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Nation, World Sports

NASCAR'S Kevin Harvick stays hot, dominates at Vegas

| Sunday, March 4, 2018, 8:21 p.m.
Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning a NASCAR Cup series auto race Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning a NASCAR Cup series auto race Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Kevin Harvick leads during a NASCAR Cup series auto race Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Kevin Harvick leads during a NASCAR Cup series auto race Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

LAS VEGAS — Kevin Harvick raced to his second consecutive NASCAR Cup win with a dominant performance at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, earning his 100th career win across the three national series.

Harvick followed up his stellar performance last weekend in Atlanta with another lopsided victory in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. He led 209 of the 267 laps, won all three stages and even held off a late charge from local product Kyle Busch to win in Vegas for the second time in four years.

“These last two weeks, we've just hit on everything we needed to,” Harvick said. “My (team has) done their homework on a number of things. Just really proud of everybody.”

Busch got close to his second career victory in his hometown with his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but couldn't overcome the dominant leader. Kyle Larson finished third after winning the Xfinity Series race Saturday, and defending champion Martin Truex Jr. was in fourth and pole-sitter Ryan Blaney in fifth.

Harvick has already matched his Cup win total from last season in three races — and he's headed to Phoenix, where he has won five times since 2012.

Only Richard Petty, Kyle Busch and David Pearson have won more races across the three national circuits than Harvick, the 42-year-old Californian.

“Winning 100 races is something that I never thought I would do,” Harvick said. “They're hard to win, and I've been fortunate to sit in a lot of good race cars.”

Not many wins were more emphatic than Harvick's 100th.

Harvick led 144 of the first 160 laps and comfortably won the first two stages. He was fourth out of the end-of-stage caution after Stage 2, with Joey Logano getting in front with an exceptional pit stop.

But Harvick reclaimed the lead off another restart with 73 laps to go after Kurt Busch wrecked along with Chase Elliott. Harvick emerged from his last pit stop with a three-second lead on Brad Keselowski, and Busch couldn't catch up.

Harvick was even more dominant in Vegas than Truex last year. Truex led all three stages and 150 laps last year on his way to a victory that propelled him into his championship season.

NASCAR is returning to Vegas in the fall for a second race, which will also be the playoff opener. Teams used this trip to gather data and information for the return trip in September, although the temperature could easily be 50 degrees higher than the chilly 53 degrees at Sunday's race.

“The adjustments we made today are going to help in the fall,” Kyle Busch said. “(Although) I think the track is going to be a lot slower with the heat.”

Kurt Busch's career-long victory drought in his hometown continues. He lost control and ran Elliott into the wall shortly after a restart early in the final stage. The crash necessitated a long caution for fluid cleanup. The 39-year-old Busch has never won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which was built while he grew up in town. Kurt Busch failed to win the Cup race in Vegas for the 17th time. He has started on the pole twice, but has only one top-five finish here despite calling it a top priority in his career.

The car chiefs for Jimmie Johnson and Ross Chastain were ejected after their cars failed inspection three times during the pre-race checks. Johnson had to start at the back after his chief, Jesse Saunders, got the gate. Johnson also will have practice time taken away next week in Phoenix. The seven-time champion rallied to finish 12th.

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