NASCAR: Harvick blazes on in Phoenix

NASCAR: Harvick blazes on in Phoenix

Monster Energy Cup

NASCAR: Harvick blazes on in Phoenix

Kevin Harvick survived two late race restarts to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix, taking his second consecutive victory and fifth in the last six races at the track.

The 2014 champion took the lead from Joey Logano early on after a poor start from pole position, and dominated the first half of the race, with Logano again his main rival for much of that period.

Harvick continued to keep various opponents at arm’s length, including series returnee and Stewart-Haas teammate Kurt Busch, back from a three-week suspension from NASCAR.

Busch showed no sign of rustiness as he fought his way up the order methodically through the race, finally challenging for the lead with two thirds of the distance remaining.

Harvick then made the most of a caution period for his team-mate and boss Tony Stewart spinning with 76 laps to go, stretching a two-second lead out over a short period after the restart and using the clean air to his advantage.

With 24 laps to go, Stewart ended up in the wall for a second time, bringing the pack back onto Harvick’s tail for the run to the finish. But Harvick held off the challenge of Jamie McMurray – a mainstay in and around the top 10 all day after qualifying third – to become 2015’s first repeat winner after last week’s Las Vegas triumph.

“The restarts were just really slippery, and I learned that in the (XFinity Series) race yesterday,” said Harvick, who finished third in Saturday’s race. “You had to really maintain your entrance speed and really slide the thing through the center of the corner to try to help keep it pointed up off (the corner).”

McMurray admitted the final restart had hurt his chances.

“Matt McCall (crew chief) made a really good decision at the end to stay out (on old tires) and got us on the front row,” McMurray said. “That was a fun battle with Kevin. Those are the kinds you wish you could do over again, because I would have slid up earlier.
 
“It’s similar to plate racing with the engine package we have now, where if you don’t get the guy cleared, he can kind of stall you out a little bit. And I saw Kevin coming and I thought I could slide up in front of him, but I also knew it was for the win and that we would probably have wrecked there.”

Behind McMurray, Ryan Newman continued his strong start to 2015 by taking third ahead of Hendrick Motorsports’ strongest driver all weekend, Kasey Kahne.

Busch came home fifth after a brilliant recovery – he and Jeff Gordon took four tires at the caution with 24 laps to go and the pair plummeted down the order as others changed only two. Gordon also recovered well – to ninth – after spending the majority of the day struggling with the No. 24 car.

His teammate Jimmie Johnson finished 11th after qualifying uncharacteristically low in 20th. The Hendrick Motorsports driver suffered contact with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Carl Edwards in the pits, forcing Johnson to revisit pitlane for repairs and lose more ground.

Tire wear was a vital issue all day, as both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Sam Hornish Jr. suffered right-rear tire failures.

Earnhardt had been mired back in the midfield after a pitlane speeding penalty and the tire failure sent him into the wall with just over 200 laps to go. By the time he returned to the pits, his Hendrick Chevrolet’s right rear was on fire and rescue crews struggled to put the flames out.

Hornish’s right-rear deflation didn’t put him out of the race, but did leave him many laps down and out of contention.

RESULTS – 312 LAPS:

Pos Driver Team Car
1 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
2 Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
3 Ryan Newman RAB Racing Chevrolet
4 Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
5 Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
6 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford
7 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
8 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford
9 Jeff Gordon Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
10 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
11 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
12 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford
13 Carl Edwards Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
14 Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
15 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
16 Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
17 A.J. Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
18 Justin Allgaier HScott Motorsports Chevrolet
19 Aric Almirola Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
20 Casey Mears Germain Racing Chevrolet
21 David Ragan Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
22 Landon Cassill Hillman Smith Motorsports Chevrolet
23 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
24 Clint Bowyer Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
25 Cole Whitt Front Row Motorsports Ford
26 Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
27 Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing Ford
28 Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing Ford
29 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
30 Alex Bowman Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
31 J.J. Yeley BK Racing Toyota
32 Brett Moffitt Front Row Motorsports Ford
33 Mike Bliss Go FAS Racing Ford
34 Jeb Burton BK Racing Toyota
35 Matt DiBenedetto BK Racing Toyota
36 Josh Wise Phil Parsons Racing Ford
37 Brendan Gaughan Premium Motorsports Chevrolet
38 Alex Kennedy Circle Sport Chevrolet
39 Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
40 Sam Hornish Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
41 Brian Vickers Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
42 Michael Annett HScott Motorsports Chevrolet
43 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

LEADING CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:

Pos Driver Points
1 Kevin Harvick 182
2 Joey Logano 160
3 Martin Truex Jr. 155
4 Kasey Kahne 132
5 A.J. Allmendinger 127
6 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 126
7 Jimmie Johnson 124
8 Ryan Newman 123
9 Brad Keselowski 116
10 Matt Kenseth 113
11 Paul Menard 112
12 Casey Mears 111
13 Denny Hamlin 108
14 Aric Almirola 105
15 Clint Bowyer 101
16 Greg Biffle 101
17 Kyle Larson 98
18 David Ragan 98
19 Jamie McMurray 97
20 David Gilliland 92
21 Carl Edwards 88
22 Austin Dillon 88
23 Danica Patrick 86
24 Sam Hornish Jr. 79
25 Jeff Gordon 77

Chase spots provisionally secured: Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson

Originally on Autosport.com;

Quotes by NASCAR Wire Service

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