Kevin Harvick wishes he could run every Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.
The rest of the drivers in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series — especially Carl Edwards — are no doubt thankful that he can’t after Harvick edged Edwards Sunday in the closest finish in track history.
In the end, Harvick racked up yet another win on the 1-mile track in the desert Sunday, beating Edwards to the finish line by 0.01 seconds to capture the Good Sam 500 for his fifth win the last six Cup races at PIR. It also was Harvick’s eighth Cup win overall at the track, extending his own record in NASCAR’s top series.
Edwards nearly broke Harvick’s stranglehold on PIR. He was faster on fresher tires on the green-white-checkered finish, as the cars of the two drivers banged into each other door-to-door down the final stretch before Harvick inched ahead at the line.
"All in all, I knew I was going to be on defense down there," Harvick told FOX Sports in Victory Lane. "I got up too high. I wasn’t able to stay on the bottom like I wanted to and he got up into me — like he should have.
"I knew I needed to get a good run off the (final) corner and that I was going to have to get into his door. And it worked out, just barely."
Edwards joked that he "should have wrecked him," but then smiled and congratulated Harvick on a fine battle to the finish.
"Those guys did a great job all day," Edwards said of Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet team. "They hung on with those older tires — but on that final restart, we were on fresher tires and we were faster. So I thought, man, I’ll just move him out of the way. And I just didn’t move him far enough.
"Then he got into my door. I tried to time it. I thought, ‘I think he’s going to beat me,’ so I tried to time it so I sideswiped him before he got there (to the finish line). But I needed to be in front of his front tire. Anyway, it was a fun race. I wish we could have won that thing."
While Harvick enjoyed another sunny afternoon in Arizona, leading the race-high total of 137 laps, the same couldn’t be said for everyone else.
The cars of Richard Childress Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Paul Menard, as well as Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., all suffered the same fate within the first 200 laps of the race. They overworked their brakes and melted beads in tires, which led to them each crashing in separate single-car incidents.
"Our setup was pretty tight and we had to use a lot of brake," Stenhouse said. "Therefore, I was getting the right-front tire hot. … We had to use too much brake. I feel like we got the tire too hot and blew it. We have to get it dialed in a little better next time."
Later, with 85 laps to go, the No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski also suffered from a melted bead and blew a right-rear tire to bring out yet another caution.
Edwards was first off of pit road for the second stop in a row, edging Harvick by inches. But on the ensuing restart, Harvick surged to the front yet again.
Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led the first 75 laps before Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was on fresher tires, overtook him. But while Busch went on to have major problems in the pits, Edwards’ Joe Gibbs Racing crew was money every time the rest of the day. That helped Edwards get to the lead for the first time after a caution came out for Menard getting into the wall on Lap 106 after the right-front tire blew on his No. 27 Chevrolet.
Restarts, however, were another matter for Edwards. He was no match for Harvick on them through the middle part of the race.
So even though Edwards led for 65 laps, it was Harvick who was in control pretty much from Lap 165 on.
Earnhardt Jr., who led 34 laps himself, passed Edwards for second with 37 to go and was running faster laps than Harvick for a while. But after pulling to within 1.46 seconds of the lead, Earnhardt’s lap times began falling off and Harvick began pulling away again.
Harvick seemed to be cruising to an easy win when Kasey Kahne brought out the final caution with six laps to go, setting up a sprint to the finish. And while Harvick, Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon stayed out, the rest of the top cars pitted.
That meant Kyle Busch and Edwards started on fresher tires in fourth and fifth, respectively, on the ensuing green-white-checkered restart. Edwards charged to the front and not only made it interesting, but in the end helped make history by becoming the closest second-place finisher ever in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at PIR.
Denny Hamlin finished third and Kyle Busch fourth, giving Joe Gibbs racing a 2-3-4 finish. Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five.