Kevin Harvick expects a rare repeat winner at Sonoma

SONOMA, CA - JUNE 25: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 25, 2017 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick expects to see a repeat winner in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

That would be a departure from the norm at a track that has produced nine different winners in the last nine years.

If Harvick’s assumption is correct, the pool of potential visitors to Victory Lane is reduced to seven active drivers: Harvick himself (last year’s winner), Kasey Kahne (2009), Jimmie Johnson (2010), Kurt Busch (2011), Clint Bowyer (2012), reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. (2013) and Kyle Busch (2015).

Harvick believes stage racing will tend to keep the strongest cars near the front of the field, based on pit strategy.

“You know at those two stages that the caution will fly at that particular lap,” Harvick said. “Your strategy is kind of dictated, one way or another. You will either pit before the stage ends or run it to the end and get the points. In those two sections of the race you know you really only have one pit stop window, maybe two at the end depending on how many sets of tires you have left.

“Tires are obviously very important here as far as speed. You have to manage your tires. Depending how many tires you have left, you might stop once, and if the caution falls correctly in the first stage, once or twice at the end depending on the sets left.”

Last year, Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers played the strategy perfectly, sacrificing stage points and taking advantage of a long green-flag run that consumed the second half of the race, which ended under caution when Kahne hit the wall as Harvick approached the finish line. By then the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford had a lead of almost eight seconds.

If there is to be a repeat winner at Sonoma, Harvick, a five-time winner this season, has to be a leading candidate. Only one problem – history isn’t on his side.

There hasn’t been a back-to-back winner at the 1.99-mile road course since Jeff Gordon took three straight checkered flags from 1998 through 2000.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.