Harvick Is Freaky Fast At Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. – New team, no problem for Kevin Harvick.
Harvick dominated Sunday’s The Profit On CNBC 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, scoring his first victory as a member of the Stewart-Haas Racing operation.
After starting 13th Harvick was on a mission, charging up through the field and into the top five by the time the first caution flag waved on lap 35 for a competition caution. He restarted fourth and slowly sliced his way to the point, taking the lead from Joey Logano on lap 74.
Once he was out front Harvick was unbeatable, only giving up the lead during pit stop cycles for the remainder of the day. He led 224 laps of the 312-lap event and beat second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the finish line by .490 of a second.
“Oh man. This just solidifies so many things and so many decisions,” said Harvick, who won in only his second start as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing. “It has been so much work. To see the time and effort that these guys have put in. But man, what a race car.”
About the only thing that could slow down Harvick on Sunday was the caution flag. Between lap 247 and the end of the race, the caution flag waved four times. Each time he restarted alongside Daytona 500 winner Earnhardt, but each time he was able to get out front and pull away from the field.
The last caution flag of the day waved on lap 297 when Kurt Busch’s engine expired. The race restarted on lap 304 and despite brief challenges from Earnhardt and Logano, Harvick showed no sign of slowing down.
“The 22 (Logano) was able to time the restarts there and I knew what was going to happen was he was going to take a shot down low,” Harvick said when asked about the final restart. “I tried to do the best I could. Just really happy.”
The victory makes Harvick the second driver to essentially assure himself a spot in the 2014 version of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, joining Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. as early championship contenders.
Earnhardt said that he was faster than Harvick at the end of the race, but ran out of laps.
“We got running side-by-side there for second and just let Kevin get out there a little bit too far,” Earnhardt said. “I thought we were running him down there those last few laps but we were just too far away. A great job by Kevin and his whole team. They did a great job all weekend. They were fast.
“We ended up where I thought we should have finished. We were a little faster at the end, but they were stellar. Impressive as heck all weekend,” Earnhardt said.
Logano was the only other driver besides Harvick to spend any significant time at the front of the field, leading 71 laps early in the race before Harvick took the lead. He ended up fourth.
“On the back of Kevin’s car it says freaky fast,” Logano said, referencing the catch phrase of Harvick’s sponsor Jimmy John’s. “They weren’t lying.”
Polesitter Brad Keselowski finished third, followed by his Team Penske teammate Logano in fourth. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were next in the running order. Ryan Newman, defending race winner Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray completed the top 10.
The race was slowed by the caution flag eight times.