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Sunday December 17th, 2017 10:23PM

Kevin Harvick wins at Sonona for 1st victory of season

By The Associated Press
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SONONA, Calif. (AP) — Kevin 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.

"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 said.

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.

"Getting our first win with Ford, this has been a great journey for us as an organization and team," Harvick said.

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 earlier in the day. 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.

UP NEXT: Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be billed as the potential last stop at the Florida track for retiring driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. But Earnhardt stressed at Sonoma he is only retiring from "full-time" competition, and did not close the door on running there again, specifically the Daytona 500.

___

More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org

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