Kevin Harvick had never won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway prior to Sunday afternoon’s Kobalt 400. Harvick led 142 laps on his path to Victory Lane for the first time in the 2015 season.
“It’s just so cool to win here at Las Vegas and to start this West-coast swing off this way is pretty awesome,” Harvick told FOX following the win. “Just to be in front of all these race fans that I have raced in front of since the mid-nineties. It’s pretty special to win here.”
The 400-mile event started off with pole sitter Jeff Gordon having to start in the rear of the field after getting into Danica Patrick during the final minute of practice on Saturday afternoon.
By the competition caution on Lap 25, Gordon was halfway through the field and up to 21st. During the competition caution, the No. 7 of Alex Bowman blew an engine - resulting in a 43rd-place finish.
Joey Logano led the majority of the first stint of the race. But on Lap 43, Jimmie Johnson took the lead for the first time. The No. 48 led the next 45 laps, but had a loose right front tire on Lap 91, which resulted in an unscheduled pit-stop and Harvick taking the lead.
Johnson fell to the 33rd position and one lap behind the leaders. During the round of green flag pit-stops Brad Keselowski had to return to pit-road due to an uncontrolled tire violation which is a penalty.
On Lap 154, the No. 24 car finally cracked the top-10, as Gordon got around Kyle Larson. That was short lived as Johnson had a right front tire shred and he got into the wall. Rookie driver, Jeb Burton checked up, and while doing so, Gordon drove straight into the back of the No. 26. However, Gordon did record his best finish of the season with an 18th.
Just 15 laps later, the No. 48 had another right front tire go down; this one put an end to any hopes of a solid finish.
“The first one we had a bead that blew out. The second one we had a tire going soft in to Turn 3. It’s unfortunate, we had an awesome car as we were up there leading. It would have been cool to win the Kobalt race in the Kobalt car, but it just wasn’t met to be,” Johnson told FOX while sitting in the garage.
Two of Johnson’s last three DNFs were caused because of a tire failure.
With 74 laps remaining in the race, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards made severe contact with one another. It started a lap prior when Edwards squeezed Kahne into the wall coming off of Turn 4. Heading down in to Turn 1, Kahne retaliated and gave the No. 19 no room and Edwards spun out.
“That was completely my fault. I got sucked up into him in (turn) 4. I feel really bad for Kasey(Kahne),” Edwards told FOX while sitting in the garage.
The last lead change of the day came during green-flag pit stops when Harvick took the lead from Keselowski. Harvick led the final 16 laps of the race as he went on to clinch his spot in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Martin Truex, Jr. finished second, while Ryan Newman took third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.
Truex’s second place finish is his best finish to date in his two seasons with Furniture Row Racing. In three races this season the team has three top-10 finishes and sits in the top-five in points. Last season, the No. 78 only recorded five top-10s the entire season.
“We’re a really good team, and we have to take advantage of that,” Truex said in his post-race press conference.
But today wad all about Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing team. Through three races, the No. 4 looks to be just as strong as they were last season and everyone knows how that ended-with a championship.