Chevrolet drivers Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart were on track to score a one-two-finish after dominating the last 20 laps of a 75-lap, 300km race – until Stewart slipped to fourth place on the final lap.
Instead, Harvick held off two hard-charging Ford drivers Greg Biffle and Joey Logano to take out the preliminary, non-championship warm-up race to the 2013 series.
Harvick’s narrow win will come as a relief to the 16 Chevrolet teams who hadn’t raced the Commodore Nascar until tonight – and bodes well for the season opener and biggest Nascar round of the year, next weekend’s Daytona 500.
Harvick won the Daytona 500 in 2007 but finished eighth in last year’s championship. Stewart is a three-times Nascar champion but has never won the Daytona 500.
Chevrolet is the most successful car maker in Nascar, with 702 race victories to its credit, more than any other manufacturer. It will line up against teams from Ford and Toyota for this year’s series after Dodge withdrew from the sport.
Meanwhile, the new Holden Commodore V8 Supercar was fastest in the category’s pre-season test sessions at Sydney’s Eastern Creek yesterday.
Jason Bright, driving for Brad Jones Racing, upset the big budget teams by outpacing former champions Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes and the Holden Racing Team pairing of Garth Tander and James Courtney.
Rick Kelly was the fastest Nissan Altima driver, with the fifth best time, David Reynolds was the fastest Ford driver in eighth and the highest placed Mercedes driver Maro Engel was 14th quickest.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling