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Harvick closes deal at Fontana; Final-turn pass overtakes Johnson

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 on Sunday, overtaking California king Jimmie Johnson on the final turn at Auto Club Speedway to win 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 winner at Fontana, 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 42nd 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 straightway, he finished off his becoming-a-trademark finish to take the checkers for the 15th time in his career.

"I really felt good when they had that restart because I knew his car was really fast on the long run," said Richard Childress, owner of Harvick's No. 29 car. "I knew if they didn't get too far out in front of us, we'd have a shot. All we needed was to get him side-by-side and start racing. That gave Kevin a chance to catch them and he made the right move going into 3."

Pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya never had much of a chance at winning his first oval race. A two-time winner on road courses, he led the first six laps, but wasn't a factor after that, drifting deeper into the field before making a late charge to finish 10th.

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Franchitti takes opener

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Dario Franchitti is still the one to beat in IndyCar.

The two-time defending series champion was perfect in Sunday's season opener, leading 94 of 100 laps on the scenic, 1.8-mile street course and beating Will Power to the finish line by more than seven seconds. It was Franchitti's first victory and fifth top-five finish in six starts in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"He's like clockwork," Power said. "He never makes mistakes."

Tony Kanaan, the 2004 series champion who joined his new team Monday, held off Simona de Silvestro over the final few laps for third. De Silvestro enjoyed her best finish in 18 career starts.

Danica Patrick was 12th, a disappointing start to her seventh IndyCar season. Patrick, who drove four races in NASCAR's second-tier series before resuming her full-time IndyCar gig, was penalized one spot on the final lap for making "avoidable contact" with JR Hildebrand. Patrick bumped Hildebrand from behind, turning him around.

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Perfect start for Vettel

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel opened his Formula One title defense by driving a flawless race and beating McLaren's Lewis Hamilton to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old Vettel became the youngest F1 champion last year, finishing third in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP to edge Fernando Alonso by four points.

"The car was quick but also reliable and that is the key," Vettel said.

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