Race Capsule: Welcome to SHR, Harvick
In a Nutshell: Kevin Harvick was the talk of the desert at Phoenix International Raceway. The track, celebrating its 50th anniversary, has played host to NASCAR Sprint Cup races since 1988 and Harvick has been a big author in its recent history, sweeping the races in 2006 and winning there last fall. The No. 4 Jimmy Johns Chevy was fastest in both Saturday practices, but started the The Profit on CNBC 500 13th.
In no time Harvick was in the top 5 and took the lead from outside polesitter Joey Logano on lap 74 and never looked back. In fact, the only time Harvick relinquished the point was during pit sequences or restarts. His quarter panels read "Freaky Fast" in reference to sponsor Jimmy Johns. The monicker fit the description for with no doubt for Harvick, who fought off charges for most of the race from Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2nd), who said he had a faster car at the end, but just couldn't take the lead, meaning Harvick took his 24th-career win.
The only other serious challengers in the race were polesitter Brad Keselowski (3rd) and Logano (4th) - Logano was the only driver besides Harvick to lead double digits in laps with 71. The rest of the field was at the mercy of Harvick, who had lapped all but the top 20 only a third of the way in, slowed only once early on by a competition yellow at lap 35. A debris caution just after halfway on lap 163 of 312 slowed to field and the jumble on the lap 170 restart brought contact between Danica Patrick, rookie Justin Allgaier, and Travis Kvapil (driving the No. 32 GoFas Racing Ford for the first time) and a caution on lap 172. Patrick said she thought Allgaier was at fault and again spun and brought out a yellow on lap 188. There were a couple of more cautions in the race, but not enough to stir the normal contenders from the top 10.
David Gilliland cut a tire and spun on lap 287 and Kurt Busch dropped a cylinder and brought out a yellow with only 14 laps to go. His 39th place run brings his 2nd-straight disappointing run to start his tenure with Stewart-Haas Racing. On the flipside, Harvick begins the next page of his career in fine fashion. With the doubt surrounding the expansion at SHR, Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers are now almost safely in the Chase and can take even more risks to win more races now. The rest of the top 10 after Harvick, Earnhardt Jr., Keselowski, and Logano were Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Jamie McMurray. There were 20 cars on the lead lap, but that number should have been less, as the leaders had the field out to lunch. Of the ten rookies in the field, only Kyle Larson finished on the lead lap...and he was the last on it in 20th.
RaceTweet: "The Closer" Kevin Harvick seals the deal before lap 75 at Phoenix. Earnhardt Jr. almost wins again. Tough day for rookies.
Handsome Boy Modeling School "Stud of the Race": Kevin Harvick - He led 224 of the 312 laps and had one of those rare race weekends where the fastest car and the odds on favorite actually dominated and won. Grab some Buds, grab a trophy.
North Korean Missile Dud of the Race: Denny Hamlin - The former Phoenix winner came off a super high Speedweeks to big aspirations this weekend. But Joe Gibbs Racing struggled all weekend, with Kyle Busch finishing 9th, Matt Kenseth 12th (was a lap down at one point), and Hamlin was as high as the top 10 but struggled on restarts and placed 19th.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Kasey Kahne - Kahne was barely in the top 25 and losing his brakes by lap 100. But the former Phoenix winner soldiered back and finished 11th, which was much needed after a disastrous Daytona for the No. 5 team.
Wheel of Misfortune: Kurt Busch - After spinning late and finishing poorly in the Daytona 500, Busch hung in the top 10 for much of the Phoenix race, before dropping a cylinder and then an engine. He placed 39th.
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Casey Mears - The No. 13 GEICO Chevy fell a lap down early, but that wasn't curtains for Mears and Germain Racing. They finally got the free pass during a lap 279 caution. With 20 cars on the lead lap at the end of the race, Mears finished 14th, meaning he had to pass some cars in his lesser equipment to get that decent result.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: Brian Vickers - The No. 55 Aaron's Toyota saw a bizarre turn of events during a lap 163 debris caution. Vickers somehow cut a tire and smacked the outside wall, while under speed. The Michael Waltrip Racing crew made repairs and Vickers placed 25th. But seriously...how did he cut a tire and wreck?
Georgia On My Mind: The best Peach State finishers of the weekend were in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, where Chase Elliott finished 9th and Ryan Sieg 14th. Sieg's finish was particularly impressive in the rain-shortened race, because he drives for his family-owned RSS Racing team and placed in midst of much more funded teams. In the Sprint Cup race, David Ragan started 30th and finished 28th, two laps down. Reed Sorenson, like Ragan, fell a lap down early, but gained some spots as others fell and placed 31st. For those drivers, finishing in these spots will likely be a reality most weeks for the Georgia Gang in the Cup Series.
NNS RaceTweet: Not even the rain could keep Kyle Busch from stealing candy from the Nationwide babies and winning. Here we go again. #CupLite