Kevin Harvick was the odds-on favorite to win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. He didn’t just win, he dominated. In doing so, the No. 4 Chevrolet led 225 out of the race’s 312 laps.
He has won the last four Sprint Cup Series races at the one-mile oval, and five out of the last six. Furthermore, it is Harvick’s seventh win at Phoenix and 30th of his career.
“The restarts were just really slippery and I found out yesterday that you had to maintain your entrance speed and slide the thing through the center of the corner,” Harvick said in his victory lane interview.” I just want to thank the fans. This is a really special place as all of these West-coast races are for us to win. These things are incredible and just really fun to drive. The bond between this team is really special and it is almost scary to think of how good things are going.”
The race itself was interesting from the drop of the green flag. Just after Lap 1, Jimmie Johnson got into the right rear corner panel of Brian Vickers, which sent the No. 55 of Brian Vickers into the outside wall. Vickers spent over 80 laps in the garage and it resulted in a 41st -place finish. Johnson rebounded to finish just outside the top 10 in 11th.
Joey Logano led the first 25 laps of the race, until the aforementioned Harvick took the lead for the first time.
The first tire problem of the day occurred on Lap 116, when Sam Hornish Jr. blew a right rear tire and spun down the backstretch. Similarly, the same thing happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Lap 181.Earnhardt wasn’t as lucky as Hornish as the No. 88 pounded the outside wall and ended his day.
“We were just really loose today and abused the tire,” Earnhardt told reporters outside of the infield care center. “We have to get the balance of the car better. A lot of those guys are running without any problem. It just wore the tire out.”
On Lap 236, Tony Stewart got loose under Justin Allgaier in Turn 4, and the No. 14 car spun and hit the outside barrier. Stewart was competing for a position in the top 10 at the time, after running 30th or worse the past three weeks.
With only 25 laps remaining in the race, Stewart blew a right front tire and he bounced off the wall, coming back down into traffic and colliding with Hornish. Stewart has now finished 30th or worse in all four races this season.
The last caution of the day came out on Lap 296, when David Ragan made contact with Danica Patrick and sent her around. Ragan finished 21st, while Patrick ended the day in 26th.
The rest of the top-five consisted of Jamie McMurray in second. Ryan Newman finished third to record back-to-back third place finishes. Kasey Kahne was the best finishing Hendrick Motorsports driver in fourth. And Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five while driving in his first race of the season after being suspended prior to the Daytona 500.
“It was a pleasure to drive the car today,” Busch said in his post-race press conference. “Lot’s of emotion, but I had to keep those in check.”
With a solid run on Sunday, the driver of the No. 41 is 33rd in points and only 17 points behind 30th place Brett Moffitt. NASCAR declared earlier this week that Busch would be ”eligible” for the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he can either win and get into the top 30 in points, or just make the Chase strictly on points. In one race today, Busch has already accumulated more points than his co-owner Stewart, who is 36th in points.
The 2014 champion is on a role, and looks to sweep the three west coast races next weekend at the Auto Club Speedway, a track where Harvick won at in 2011.