The domination for Kevin Harvick in 2018 continued Sunday, as he won in dominating fashion for the second week in a row. Harvick led 214 of the 267 laps of the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Harvick’s win was the 39th of his career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The Vegas victory also gave the Bakerfield, CA driver his 100th win across all 3 of NASCAR’s national touring series.
Harvick would beat runner-up and Las Vegas native Kyle Bush to the checkered flag by 2.9 seconds, while Kyle Larson ended his day in third, more than 13 seconds behind Harvick. The SHR driver also swept the first two stages.
Harvick would tout the effort and commitment by his team as an important factor in the domination to start 2018.
“As you look at the last two weeks and our 1.5-mile program in general, it has been really good since I started here at SHR,” Harvick said. “They put a lot of effort into everything we do from every standpoint to get these cars going like they are. It’s great to win on the West Coast for me.”
Harvick was forced to reclaim the top spot after he lost three positions on pit road during the caution at the end of Stage 2. The final stage resumed under green at Lap 167, He would get around Chase Elliott for fourth on Lap 172. “We had some trouble getting through traffic there,” Harvick said. “That was our worst run, as far as where the car was. I don’t know if it was just the car, tire set, handling, whatever it was. We were just stuck in traffic and needed to come make an adjustment.”
The chance for an adjustment came on Lap 176 when Jamie McMurray brushed the wall on the backstretch bringing out the third caution of the race, but the first for an incident.
Just after that caution period changed to green, the yellow was displayed once again, this time for a Lap 183 crash. This incident occurred off Turn 4 when Kurt Bush got into a “push-loose” scenario from the dirty air created with traffic. As Bush attempted to catch his No. 41 Haas-Automation Ford, he slid up into Elliott, who had nowhere to go. Both drivers would end their day in the garage.
Harvick would restart next to eventual seventh-place finisher, Joey Logano, but the SHR driver would take command of the lead through Turn 1. Later in the run, Kyle Bush led from Laps 225-230 when Harvick pitted under green. Harvick would retake the lead when the Joe Gibbs Racing driver made his final stop.
“There was no catching that 4,” Kyle Busch said. “They were on rails today… Certainly would have liked to have been able to run down the 4 or catch the 4 and put on a race, but they were just so far out there and so far the class of the field all day long, I don’t think anybody was really keeping up with them.”
Update: Harvick’s dominating day was stripped from counting in this year’s playoffs. During post-race inspection, NASCAR officials discovered two infractions that, on Wednesday, led to significant penalties. Officials found that the braces securing the rear window failed, not meeting NASCAR specifications to keep the rear window glass rigid in all directions. The team was also found to have side skirts in violation, as they were not made out of aluminum. Harvick lost all the postseason benefits of his Vegas win with the penalties. One playoff point for each stage win and five for the victory. Rodney Childers, Harvick’s crew chief was fined $50,000, while car chief Robert Smith was suspended for the next two MENCS races. The team was also docked 20 driver and owner points in the regular-season standings.
Track Talk Ep. 3 is available below.