Kevin Harvick swept to his second career Winston Cup victory in impressive fashion by leading the final 25 laps of Sunday's Tropicana 400 at the new Chicagoland Speedway and holding off a late challenge from Robert Pressley and Ricky Rudd.

The inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup event at the state-of-the-art 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway came down to a five lap dash to the chequered flag as rookie Kevin Harvick strove to hold off the challenge of Robert Pressley, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett in front of a packed house of enthusiastic Chicago fans.

Harvick, who led a race high 113 (of 267) laps, was able to hold off a career best effort by Pressley in the closing laps to take his second Winston Cup victory following Atlanta earlier in the year as Richard Childress Racing celebrated their expansion to a three car team for 2002 in style.

The sensational Harvick more than made up for his Busch Series disappointment on Saturday as he took the lead for what would be the final time on lap 242 from Martin's Roush Racing Ford, one of four cars not to make a late fuel stop under the eighth of ten caution periods for the day.

Martin, Pressley, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth gambled on making the finish with one less stop when the caution flag flew on lap 228 to clear up debris from Jeff Burton's blow-out while others, Harvick, front-row starter and consistent front-runner Jimmy Spencer and Bill Elliott elected to take just fuel as the smooth track surface was being kind to their Goodyear rubber. Harvick took the lap 233 re-start in sixth but soon worked his way passed Spencer and Kenseth before snatching third away from Busch in a superb three-wide manoeuvre involving the lapped machine of Bobby Hamilton. On lap 240 Harvick's No.29 Chevrolet relieved Pressley of second spot and then two laps later Martin was powerless to stop the Goodwrench machine as Harvick swept by into the lead.

Once in the lead however Harvick had to defend it and his cause wasn't helped on lap 245 when pole-sitter Todd Bodine spun for the second time to bring out the caution flag leaving the young driver as the target for everyone else behind. However belying his years Harvick was untouchable away from the re-start and while Pressley and Martin squabbled over second Harvick calmly pulled out a one-second advantage as the race moved into the final dozen laps.

Any thoughts of a smooth run to the finish for Harvick were erased on lap 257 however as Tony Stewart and Sterling Marlin got together in turn two whilst battling for seventh place. With Stewart's Home Depot Pontiac sitting on the apron of the race-track NASCAR had no choice but to throw another caution only this time, with only five laps to go on the re-start, the cars would be lined up in single file thereby eliminating any potential lapped traffic from the equation.

Once again Harvick kept his cool under pressure and did not allow Pressley to get underneath him going into turn one when the green flag was waved for the final time despite the Jasper Motorsports driver's best efforts his older tyres counted against him when it mattered. Further easing Harvick's situation was the fact that Martin, third in line, fluffed a gear change and fell back to seventh and forcing the following Robert Yates pair to momentarily ease out of the throttle. Rudd used all of the track and more to vault from fifth to third in the brief moment of chaos and set after Pressley who could not quite match Harvick for straight line speed.

As quick as Rudd appeared to be though Pressley clung to second and crossed the line four tenths behind Harvick for a career best finish as Rudd's ultra consistent run continued as he moved the No.28 Ford closer to the top of the points standings after leading 25 laps early in the event.

Dale Jarrett's fourth place unofficially put him in a tie for the Winston Cup points lead as erstwhile leader Jeff Gordon lost a cylinder late in the race and fell to 17th, last car on the lead lap at the finish. The No.88 UPS Ford driver did not lead a lap all day but was an almost continual presence in the top 15 as he smoothly racked up a stack of points in a race where his car was never truly to his liking.

'Mr Excitement' started the week in the news for all the wrong reasons after some uncalled for post-race Daytona comments concerning the legality of Dale Earnhardt Jr's winning car but the No.26 Kmart Ford driver ended the week in the news for all the right reasons following a gritty determined drive in which he led 50 laps and wound up in fifth spot.

Martin, Kenseth and Busch hung on to finish sixth, seventh and eighth respectively as they went the right way on fuel strategy when all three looked out of top ten contention while the top ten was completed by Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott, who was another driver not to figure until the last round of stops.

Dale Earnhardt Jr made some stunning early race progress from 36th on the grid but fell from the top ten to the tail of the lead lap shortly passed the 150 lap mark and could do no better than eleventh this time by while Dave Blaney ran smoothly and consistently all day to claim twelfth position. Rusty Wallace was invisible once again en-route to 13th while Todd Bodine somehow managed to finish on the lead lap in 14th after his two harmless spins and an unscheduled pit-stop inside the first 100-laps when a tyre went down on the Haas-Carter Ford.

Elliott Sadler, Joe Nemechek who led convincingly for almost 20 laps during the second half of the race only to pit one too many times and lose track position, and the underpowered Gordon were the only other drivers to finish on the lead lap.

The 1.5-mile circuit may have provided some excellent racing but it also dished out it's fair share of mechanical woes as many drivers fell out of contention due to contact, blown tyres or mechanical problems. Jeff Burton was top five material until a late race tyre blow-out forced him off the lead lap and back to 18th place at the flag while Johnny Benson's almost obligatory good run was thwarted on lap 225 when his Valvoline Pontiac lapsed onto seven cylinders resulting in a 27th place finish.

Others to watch good finishes go down the drain included Casey Atwood who cut a tyre and finished 28th, Jeremy Mayfield who was heading for the top ten until a late race engine problem cost him eight laps and left him 32nd at the flag. Stewart wound up with a bent race car and a 33rd place finish, Kevin Lepage suffered an oil-leak, Robby Gordon shot from 42nd on the grid to tenth inside 90 laps only to lose 15 laps with a mechanical problem leaving him in 35th spot while Jeff Green ran inside the top ten until his engine let go with less than 30 laps remaining.

Jerry Nadeau looked like being Harvick's closest challenger in the mid point of the race despite feeling ill behind the wheel of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and unfortunately Nadeau was put out of his misery earlier than he expected when his car developed an oil leak and had to be retried. Bobby Labonte was running inside the top ten at the half-way mark only to encounter terminal valve trouble with the engine of his Interstate Batteries Pontiac and the defending Winston Cup Champion was classified 39th, ahead of only Steve Park and Mike Skinner who took hard hits into the wall, Ron Hornaday who was set for a top 15 finish until his motor blew and the luckless Andy Houston who finished 43rd for the second week in a row after his driveshaft broke on the very opening lap.