'The Closer' Does What He Does Best & Jimmie Orders A 'Six-Pack'
Remember a few weeks ago when some questioned if Kevin Harvick would finish out the year with Richard Childress Racing after an on-track spat with Ty Dillon?
Not only did Harvick remain the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet, he drove it to victory lane Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway to deliver RCR's 200th NASCAR victory.
In typical closer fashion, Harvick was able to capitalize as Carl Edwards ran out of gas while leading coming to the white flag lap. Driving away from the limping No. 99 Ford, Harvick and the No. 29 crew celebrated their fourth win of the year. This marks the fifth time Harvick has won with a last lap pass.
So much for all that lame duck talk.
As Harvick took the checkered flag, Jimmie Johnson was crossing the line in the third spot. Overcoming two potentially devastating incidents on the track, Johnson moved one step closer to earning a sixth Sprint Cup Series championship.
For as solid as Johnson's day was, it could have gone very bad from the start.
Leading the field to the green on the initial start, Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet was stuck in the middle of a three-wide battle with Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. The No. 22 of Logano bobble on the bottom and made contact with the left rear of Johnson's car. Getting out of the gas, Johnson saved the car, but lost a host of positions. Keeping his cool, 'five-time' focused on working his way back to the front.
One bullet dodged.
Just past the halfway mark of the race, Johnson was battling Edwards for 15th when Harvick took it three wide going into the first corner. Much like Logano on the first lap, Edwards' car wiggled and got into the left rear of the No. 48. Both drivers chased their cars up the track, but kept them off the wall and kept motoring on.
Another bullet dodged.
While Johnson was fighting to save his car from potential disasters, Matt Kenseth's day was nothing short of a disaster.
Starting 14th, Kenseth faced an uphill battle from the start. However, few could have expected the Joe Gibbs Racing team to struggle as bad as they did throughout the day.
Fighting handling issues on the track, the pit crew did not do their championship hopes any favors either.
Just after Johnson's incident with Edwards, Kenseth brought his No. 20 Toyota to pit road for what could be considered the team's worst stop of the year. A miscommunication from crew chief Jason Ratcliff had tire changers unsure of how many, and what side tires to change. Once the confusion was sorted out, the right front tire dropped on the air hose, cause a further delay in the stop.
All told, it took the JGR team 25.6 seconds to complete a four-tire stop under caution.
Things never improved for Kenseth and his JGR team, and when the checkered flag flew for they were 23rd on the leaderboard.
With a 28-point advantage heading into the final race of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Johnson needs to finish 23rd or better to clinch his sixth title.
A six-pack seems well within reach.
But, as our friend @TheOrangeCone points out, Johnson has not had the best of luck the past two years at Homestead.