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article imageNASCAR: Defending series champion wins in Las Vegas

By John Duarte     Mar 9, 2015 in Sports
Las Vegas - Kevin Harvick has picked up where he left off in 2014. In November, he closed off the NASCAR year by winning his first Sprint Cup championship. On Sunday, he capped off a thunderous start to the 2015 campaign with a win in Las Vegas.
After placing second the first two rounds of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the Daytona 500 and the QuikTrip 500, the reigning series champion drove his car into Victory Lane on Sunday, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. All of which has left Harvick shaking his head.
“I have been absolutely terrified that we would never sit up here again,” he said. “Friday, you have thought that the end of the world had come because you looked at everybody on the team and it was like, oh my gosh, we qualified 18th. They came back the next day and they're like here's what happened, here's what we're going to do.”
Harvick's crew dialled in his car near to perfect for Sunday's Kobalt 400. Harvick sat out front most of the afternoon, leading a race-high 142 laps, to not only win his first race in Vegas, but continue an amazing run in the series. In the last races, three to end 2014 and three to open 2015, Harvick has finished no lower than second place, winning three of the races.
Despite having a strong car on Sunday, Harvick admitted he was in doubt as to where he would end up at the end of the race. He said his car “got to be a handful there at the end” and he wondered whether he could bring the car home in the closing laps of the race.
“Tires started vibrating and we were just hanging on. It wasn't right,” Harvick said. “That wasn't a comfortable last run. Luckily we were able to hang on to it and had a good enough lead to where we could pace ourselves and be able to keep the lead.”
Also wondering what was going on was Martin Truex Jr., who finished second in the race, over a second and half behind Harvick.
“I really thought he was playing with us — taking it easy because he knew he had a big gap,” Truex said, adding that no one on his radio told him the race leader was having any sort of problem. “I asked why in the world is Harvick so slow right now?”
Ryan Newman finished third in the Kobalt 400.
The win on Sunday places Harvick atop the Sprint Cup Series leaderboard. With three Top 5 finishes in the first three races of the season, Dale Earnhart Jr. sits nine points behind the leader, while Joey Logano is 11 points off the pace in third place.
The NASCAR series stays out west. The next race in the Sprint Cup Series season is the 500, at Phoenix International Raceway on Mar. 15, 2015.
California-born Harvick is happy with the current series of races in the western United States, Phoenix and Fontana (California), which feel like a homecoming. His fortunes haven't been good at Auto Club Speedway, where he hasn't won since 2011, but he is looking forward to Phoenix International Raceway, where won both races last year and went to Victory Lane four of the last six times at the track.
“I'm excited to come home on the West Coast swing,” Harvick said. “There's just a little extra incentive and a lot of fun. I know that's there's a lot of those fans that have sat out there since the mid '90s and, at least since my rookie year, supported us and you'll see them at all three races.”
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