When the dust settled from the wild race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR), Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, emerged as the winner of the AdvoCare 500. It is Harvick’s first win of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season, and the 19th of his career.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet, came into the 35th race of the season leading the points by seven when the green flag dropped. Working his way through the field from his 24th place starting position, the five-time NSCS champion had skillfully maneuvered to the top-10. But, with 77 laps to go Johnson’s right front tire blew, sending him into the wall, and then to the garage for repairs. He returned to the race 38 laps down to the leaders. He was scored in the 32nd finishing position, and heads to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 20-point deficit to leader Brad Keselowski (Dodge).
The race ended in a green-white-checkered finish when the race was extended following an on-track altercation involving Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer (Toyota) in the closing laps. Gordon was unable to finish the final laps, and was scored with a disappointing 30th place finish.
The melee continued with a multi-car accident as the field thundered toward the checkered flag. Harvick held off Denny Hamlin (Toyota) and Kyle Busch (Toyota), who finished second and third respectively, as well as Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet in fourth. Despite being one of the severely damaged cars in the final wreck, Ryan Newman brought his No. 39 Quicken Loans/U.S. Army Chevrolet home in fifth place.
Other Team Chevy drivers in the top-10 were: Kurt Busch, No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet – 8th and Paul Menard, No. 27 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet – 9th. Both Busch and Menard sustained damage to their race cars in the front straightaway wreck.
Danica Patrick, No. 10 GoDaddy Racing Chevrolet, was running 13th when the final wreck ensued, and limped to the checkered flag in 17th place in front of her hometown crowd.
The remainder of the Team Chevy contenders in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finished as follows: Tony Stewart, No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet – 19th, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet -21st.
The season will conclude on Sunday, November 18th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET, GIL MARTIN, CREW CHIEF, AND RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING – RACE WINNERS POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner, Kevin Harvick driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet. Obviously a big win for you guys, one that you've been searching for this season for a long time, so talk a little bit about finally getting to victory lane.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, you know, it was an interesting day to say the least, but Gil did a great job of keeping us in the track position game and made our car better all day, and the further we got towards the front, the better the car handled. They made good adjustments, and there at the end we had a couple restarts and Kyle chose the bottom and we were able to drive around the topside of him and then get control of the race really.
Obviously we didn't want to see the red flag. We were about -- best I've heard is about five feet. Someone can tell me where the caution came out. But when I came by, I saw the caution light come on, and I saw the flag before we had gotten to the start-finish line. At that point you think about, man, it's 2012, what's going to go wrong, where are we going to run out of gas.
Once I got those thoughts out of my head, I just wanted to get a good restart and be able to get into Turn 1 and not have any mistakes and knew if we could get through there without any mistakes that we could at least have a fighting chance of taking control of the bottom of the racetrack in Turn 3 and 4.
Q. Brad came in here and said he was basically ashamed of the sport, said it was effing bullshit what happened out there at the end on a lot of front between the wrecks and the retaliation. What are your thoughts on that? Well, you can't throw the caution flag as fast as you can throw it one time and then just let everybody run through a whole straightaway full of oil. Those are the guys that are going to have to look themselves in the mirror, the guy who's calling the races, and decide if they're doing a good job.
Q. What about the fights? The sport was made on fights. We should have more fights. I like fights. (Laughter.) They're not always fun to be in. Sometimes you're on the wrong end. But fights are what made NASCAR what it is.
I can tell you guys because I know the question is going to come, you guys are all going to ask the question, so we're going to say it in front of each other.
We can all talk about what's going to happen in 2014. We have 2012, we have 2013, and regardless of what happens on a business side of things, Richard Childress and myself will always be friends, good or bad, and may disagree to disagree, but we still have a lot of racing left to do and we owe it to our sponsors and our company to go out and do exactly what we did today and be men and do the best we can for everybody.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Well said.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by race-winning crew chief Gil Martin and team owner Richard Childress, so we'll continue with questioning for any of the three of these gentlemen.
Q. Can we have Richard also speak to that? Yeah, Kevin said it all, we're going to go to Homestead, try to win. We look to everybody in '13 to go win a championship, and whatever happens, happens. It's a business decision. This is a business sport.
