Longtime rivals race fair in Harvick's thrilling win
AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) When Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards started bumping side-by-side on the final lap Sunday, many NASCAR fans had to recall the image of Edwards grabbing Harvick's throat in a 2008 garage altercation.
Or maybe they thought about the time two years later when Harvick called Edwards ''fake'' and Edwards responded by saying he had ''no respect'' for Harvick.
Six years later, there was no wild wreck and ensuing brawl between the longtime rivals. Just a clean, thrilling finish that left Harvick on top for a record eighth time at Phoenix International Raceway.
''I don't think there's any real love lost between the two of us,'' Harvick said after Sunday's 0.01-second Sprint Cup victory over Edwards. ''I knew I was going to get hit, and I'm going to hit him in the same type of manner.''
Harvick, working on old tires on the overtime restart after Kasey Kahne hit the wall, turned into the charging Edwards first to try to slow his momentum.
Edwards, who went from fourth to second on the restart with two fresh tires, returned the favor and got into Harvick's door. But as they came to the checkered flag at the mile oval, Harvick had his fifth win in six Phoenix races.
''I don't want to spin him out, but you definitely want to rough him up because that's not the guy that I want to lose to,'' Harvick said. ''And I know he doesn't want to lose to me.''
It was NASCAR's second photo finish in a month, the same margin of victory as Denny Hamlin over Martin Truex Jr. at the Daytona 500.
There have only been six closer finishes since NASCAR began using electronic scoring in 1993.
And this time, there was no throat-grabbing or name-calling.
''Just a lot of fun,'' Edwards said. ''I really wish it would have worked out a little bit differently, but it was a good race.''
Hamlin recovered from an early pit penalty to finish third. Kyle Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, started from the pole and led the first 77 laps before ending up fourth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ended Harvick's four-race winning streak at Phoenix with a rain-shortened victory in November, was fifth.
Harvick's weekend started slow when he qualified 18th on Friday. But he had the fastest car at the end of Saturday's last practice and meticulously worked his way to the front on Sunday.
He took the lead for good in the No. 4 Chevrolet when he immediately passed Edwards on a restart with 77 laps to go. Harvick, who led a race-high 139 of 313 laps, built a lead approaching 3 seconds before the final caution.
Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers decided to stay on the track while Edwards and others took on two tires.
''I knew that he had been saving his stuff and thought we'd be OK,'' Childers said. ''But every time, there's always seven or eight that stay out in that situation. And when there was only three, that turned into a little bit of panic mode for me.''
Harvick, though, found a way to win at what's become almost his personal track. By all-but-clinching a spot in the season-ending playoffs, he gave NASCAR four winners in four races from four race teams.
And this time there was no bad blood between two fierce competitors.
''It was kind of fun coming to the line because I thought, `man, I got him,''' Edwards said. ''And then he doored me real hard and then he got a little run. Then I tried to door him and slow him down, but it just didn't work.''