|Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning at Fontana. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)|
FONTANA, Calif. — Kevin Harvick isn’t one of those drivers who jumps out front and stays there all the way to the checkers.
He’s more of a lingerer and closer, someone who’s able to stay close to the front then make his move at just the right time.
Harvick was at his pass-at-the-end best yesterday, overtaking California king Jimmie Johnson on the final turn to win the Auto Club 400 after trailing the entire race.
“I wish we could just go out there and wear ’em out one day, just not have to worry about waiting until the last lap,’’ Harvick said. “It does kind of seem we wait until the last moments to really get going. It’s probably somewhat of a bad habit I have, but I guess it worked out.’’
Kyle Busch had the dominant car most of the day and led a race-high 151 laps, including off a restart with nine laps left.
Johnson, a five-time Fontana winner, had the late burst, chasing down Busch for the lead with two laps left.
Harvick, as he always seems to, nailed the finish.
He had a rough start to the season, finishing 42d at Daytona after a blown engine and hadn’t been able to pull it together since despite having fast cars. His best finish was a fourth at Phoenix.
Harvick didn’t have a particularly strong qualifying session at Fontana, either, to start 24th and wasn’t exactly ripping through the field once the race started.
What he did do was gradually work his way to the front, pulling up behind Johnson after getting past Busch.
Taking advantage of a small gap to the outside, Harvick made his move on Johnson going into Turn 3, then completed it coming around Turn 4. Ahead going down the last straightaway, he took the flag.
Unlike Saturday’s Nationwide race, which featured lead changes seemingly every other lap, this one had drivers camped out front for long stretches before the final flourish.
Part of it was the lack of cautions, the opening 75 laps coming under green to set a track record. Overnight rain also played a role. Drivers who were able to get the setup right were able to get out front and stay.
“Looking back, maybe if I could have got by Kyle a lot earlier, maybe it could have made a difference,’’ Johnson said. “But [Harvick] was rolling off the top really, really fast.’’