Harvick hopes to lock up spot in championship round

Since PIR was repaved in 2011, Kevin Harvick has won three of the six events there and also posted a runner-up finish.

If Kevin Harvick had to hand-pick a track to race on in a “win or go home” situation, he would likely choose Phoenix International Raceway.

Harvick boasts a series-best five wins at the one-mile tri-oval and has taken the checkered flag in three of the last four races there, including the past two.

Currently eighth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 cutoff race at Phoenix (3 p.m. ET on ESPN) could not have come at a better time for the No. 4 Chevrolet driver. Harvick trails Jeff Gordon by just six points for the coveted fourth – and final – spot needed for advancement to the Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Everybody is racing as hard as they can. Just glad to be in the mix.

Kevin Harvick

But, he can punch his ticket to Miami without having to rely on the misfortune of others by winning for a third consecutive time at the one-mile track.

“As (the season) gets closer to the end, the intensity ratchets up,” Harvick said. “At this point of the year, everybody's just going for broke trying to win a race, get the best finish they can to end the season on a good note. It's hard racing. It's fun.”

In 2011, PIR was repaved and remodeled for the fall race with changes that included concrete pit stalls, progressive banking, and degree alterations to the dogleg and turns. Since then, Harvick has won three of the six events there and also posted a runner-up finish. In his 18 Phoenix races prior to the repave, Harvick averaged a finish of 13.8. In the six races since, he has an average of just 6.2. With a victory on Sunday, he can sweep the track for the second time in his career (2006).

“The track is still racy enough where you can make up time if your car is good, but you need to stay focused on strategy,” Harvick said. “The track has definitely changed since the repave a couple of years ago. The weather really helps wear the track. It’s incredibly hot in the summer and can get really cold in the winter, so there are some pretty extreme temperatures that have helped to age the asphalt.”

Coming off a runner-up finish at Texas, Harvick travels to the Sonoran Desert with some needed momentum after opening the Eliminator Round with a 33rd-place finish at Martinsville. Equipped with a fast Stewart-Haas racing Chevrolet, the 38-year-old has led the most laps in the series this season (1,819) and has captured the most Coors Light Pole Awards (8). Harvick boasts three wins this year, the most recent coming at Charlotte on Oct. 11.

“Everything is just so intense right now,” Harvick said. “Everybody is just kind of throwing caution to the wind to do all they can for their team. Everybody is racing as hard as they can. Just glad to be in the mix.”

NASCAR Wire Service

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Event Phoenix II
Track Phoenix International Raceway
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick
Article type Commentary
Tags chase