By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
SONOMA, California — Banking on a late race caution to score his second straight win at Sonoma Raceway, Kevin Harvick didn’t get one and finished second in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, leading 35 of 110 laps.
“We all make mistakes, and we all do things for a split second that you might be right after it all happens,” said Harvick. “These guys do a great job. Everyone on our Mobil 1 team has done a great job the last five years now.”
Harvick said rather than the final pit stop being the defining moment of the race, he felt that pushing his car harder than he needed played a bigger role on the outcome.
“We had a shot today. The call was one thing, but I think I was too hard on the car in the first couple of stages,” Harvick added. “We never really came around there at the end of the race. It progressively kept getting worse, and I kept losing drive about Lap 20 off of (Turn) 3 and getting tight into 4. I had a lot of problems that I needed to work on.”
Throughout Stage 1, Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. played the cat and mouse game, trying to one up each other. With three laps remaining, they both pitted for fresh tires.
As soon as they exited the pits, the two battled door-to-door with some squeezing and shoving to see who will be out in front in Turn 1.
The battle was won by Harvick, and settled for 13th. Once the drivers who stayed out pitted, he moved up to second with Truex leading the field for the start of Stage 2.
On the 27th lap, Harvick’s No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion was on top of the leaderboard, which held on for 21 laps until surrendering his spot to make another stop, and ended the second stage in 16th.
Although Harvick started the final stage in the lead, the direction of the race changed. It became a game of which team can make the wisest decision to put themselves in a winning position.
Harvick made his first of two green flag stops on Lap 73 and exited out in 14th. Once on fresh set of tires, it was go time for last year’s winner to go for his sixth win of the season.
Lap after lap, Harvick became the class of the field as he was running laps over a second faster than both Truex and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer.
On Lap 82, Harvick regained the lead, but with Truex pitting two laps prior, it became a matter of time for Truex to snatch Harvick’s lead away, which he did nine laps later.
Due to the nature of Sonoma being known to have late-race cautions, Harvick gave up second a lap later to make his final stop. Going forward, the only way for Harvick to repeat in “Wine Country” was a caution.
Harvick exited out in fifth, trailing Truex by 37.52 seconds, but once again was able to cut some of his lead down. Unfortunately, the late-race caution didn’t pan out as Truex snookered Harvick by 10.513 seconds.
After the race, Harvick wasn’t sure what was going on in the pits, but he relied on crew chief Rodney Childers’ call and went for it whereas Truex outsmarted the whole field.
“I don’t really know what is going on up on the pit box and who is doing what. I just do what I am told. Those guys do a great job,” said Harvick. “You make some right ones, you make some bad ones and sometimes you guess right and sometimes you guess wrong. Who knows what is right or wrong.
“I thought that was a good call at the end to put tires on in case the caution came out. We got right back up to where we were running and put ourselves in position to have a chance in case the caution came out. I am really proud of everyone on our Mobil 1 Ford. We had a really good weekend and came up one spot short.”
It’s Harvick’s second straight runner-up finish, and the third this season. As far as the regular season points battle, he cuts Kyle Busch’s points lead from 75 to 72 points heading into Chicagoland Speedway on July 1st.