Q. Can you guys just all three of you talk about today and kind of -- I guess a lot of people thought that might have been a distraction and today you just went about your business and did it.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think it's -- there can be distractions, there can be whatever happening around the race track, off the race track, but when you get in that garage and everybody is doing their jobs, I get in the car, he's up on the trailers, I mean, we're all just racers in the end. We want to race cars and it comes with a lot of media, it comes with a lot of things outside of the racetrack.
But when we actually get to get into our element we all do our jobs regardless, and we all don't want to go out and embarrass ourselves and not run good. We want to be exactly where we are, right here, talking to you guys after the race and in Victory Lane and doing the things that make us all happy. It's been a frustrating year, but two races to go, here we are.
GIL MARTIN: Only thing I can tell you is I'm really glad to be sitting here looking at you guys.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Gil Martin, made a great call today, Kevin did a great job conserve fuel when we had to. Gil told him to go and he could pick up a couple of tenths, and it was really a good race strategy call. We lost the race we felt here the first one. We finished second but we ran out of gas catching Denny there.
Q. I know that you were highly upset about the fact that the race was put into overtime because you felt the caution should have come out before the green-white checkered was allowed. Now, are you pleased that what was done was just, or are you only pleased because you won the race anyway?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: No, I'm really disappointed in the way the race was called, and I asked them -- Kevin almost wrecked coming off of 4. We take the white flag, she's coming across down here, everybody seen what was happening. I just knew the caution was going to come out, and he races back around and almost wrecks and we lose a car and could have hurt a driver, so I'm just still a little upset about that last not being a caution.
KEVIN HARVICK: There was more oil than there was asphalt, I can guarantee you that, and it was very visible.
Q. Richard, after the weekend that you had here, is this some kind of redemption? How do you kind of wrap your arms and put a bow on this weekend?
KEVIN HARVICK: I feel like it's a Kentucky weekend. Remember we went to Kentucky and used to test all the time and we won the first Kentucky race and wrecked 11 cars? This one, what was it, eight?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: We wrecked eight cars. My week got off in a bad start Tuesday night, and from that point on it hasn't been really great. But that's life.
KEVIN HARVICK: This week has started off better.
Q. Just wondering, after the 44-race drought, Richard, what do you think is the turnaround from where you have been because you guys really struggled and you can't expect Eric Warren to come in and change things overnight, but what would you point to having three cars that possibly could have finished in the top 10 today before the 31 got taken out?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: You know, everybody has worked hard all year long and did a whole lot, and there's no question about it, we got a little behind on some of this skew and all this stuff that people were doing. It put us behind, and you know, we didn't get the year we wanted, but to come out with a win, it was big, and I couldn't be prouder of this whole team, Budweiser and Kevin and all of these guys. It was really a good week.
Q. You've been around a while. This is in reference to Brad came in here and he was very hurt and he said some people in the garage criticized him after a clean race, he raced Jimmie cleanly. Did you hear anybody, you don't have to mention names, but did you hear anybody in the garage criticizing Keselowski's driving?
KEVIN HARVICK: No, no. I mean, he races hard. Why would you criticize a guy that races hard and is in contention to win a championship? I think there's maybe a lot of agendas to try to get in his head, but at this point he's got a 20-point lead and he's the only one that controls his head at this point. If the wheels don't fall off, he's going to win the championship.
THE MODERATOR: Let's end on a positive note. Keelan's first trip to Victory Lane; how did he do?
KEVIN HARVICK: He was fine until everybody started screaming. It made him cry.
It was great to have everybody here. We've had a great week or had a lot of great foundation events, and changed the lives of a lot of kids in Bakersfield hopefully to better their education and their direction of their lives. It's been a great week, and to cap it off like this is a great way.
THE MODERATOR: We thank you guys. Congratulations.
GIL MARTIN: I just want to say one thing to touch on what Richard was saying where we've come a long way, but this victory is a big team deal from Paul Menard and Slugger. We have started working together so hard here in the last month, and I want to put out a big thanks to those guys because they've done a great job as far as working teammates. And try to win Homestead.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, halfway through practice we decided to stop and put in everything out of the 27 car, and that's really the way it's supposed to work. We put it in and adjusted it to my driving style, and that's great to see.
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