Kevin Harvick called it just another day after he advanced to the Championship 4 with a fifth-place finish Sunday at ISM Raceway.
But Harvick had anything but an uneventful day.
Starting from the pole, the nine-time Phoenix winner led the first 72 laps before a cut right-front tire sent him to pit road. Harvick had to pit under green and while the pits were closed for the end of the stage. Going a lap down, Harvick would receive the free pass under the Lap 97 caution.
“I felt it go down going into Turn 1 and just kind of tried to nurse it into Turn 3 and back around,” said Harvick. “I couldn’t get down over there, and I just drug everything all the way around. I drug the splitter off.
“It never really handled as good after that, but we made some adjustments to our car and got ourselves back in contention there in the second stage staying out, and it worked out okay.”
Throughout the rest of the day, Harvick worked to stay in contention as teammate Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola tried to position themselves for a strong finish, which could have knocked him out of the playoffs.
But Busch and Elliott, who had both led laps, were done for on Lap 270 when Denny Hamlin collided with Busch. Elliott was also collected. And then Almirola, who needed to win because he could not overtake Harvick on points, mounted a late charge but faded to a fourth-place finish.
Harvick advanced into the title race for the fourth time in the five years since the winner-take-all championship race was established. With the suspension of crew chief Rodney Childers, Harvick will continue to work with Tony Gibson, whom Harvick praised for his job on the pit box at ISM Raceway.
“Really the biggest thing that Tony brings is just a ton of experience,” said Harvick. “Obviously a familiar face to the NASCAR officials, and he’s been with Stewart‑Haas for a long time and worked with all those guys and worked with everybody in the shop. He’s very calm sitting up on the pit box unless he’s winning the Daytona 500. Then he gives us something that we all remember.
“But for the most part on the radio, he was just dead calm all weekend and just pretty laid back with everything, and everybody just did their jobs. The thing you’ve got to remember is those guys (the 4 team) have all been together for five years, and there’s ‑‑ the internet works well from Phoenix to North Carolina, as well, too.”