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Harvick Dominates; Claims True Value IROC Victory

FONTANA, Calif. (April 27, 2002) -- Kevin Harvick led all but four laps to claim Saturday's True Value International Race of Champions event at California Speedway.

The first year True Value IROC driver started Saturday's 50-lap, 100-mile race fourth but charged to the front on the first lap and went on to dominate the event, edging Bobby Labonte by .149 seconds in the second of the four-race series. Dale Jarrett, who finished last (12th) at the opener in Daytona, was third.

Harvick, a star in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, received his IROC invitation for winning last year's Busch Grand National championship. He became the first rookie IROC driver to win a race since Jeff Burton's victory in Michigan in 1998.

"To win one of these races is pretty cool," said Harvick, a native of Bakersfield, Calif. "I was worried about all of the raceers and knew I needed to be in front from the beginning. It's hard to pass when you get underneath somebody. Anytime you win an IROC race, you are going to be put somewhere you did not imagine before."

The only other drivers to lead laps other than Harvick were Labonte and Tony Stewart, who both led two laps each. Labonte led laps nine and 10 while Stewart led laps 28 and 30.

"My car was good all day," said Labonte, the reigning True Value IROC Series champion. "I thought if he (Harvick) bogged down a little, I would have a shot at winning. I am just glad I finished second."

NASCAR drivers teamed to take the first six positions in the 12-driver all-star race where each car is prepared equally. Finishing behind Harvick, Labonte and Jarrett were Sterling Marlin (fourth), Jack Sprague (fifth) and Stewart (sixth).

Helio Castroneves, representing the Indy Racing League, had the best finish (7th) among the open-wheel racers. Positions 8-11 also went to the Indy Racing League drivers - Al Unser Jr. (8th), Buddy Lazier (9th), Scott Sharp (10th) and San Hornish Jr. (11th). Danny Lasoski, representing the World of Outlaws was 12th.

Harvick's victoy moved him into second place in the True Value IROC Series standings with 32 points. Stewart, who won the Daytona opener, leads with 35 points. Labonte is third with 30 points.

The two remaining True Value IROC races will be at Chicagoland Speedway (July 13) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Aug. 3).

 

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