Kevin Harvick overtook Jimmie Johnson on the final turn of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, claiming his first win of the season in spectacular fashion.
The Richard Childress Racing driver only led the final lap of the race after driving around the outside of the reigning champion, who had just taken the lead from a hitherto dominant Kyle Busch.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver looked set to sweep the weekend for a second time this season, having won Saturday's Nationwide Series race after gambling on a final two-tire stop, while Harvick took four and ended up losing after leading the most laps. The roles were reversed come Sunday, when Busch seemed in control until his final pit stop. Tony Stewart appeared to be his main opposition then, but following the final caution Johnson emerged as his biggest rival, eventually taking the lead with two laps to go.
But while they battled up front, Harvick approached with a head of steam, pushing Johnson's rear bumper along the backstretch after the white flag waved, having quickly disposed of Busch previously. As Johnson tried to scratch speed with an early entry into Turn 3, Harvick kept momentum on his preferred outside line, running very close to the barriers.
Driving a wider ratio while rim-riding the final turn, Harvick seemed to be able to put the power down earlier than Johnson, driving past the Hendrick driver as a substantial crowd cheered a stunning finish to what had been an uneventful race for most of the afternoon.
"Those guys [Busch and Johnson] started racing and they got side by side and we were able to pull up in there," said Harvick. "The more cycles that got on our tires, the better off we were. But I was really nervous about that last call staying out but it all worked out in our favor and we were able to make up ground."
Johnson was not a factor for most of the day but the final caution allowed him to finally get in touch with the leaders for the closing sprint. Restarting beside Busch, after the last green flag he took a few laps to set up his attack, which placed him close to a record sixth career win at his home race, but it was not to be in the end.
"I knew [Harvick] was coming, they said he was coming," said Johnson. "If I could have got by the 18 [Busch] maybe a lap sooner that might have been enough to give me the margin I needed. Just way loose.
"I was driving my butt off just trying to keep this car up front but it didn't pan out. I hate losing it coming off [Turn] 5 like that but we did everything we could today."
Busch admitted his car was not as sharp in the final two runs of the race, which is where his rivals were able to really put him under pressure. He led more than three quarters of the scheduled distance but the balance on his Toyota was not as good when Johnson and Harvick were able to run side by side with him.
"Just real, real unfortunate and frustrating and disappointing all in one that we weren't able to seal the deal today," Busch said. "You're essentially a sitting duck waiting for those guys to drive by you...I just couldn't get more out of the car."
Matt Kenseth emerged as the best of the Roush Fenway racers, who were nowhere near the battle for victory. On the final caution he was the first of several drivers to take on new right-side tires behind the leaders, making the most of his grip advantage in the final 10 laps to claims a solid fourth place.
Stewart Haas' Ryan Newman ran among the top five for most of the day and was fifth at the flag, while his teammate Tony Stewart lost pace in the end and ended up only 13th, having restarted third with 10 laps remaining.
Meanwhile Carl Edwards had an unspectacular, yet effective afternoon, which yielded a return to the lead in the standings that the Roush driver had previously held after the season opener at Daytona.
Red Bull's Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne completed solid runs with eighth and ninth while polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top 10 for Earnhardt Ganassi.
Front row starter Denny Hamlin's bad streak continued, engine issues putting him out of contention.
Results - 200 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 2h40m08.000s
2. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 0.144s
3. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 1.158s
4. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 1.358s
5. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet + 2.066s
6. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 3.084s
7. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet + 3.774s
8. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota + 4.009s
9. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota + 4.097s
10. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 5.284s
11. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 5.397s
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Chevrolet + 5.408s
13. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet + 5.586s
14. A.J. Allmendinger Petty Ford + 6.245s
15. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 6.610s
16. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 7.117s
17. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge + 7.339s
18. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 7.472s
19. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota + 7.639s
20. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet + 7.903s
21. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 7.966s
22. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford + 8.153s
23. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 10.654s
24. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet + 13.485s
25. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 33.172s
26. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 1 lap
27. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 1 lap
28. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 2 laps
29. Casey Mears Germain Toyota + 2 laps
30. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford + 2 laps
31. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 2 laps
32. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet + 2 laps
33. Mike Skinner FAS Lane Ford + 3 laps
34. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge + 3 laps
35. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford + 4 laps
36. Tony Raines Front Row Ford + 10 laps
Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 188 laps
Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 182 laps
Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 105 laps
Todd Bodine Germain Toyota 50 laps
JJ Yeley Whitney Chevrolet 47 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 39 laps
Michael McDowell HP Toyota 32 laps