said that, I didn’t think he was going to win anyways.”

As the tornado of chaos hit his competitors, Harvick was able to jump on the opportunity and take his first lead of the day and rely on some good fortune for himself.

The first two stages were littered with cautions, but the final stage went entirely caution free. This turned out to be exactly what Harvick needed, as he nursed aging tires and a drying-up fuel tank in the final moments of the race:

“It was really important. As you look at the end of the race, Rodney was telling me to save gas and save the tires. I felt like I was already doing that. They were starting to make me a little bit worried actually… But once (Truex) fell out, I felt like we were in complete control of the race.”

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick (4) celebrates a victory at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Sunday, June 24, 2017.

Harvick would cross the finish line ahead of Stewart-Haas teammate Clint Bowyer. It is the third time Stewart Haas has had a one-two finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Harvick would also finish as the race’s lap leader with 26 laps led.

As he drank the traditional glass of Sonoma cabernet in victory lane, Harvick was able to soak in his success:

“I don’t even like wine anyway. … But I love being in California, we’ve had a great weekend here at the racetrack.”

Toyota/Save Mart 350 photo gallery

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay