Freaky fast: Kevin Harvick dominates in Phoenix
Kevin Harvick scored a dominating victory in Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, capturing his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the one-mile oval and his third in the last four races.
Harvick took his first lead on Lap 74 and from then on was virtually unchallenged as he scored his 24th career Sprint Cup victory and his first since joining Stewart-Haas Racing for 2014.
"Well I just have to thank everybody on this Jimmy John’s Chevrolet for all the work and effort and really everybody at Stewart-Haas," said Harvick, who led 224 of 312 laps. "To add an extra team, bring in a bunch of new guys, new driver, Rodney Childers (crew chief) has just done a phenomenal job of putting this team together. These guys all want to win that is why they came here. That is why I came here, too."
Team co-owner Tony Stewart, a close friend of Harvick’s was equally happy about the race outcome. Asked if he thought his new hire would be this good out of the box, Stewart said, "You never know for sure, but the one thing is that Kevin had a lot of confidence in Rodney. I didn’t know Rodney that well, but Kevin’s pretty keen on all aspects of this. He’s been confident all winter with our program and today it showed. They’ve been working hard."
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon.
"These cars I’m driving I think are the best in the garage," said Earnhardt. "Right at the end of the race I think we were a little bit quicker than Kevin. Just real, real happy with the cars, just hate to come home second, but that No. 4 car (Harvick) was quick all week."
As for Keselowski, the 2012 series champion said he had nothing for Harvick’s race-winning car. "We did the best we could and that was really all we had," said Keselowski. "He (Harvick) was good everywhere. I am not sure there was anywhere he didn’t have an advantage."
Penske Racing teammates Keselowski and Logano started from the front row in their Fords, with Logano taking the lead on the opening lap.
By Lap 7, Harvick had moved all the way from 13th to fifth and was charging ahead. On Lap 35, he was up to second, passing Keselowski just before NASCAR’s competition caution flew on Lap 37.
Harvick took his first lead of the race on Lap 74, going under Logano in Turn 3 to move to the point. Logano had led 70 of the first 73 laps.
Once out front, Harvick was in total command of the race. By Lap 150, he had a lead of 1.207 sec. over Earnhardt, with Logano third ahead of teammate Keselowski. At the halfway point, Harvick had led 81 of 156 laps.
A caution flag for debris on Lap 163 sent the leaders down pit road, with Harvick holding sway on pit road ahead of Logano, Earnhardt and Keselowski.
When the track went green on Lap 170, Justin Allgaier, Danica Patrick and Travis Kvapil crashed in Turn 1, sending the track yellow again.
Once again, Harvick led on the restart.
Patrick had a flat rear tire and crashed again on Lap 187, but it made no difference to Harvick, who led on the restart on Lap 192.
Harvick surrendered the lead when he pitted on Lap 237, giving the lead first to Jeff Gordon and then to Ryan Newman.
A debris caution on Lap 248 put Harvick back out front ahead of Earnhardt, Logano and Keselowski, with Newman fifth. Earnhardt momentarily closed the gap a couple of times when Harvick encountered lapped traffic, but Harvick was still in control.
On Lap 279, a caution flew for debris setting up a run to the checkered flag. And as he had done so many times before, Harvick held off the field once the green came out on Lap 282.
Five laps later, David Gilliland had a flat tire and spun out, so the caution came out.
This time, the green waved on Lap 292, and Harvick got a great restart, opening the door for the Penske cars to attack.
Harvick had to survive yet another restart when teammate Kurt Busch’s engine finally blew up on Lap 298 after dropping a cylinder earlier.
This time, the green flew on Lap 304, and Harvick made it stick on the bottom line, as Earnhardt and the Penske Fords battled for second. And that’s how they finished, with Harvick the big winner.
Not so fortunate was Harvick’s teammate, Danica Patrick, who finished 36th after being caught in two crashes.