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Last-lap pass gives Harvick win at Fontana

March 28, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service, NASCAR.com

FONTANA, Calif. -- Hometown boy (finally) makes good.

Kevin Harvick, who grew up in Bakersfield -- about 150 miles from Auto Club Speedway -- needed a last-lap pass of Jimmie Johnson to win for the first time at the 2-mile track in his 18th attempt.

Harvick won Sunday's Auto Club 400, powering his No. 29 Chevrolet to the outside of Johnson's No. 48 Chevy through Turns 3 and 4 and beating Johnson to the finish line by .144 seconds.

Harvick, who restarted fifth with nine laps remaining, surged to the front on the final two laps, passing Kyle Busch and Johnson in the process. The victory was Harvick's first of the season and 15th of his career and moved him up six spots in the point standings to ninth.

Busch, who led a race-high 151 laps, came home third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and pole-sitter Juan Montoya completed the top 10. Edwards took over the series lead by nine points over Newman.

Busch held the lead until Lap 198, when Johnson passed him to the inside after the cars crossed the stripe. The duel between Busch and Johnson allowed Harvick to gain ground.

A caution on Lap 185 of 200, after Bobby Labonte blew a right-front tire and slammed the Turn 4 wall, meant decision time for the crew chiefs. With Labonte's wrecked car blocking the entrance to pit road, the pits remained closed until Lap 189, when Labonte's car was dragged to the garage by a wrecker.

Busch, Johnson, Tony Stewart, Bowyer, Harvick, Newman and Edwards stayed on the track during the caution, with Kenseth leading a group of cars to pit road.

"Those guys just started to race," Harvick said. "They got side by side, and we were able to pull up in there. The more laps we got on our tires, the better we were, but I was really nervous about that last call -- staying out -- but it all worked out in our favor, and we were able to make up ground.

"[Crew chief] Gil [Martin] obviously knew that we were better after the tires had air in them [as pressure built during green-flag runs], and it all worked out [Sunday]."

Johnson's battle with Busch opened the door for Harvick, who led one lap -- the one that counted.

"If I could have gotten by the No. 18 [Busch] a lap sooner, maybe that would have made the difference, and I would have had enough of a margin to hold off the No. 29, but he was rolling on the top," Johnson said. "I did all I could. I was dead sideways. I think I hit the fence one time off of [Turn] 2, chasing Kyle, with the right rear first because it was sliding off the corner."

After a cycle of stops that began when Busch pitted from the lead on Lap 138, Busch held a 6.5-second lead over Stewart, who began to make up ground throughout the ensuing green-flag run. Stewart had erased all but 1.3 seconds of Busch's advantage when another cycle of green-flag stops widened the lead to 2.5 seconds.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Kevin Harvick's 15th victory put him into a tie for 48th on NASCAR's all-time Cup Series win list with Ernie Irvan.
• Kevin Harvick joins Trevor Bayne, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch as winners in 2011.
• Kevin Harvick started 24th, the 11th time the race winner started from 16th or lower at ACS (50 percent). Seven races have been won from 22nd or worse (32 percent).
• Kevin Harvick posted his first victory at ACS and his fourth consecutive top-10 at the track.
• Richard Childress Racing won for the 95th time in Cup, but for the first time at ASC. Only three tracks remain where RCR has not won (Las Vegas, Kansas and Homestead).
• Jimmie Johnson (second) scored his 10th top-two finish in 17 ACS races.
• Kyle Busch (third) led 151 of the 200 laps, most in the race; he posted his first top-10 finish in his past four races at ACS.
• Matt Kenseth (fourth) posted his best finish and first top-10 in 2011. Kenseth has scored top-five finishes in eight of his 19 ACS races. He has been running at the finish in all 19 of his ACS races, the longest current streak.
• Carl Edwards (sixth) climbed from second to first in the point standings, the first repeat point leader in five races this season.
• Ryan Newman (fifth) scored his fourth consecutive top-10 finish.
• Clint Bowyer (seventh) scored first top-10 finish in 2011. He has top-10 finishes in past four ACS races.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12th) has not scored a top-10 finish in his past seven ACS races.
• Tony Stewart (13th) ended a four race streak of top-10 finishes at ACS.
• Kurt Busch (17th) ended a four-race streak of top-10 finishes to begin the season.
• Mark Martin (20th) ended a three-race streak of top-10 finishes at ACS.
• ACS streaks extended by Jimmie Johnson: top-10 finishes in the past nine races; finished on the lead lap in all 17 of his races; led at least one lap in his past nine races. All constitute the longest current streak.

Andy Lally's spin off Turn 4 on Lap 170, however, brought out the third caution of the race and bunched the field for a restart on Lap 175. Busch and Stewart took the green flag side-by-side, with Busch in the outside lane, and the driver of the No. 18 Toyota pulled away to a half-second lead within three laps.