Harvick advances with NASCAR win at Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Kevin Harvick dominated the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, leading 264 laps on his way to the race win and a ticket into the final round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Kevin Harvick dominated the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, leading 264 laps on his way to the race win and a ticket into the final round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
It was Harvick’s sixth career win at Phoenix and his third straight at that venue.
“Wow, I guess that is what it feels like to hit a walk-off in extra innings there,” Harvick said. “This thing (car), both races here, has just been bad to the bone. Everybody on our Budweiser team has done a great job and here we come, Homestead.”
The final round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup is Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman also survived in the Chase by virtue of points. Hamlin finished the race in fifth, and Logano was sixth.
Newman ran down on the apron and made contact with Kyle Larson in the closing laps to move up to 11th and squeak his way to Chase advancement.
“I just gave it my all. They paved it (apron) that way for a reason,” Newman said. “I did what I had to do. I’m not proud of it, but I think if (Larson) was in my position he would have done the same. That kid is a hell of driver and he’s going to have tremendous success here.”
Jeff Gordon finished the race second. He and Harvick were tied in points for the final Chase transfer spot, but Harvick won the spot by winning the race.
“I could tell that we were probably going to have to win, because everybody was running up in the front of the pack that we were racing against,” Harvick said. “That was our goal coming in here, and that’s really the goal every time you come to Phoenix. This place has just been phenomenal for me personally and for this team this year.”
Gordon wound up one point out, just behind Newman, who took the final Chase spot.
“It’s disappointing. We have a lot to hold our heads high about the way we raced this race and this season,” Gordon said. “Second just wasn’t good enough. Harvick was just in another zip code. Nobody was going to be able to stop him today.”
Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski finished third and fourth, respectively, but those top-five finishes were not enough to keep them championship-eligible.
Carl Edwards also failed to advance in the Chase, finishing 15th.
On the final restart of the race with 12 laps to go, seven of the eight Chase drivers were in the top 10, with the top five being Harvick, Gordon, Kenseth, Keselowski and Hamlin.
Harvick took the lead for the first time on lap 44 of the race and built up sizable leads on each green-flag run. He was about eight seconds up on the race field by the time the yellow flag waved for the second time in the race on lap 81. Just before a lap-186 caution, Harvick had a lead of nearly seven seconds. Green-flag runs were shorter through the remainder of the race with more frequent cautions, except for the final run. In all, the yellow flag waved 12 times in the 312-lap event.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. held the lead temporarily by taking only two tires during the lap-81 yellow flag. But as soon as the race restarted, Harvick retook the top spot and Earnhardt drifted back through the field. Harvick led the rest of the way.
“Our car’s strength was speed right off the bat,” Harvick said. “So we just tried to keep it in the same margin, and it all worked out.”
Gordon took over the second spot by getting off pit road second to Harvick during a caution with just under 74 laps remaining, overcoming an issue with a broken jack earlier in the race.
Hamlin and Logano both led laps early, with Hamlin starting on the pole and leading the first 24 laps. After a three-way battle among Hamlin, Logano and Harvick on lap 25, Logano came away with the lead until Harvick moved up front for the first time.
Both Hamlin and Logano wound up going a lap down, though. Hamlin had to make an extra pit stop during the first caution of the race on lap 31 because of a cut-down right-rear tire, and, as a result, restarted in the back. By lap 81, he was off the lead lap. Hamlin got back on the lead lap, only to be put back a lap down by Harvick around the halfway point of the race.
Logano was penalized on pit road for taking his fuel can out of his pit stall during a caution on lap 123. Like Hamlin before him, he had to restart in the back. Logano then went a lap down just before a yellow flag on lap 186.
“There are a lot of emotions, believe me; when the 4 car (Harvick) laps you, you don’t know how the race is gonna play out,” Logano said. “You don’t know if there are gonna be enough cautions to get the lucky dog or will you get the lucky dog.”
Two quick cautions with just over 100 laps to go allowed both Logano and Hamlin to get back on the lead lap. Soon after a restart that followed a caution and red flag for a multi-car wreck with just under 100 laps to go, all eight Chase drivers were inside the top 13 of the running order.