HARVICK REGISTERS DOMINANT CAMPINGWORLD.COM 500 WIN

Kevin Harvick celebrates his 2015 CampingWorld.com 500 win in Gatorade Victory Lane at Phoenix International Raceway.
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Kevin Harvick did something Sunday that no driver had ever done in the 52-year history of Phoenix International Raceway. The 39-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif. scored a victory in his fourth consecutive race in the same professional series at the legendary one-mile oval in the Arizona desert, leading 224 of 312 laps to win the CampingWorld.com 500.

Harvick is on a remarkable run with his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. He has now finished first or second in seven consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races (the first four this year and the last three of 2014), a feat last accomplished by “The King” Richard Petty in 1975. The strong showing at the end of last year – including victories in the final Eliminator round race at PIR and in the Championship race at Homestead Miami Speedway – propelled Harvick to his first Sprint Cup Series championship.

Phoenix international Raceway has become Harvick’s favorite hunting ground. He has now won seven Sprint Cup Series races here (no other driver has won more than four) and, when one counts his victories in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the Camping World Trucks Series, he has an amazing 12 pro victories in the track at the foothills of the scenic Estrella Mountains.

To celebrate Sunday’s win, Harvick did a “Polish Victory Lap” – a term coined by the late Polish-American NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki, who scored his first career win in the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at PIR and proceeded to drive in the reverse direction around the track so he could wave to the fans in the grandstands.

“I’m just so proud of these [Stewart-Haas Racing] guys for everything they do for giving us everything that we need to race,” Harvick said in Gatorade Victory Lane. “Coming out here and racing in front of these fans the last couple of weeks and winning these two races has just been a lot of fun for me. I thought it would be kind of cool to do the Polish Victory Lap like Kulwicki did here, and I know a lot of these fans remember that, so it’s really neat to do stuff like that.”

 

On Friday, Harvick checked off one of the few things he had never previously accomplished at PIR:  he turned in the fastest qualifying time to win his first Cup pole position at PIR. Today, he became the fifth driver in PIR history to win a Sprint Cup Series race from the pole and the first Carl Edwards did so in the 2010 Kobalt Tools 500.

 

Harvick failed to capitalize on his advantage early on, losing the lead to Joey Logano, who started second. Harvick fought tenaciously, pulling alongside Logano on several occasions but being unable to move ahead. Finally, on lap 26, he tried an outside pass through the backstretch dogleg and was able to hold the advantage through Turns 3 and 4.

“I really didn’t want to drive into the first corner and drive up the race track and tear a fender off or have something go wrong with our Jimmy John’s Chevrolet,” Harvick said. “I wanted to just try to get a good, clean line through there and that didn’t work out for me. I didn’t want to downshift, and everybody was down shifting on the restarts so just kind of got caught being a little too cautious on the start. I think we made up for that at the end with all the restarts at the end.”

After that, the only things that kept Harvick from leading were off-sequemnce pit-stop strategies by rivals taking only two tires or lighter fuel loads. While those efforts gained the challengers track position up front, the advantage was only temporary as Harvick relentlessly closed the gap on each of them. Lying second on lap 296, Harvick snatched the lead on a restart and eventually finished 1.153 seconds ahead of runner-up Jamie McMurray.

Ryan Newman, who won this race in 2010, placed third followed by Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch, who finished fifth in his first Cup race of the year.

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