PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY "KING" HARVICK WINS CLOSEST RACE EVER IN TRACK HISTORY
Kevin Harvick has won 13 major professional races at Phoenix International Raceway, but it is safe to say he never worked harder for a victory than he did Sunday when he held off fast-closing challenger Carl Edwards to win the Good Sam 500 by the closest margin of any race in the 53-year history of the track - 0.010 of a second.
Coming into Sunday's Good Sam 500, Kevin Harvick was the favorite to win. The 40-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif., had won five of the last six NASCAR Sprint Cup races at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval and he finished second in the one race he lost, despite leading a race-high 143 laps, when the contest was shortened by rain.
Harvick only qualified 18th fastest in the No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet, but he quickly began to climb through the field, advancing to 12th by Lap 22. He took the lead for the first time on Lap 169 and looked set to score another comfortable win when Kasey Kahne blew a tire with four laps to go bringing out the yellow caution flag. Harvick and second place Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 AXALTA Chevrolet, elected to stay out and keep track position while their pursuers came in for new rubber and a splash of fuel.
When the green flag came out on Lap 312, Harvick was able to maintain his advantage, but Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Stanley Toyota, used the better grip from his new tires to get below Earnhardt Jr. and take second going into Turn 3. As they took the white flag to begin the final lap, Edwards closed to the tail of Harvick's car as they circulated through Turns 1 and 2, but Edwards got below Harvick in Turn 3 and bumped him up the race track. The two cars were nearly even as they bumped again exiting Turn 4 and they bumped a third time just before crossing the start/finish line. It took a review of photo evidence to show that Harvick had won by about three inches.
"I got through (Turn) 1 and (Turn) 2, and felt like I was okay," said Harvick, whose winning average speed was 113.212 mph. "But I'd raced the No. 19 enough today to know that his strong point was rolling through the center of (Turn) 3 and (Turn) 4. And that was our weakest spot, so I was fully expecting to get hit. I got hit and just wanted to make sure that I could get it pointed and get back in the throttle the best that I could to at least have a chance off the corners. So, it wasn't by very much, but all in all our Jimmy John's, Busch team did a great job today."
Edwards tried his best to take the win, but it wasn't to be.
"Well, we were faster, so I thought 'I'll just move him out of the way and get by," Edwards said. "I just didn't move him far enough. And then he got up the door and I was trying to time it, I thought 'I think he's gonna beat me,' so I tried to sideswipe him before he got there, but I need to be in front of his front tire. Anyway, just a fun race. Man, I wanted to win that thing, but you win some, you lose some. It was a good race."
In leading 139 laps Sunday, Harvick joined Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry, as the only two drivers to lead more than 2,000 laps at Phoenix.
Joe Gibbs Racing may have not gotten the win, but they continued their impressive weekend by placing all four cars in the top seven. No. 11 Denny Hamlin came home third, Kyle Busch, who led 75 laps early on, finished fourth, and No. 20 Matt Kenseth ended up seventh. No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in fifth, and No. 24 Chase Elliott was the highest-finishing rookie in eighth.
The race was slowed by five caution periods for 30 laps, all caused by blown tires. No. 31 Ryan Newman, No. 27 Paul Menard, No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and No. 2 Brad Keselowski all suffered damage after losing a tire before Kahne set up the final trophy dash.