Kevin Harvick leads at halfway point in Fontana amid tire issues

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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After 100 laps and with many teams pitting out of sequence due to concerns over tire issues, Kevin Harvick is the leader of the Auto Club 400.

Harvick has led 77 laps at Auto Club Speedway after starting second.

Harvick leads, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and pole-sitter Austin Dillon.

There have been 12 lead changes among seven drivers as multiple teams have struggled with tire management, sometimes as early as 15 laps into a green-flag run.

Early in the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran into the back of Kurt Busch exiting Turn 4. The contact caused damage to Busch’s right rear and forced the No. 41 to pit on Lap 17 for repairs and a tire change. Busch currently runs 35th, two laps down after he was penalized for too many crew members over the wall during his Lap 28 pit stop.

On Lap 27, the first caution waved when Chris Buescher‘s No. 34 Ford slapped the outside wall in Turn 1.

The second caution came on Lap 48 when Kyle Larson lost the left-rear tire, and his No. 42 Chevrolet bounced off the SAFER barrier on the outside wall before sliding head-on into the inside SAFER barrier. Larson’s brakes did not work, causing the impact to launch all four tires off the track surface. Larson was not hurt.

On Lap 72, 19 laps after the previous restart, leader Kevin Harvick and A.J. Allmendinger both made unscheduled pit stops for vibrations. Both drivers were told their tires didn’t show any signs of damage.

Other drivers experiencing tire problems were Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers.

On Lap 83, the lead-lap cars began making green-flag stops, which resulted in Harvick assuming the lead after his earlier pit stop.