Sonoma, Calif. — Kevin Harvick led a 1-2-3 podium sweep for Ford while proving that veteran experience still counts for something in NASCAR.
Harvick returned to victory lane for the first time this season with a dominating run Sunday on the road course at Sonoma Raceway. The former NASCAR champion came to Sonoma winless in 20 races since Kansas last fall and has been overshadowed in this season of NASCAR’s young new superstars.
But at a track where experience and ability can separate the field, it was Harvick and a bunch of veterans who led the way. It was the first win on the winding wine country road course in 17 tries for the Bakersfield, California, driver.
Sonoma was one of just four active tracks where Harvick had never before scored a Cup victory. He did, however, win the K&N Series race at Sonoma on Saturday and it may have given him some inside knowledge.
“It kept me from sitting around and trying to find something to do on Saturday,” Harvick said. “I think that was the biggest thing. I’m sitting around and there’s guys out here making laps and learning things, and I think that’s the most important thing is to never take for granted that you have to try to expand your knowledge and keep an open mind to making things better.
“To finally check this one off the list …. being so close to home and having raced here so much, this was one that was on the top of the list.”
Harvick was on cruise control and conserving fuel in the race that ended under caution after Kasey Kahne had a hard accident on the final lap. Either way, Harvick had a cozy 9-second lead over Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer before the caution.
Bowyer, now the driver for the entry Tony Stewart used for his final NASCAR victory last year at the track, was second and Brad Keselowski third as Ford cars went 1-2-3.
For Harvick, it was the first victory since Stewart-Haas Racing switched to Ford this season. Harvick had spent 16 years in a Chevrolet.
It was Ford’s seventh victory of the season. Ford won eight Cup races last season, and seven came exclusively from Team Penske drivers. This year, the manufacturer has wins from Penske, Roush-Fenway Racing, The Wood Brothers and SHR.
“I had mixed emotions about how the year was going to go just because of the fact that we had a lot on our plate to switch over,” Harvick said. “It’s just a big undertaking, and one day I think when we get done with this year, I think everybody will actually learn all the details of all the things that it took to get to this particular point. It’s a huge undertaking, and I think it says a lot about our people at Stewart-Haas Racing.”
Martin Truex Jr. led 25 laps but suffered an engine failure and finished 37th. Truex won the first stage of the race, his series-leading 11th stage victory. Jimmie Johnson won the second stage, his first stage victory of the season, but finished 13th overall.
Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray started on the pole for Chip Ganassi Racing and hoped to give the owner a sweep of Sunday after Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race at Road America in Wisconsin. But Larson, the points leader, was never a factor and finished 26th. McMurray was 10th.
Most of the top 10 was comprised of veterans. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were fourth and fifth in Toyota, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sixth and the highest-finishing Chevrolet. Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch was seventh.
Then came Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, who along with Larson are part of the newest faces of NASCAR.
At Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race at Road America to spoil the Team Penske party on the rural road course.
Dixon edged Josef Newgarden by 0.57 seconds to claim his first victory at Road America. It also gave the Chip Ganassi Racing veteran his first win since Watkins Glen in September.
Dixon’s 41st career victory moved him within one of tying Michael Andretti for third on the all-time list.
Ganassi had a chance for a weekend sweep. Kyle Larson, the NASCAR points leader, started on the pole at Sonoma in a Ganassi car.
Dixon’s No. 9 Honda held off Newgarden and the three other Penske drivers who started up front.
Newgarden’s teammate Helio Castroneves, the pole sitter, finished third.
At Baku, Azerbaijan, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo profited from the chaos to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, while Sebastian Vettel extended his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton.
The Australian secured his fifth career win, while Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas overtook 18-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll’s Williams in the closing meters to take second place.
Vettel steered his Ferrari into fourth, just ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes.
In a stop-start race, the safety car came out three times in quick succession before a red flag stopped the race near the midway point because debris littered the track.
Shortly before that, Hamilton and Vettel were involved in an incident that threatens to sour their good relations.
Hamilton appeared to stop his car right in front of Vettel, causing Vettel to collide into him. An irate Vettel then accelerated alongside Hamilton and appeared to deliberately swerve back into him.
Vettel was given a 10-second stop-go penalty, but Hamilton lost valuable time changing a loose headrest at the same time that Vettel served his time penalty.
At Norwalk, Ohio, Steve Torrence raced to his fourth Top Fuel victory of the season, beating Doug Kalita in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
Torrence had a 3.743-second pass at 331.45 mph to edge Doug Kalitta on a holeshot. Kalita finished at 3.736 at 331.36.
Jack Beckman won in Funny Car, Bo Butner in Pro Stock and LE Tonglet in Pro Stock Motorcycle in the 12th of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Beckman raced to his 26th career victory and second of the season, beating Robert Hight with a 4.073 pass at 311.85 in a Dodge Charger R/T. Points leader Butner had his third victory of year, topping teammate Greg Anderson with a 6.601 at 210.50 in a Chevrolet Camaro. Tonglet also won for the third time this year, edging Matt Smith with a 6.824 at 195.76 on a Suzuki.