Off to a solid start this year with two top-10’s in four starts, Kevin Harvick is set to defend his Auto Club 400 title from a year ago, and one lap is all it took.
There were 18 lead changes among 10 drivers during the 200-lap race. Kyle Busch dominated, leading five times for 151 laps and Jimmie Johnson led for laps 198 and 199, but it was Harvick who outdueled them both down the stretch to take the checkered flag for his 15th career win.
In 18 starts at Auto Club Speedway, Harvick finally gained his first win to go along with his eight top-10 finishes. In doing so, Harvick turned the tables on Johnson, who had clipped him the previous season. This time around, Harvick made the pass on the final lap and won by 0.144 seconds, the closest finish in Auto Club Speedway history.
Harvick finished last season with four wins and 19 top-10 finishes, but placed 12th in the points race. This year, he’s second, just nine points back.
It took eight years, but Jimmie Johnson finally repeated his 2002 performance at Auto Club Speedway by defeating Kevin Harvick for his 48th career Sprint Cup title in 2010. Johnson, who had posted six straight top-10 finishes prior to the win, including four seconds, dominated the field, leading eight times for a whopping 101 laps in posting a 1.523 second victory. Johnson took the lead for good with 24 laps remaining. Seeking his fourth win in the past five years, Matt Kenseth placed seventh after starting 20th on the grid. Pole sitter Jamie McMurray finished 17th.
Kenseth won this race for the third time in four years back in 2009, as he raced to victory. Kenseth reclaimed the lead with 39 laps remaining and held on to defeat Jeff Gordon by 1.463 seconds. Kenseth, who started 24th, led three times for 84 laps, as he posted his 18th career Sprint Cup title. Pole sitter Brian Vickers never led the race and finished 10th.