Harvick wins at Phoenix as Johnson closes on title

Harvick wins at Phoenix as Johnson closes on title

Cup Series

Harvick wins at Phoenix as Johnson closes on title


Harvick leads Johnson. (LAT photo)

Kevin Harvick grabbed the Phoenix NASCAR Sprint Cup win as Carl Edwards ran out of fuel on the last lap, while Jimmie Johnson moved to the brink of a sixth title.

As Johnson took third place behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, his championship rival Matt Kenseth struggled to 23rd. That gives Johnson a 28-point lead heading to next Sunday’s Homestead season finale and means he only needs to finish 23rd or higher.

Johnson achieved that result despite two major scares during the race. The first came on the opening lap, when he immediately lost his pole advantage and ended up three-abreast with Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. Contact with the latter sent Johnson sliding, but he regained control in sixth place.

A host of mid-race yellows prompted a wide array of different pit strategies and a constantly shuffled order, and it was during that period that Johnson was knocked sideways again as Edwards slid into him while avoiding a dive from Harvick. The points leader stayed out of the wall and continued back in 25th place, but was able to quickly regain ground as the strategies played out and with some assertive driving.

“At two different points, as I saved it, the car pointed back at the fence, and I thought I was going to hit it,” Johnson said. “Thankful that that didn’t happen, clearly. [It] certainly worried me, and then we were mired in traffic after that, and I didn’t know what that was going to mean for us.”

When the race order finally settled for the last 30 laps, Edwards was leading in his Roush Fenway Ford by a second over Kahne. Harvick’s Richard Childress Chevrolet had the freshest tires of the lead cars and was able to pass Johnson and Kahne in quick succession to take second.

Edwards still looked set for a second Phoenix win of 2013 as he maintained a one-second cushion, until his car ran dry approaching the white flag. As Edwards coasted to the finish in 21st place, Harvick claimed victory by 1.7 seconds over Kahne, with Johnson next up.

“I saw him slowing with about maybe a lap and a half, two laps to go. Richard (Childress) came across the radio and said he was slowing down. I’m like, ‘Dang, we might still be in this thing.'”

Kenseth was off the pace all day. A terrible mid-race pit stop, just after Johnson’s incident with Edwards threw him a lifeline, put Kenseth right back in 29th, and he made little progress, finishing a lapped 21st.

“Obviously, it didn’t drive good or we would have been up there with the front group,” Kenseth said. “I just did all I could with it, which wasn’t much.” 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. fought back to fourth after a loose wheel left him a lap down in 35th place early on.

Kurt Busch completed the top five, with Juan Pablo Montoya producing a strong drive to sixth position.

The various tactical permutations meant that Logano, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon all led for long spells but finished ninth, 10th, 11th and 14th.

Hamlin had led the first 18 laps following Logano and Johnson’s brush, but a dramatic loss of pace, a spin and a pitlane speeding penalty dropped him to 28th.

Results - 312 laps:Pos  Driver              Team/Car                         Time/Gap 1.  Kevin Harvick       Childress Chevrolet          2h57m03.000s 2.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet                +1.796s 3.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet                +2.925s 4.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet                +4.309s 5.  Kurt Busch          Furniture Row Chevrolet           +5.118s 6.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet       +6.338s 7.  Kyle Busch          Joe Gibbs Toyota                  +6.977s 8.  Martin Truex Jr     Waltrip Toyota                    +7.303s 9.  Joey Logano         Penske Ford                       +8.203s10.  Ryan Newman         Stewart-Haas Chevrolet            +8.699s11.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Ford                       +9.048s12.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr  Roush Fenway Ford                 +9.470s13.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford                +10.029s14.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet               +10.824s15.  Mark Martin         Stewart-Haas Chevrolet           +11.604s16.  Paul Menard         Childress Chevrolet              +12.791s17.  Jeff Burton         Childress Chevrolet              +13.210s18.  Jamie McMurray      Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet      +14.261s19.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford                       +15.766s20.  Clint Bowyer        Waltrip Toyota                   +18.973s21.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford                +33.608s22.  Bobby Labonte       JTG Daugherty Toyota               +1 lap23.  Matt Kenseth        Roush Fenway Ford                  +1 lap24.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford                     +1 lap25.  Elliott Sadler      Waltrip Toyota                     +1 lap26.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford                         +1 lap27.  Casey Mears         Germain Ford                       +1 lap28.  Denny Hamlin        Joe Gibbs Toyota                   +1 lap29.  JJ Yeley            Baldwin Chevrolet                  +1 lap30.  Dave Blaney         Baldwin Chevrolet                 +2 laps31.  Justin Allgaier     Phoenix Chevrolet                 +3 laps32.  Michael McDowell    Parsons Ford                      +4 laps33.  Danica Patrick      Stewart-Haas Chevrolet           +10 laps34.  Timmy Hill          FAS Lane Ford                    +27 laps35.  David Ragan         Front Row Ford                   +30 lapsRetirements:     Josh Wise           Front Row Ford                   280 laps     Reed Sorenson       Leavine Ford                     266 laps     Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota                     193 laps     David Reutimann     BK Toyota                        187 laps     Cole Whitt          Swan Toyota                      142 laps     Travis Kvapil       BK Toyota                        129 laps     Landon Cassill      Hillman Chevrolet                 63 laps     Tony Raines         Circle Sport Chevrolet            29 laps