Kevin Harvick predictably dominated Sunday's race.
Starting from the pole position, Phoenix International Raceway maestro Kevin Harvick made it look relatively easy as he powered to victory in the Campingworld.Com 500 on the tricky mile oval, doing so on a hot day in the desert.
In a truly dominating performance, Harvick led 224 of the 312 laps in scoring his fourth consecutive win at Phoenix and chalking up his seventh consecutive first or second-place finish, going back to the end of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. And he became the first driver to do since Richard Petty did it in 1975.
To win, Harvick had to survive a pair of late-race caution f lags but he couldn’t be denied in gaining his seventh Sprint Cup win at Phoenix. Overall, he has 30 Cup victories. His winning car was the Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet.
Said Harvick, “I am so proud of my guys and I thought it would be cool to do the Polish victory lap (in honor of the late Alan Kulwicki). It is really neat to do things like this. In the race, I was too cautious at the start, but I made up for it at the end. We made some pretty good adjustments in the first two stops, and the rest we did with the track bar inside, trying to move around the race track.
“The restarts were just really slippery and I learned that in the race yesterday. 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 and off. I want to thank everybody who helps us on this car and everybody at SHR. These things are incredible and really fun to drive.
“I think when you look at the start of this year we know each other so much better. We have a lot of things different than what we had last year and we had that experience of everything that we did to race for the championship. So, I just feel like the bond between this team is really special.”
Added crew chief Rodney Childers, “It was a good accounting for us and even though it didn’t look that way, we did have some struggles. In the end, everything just went our way.”
McMurray and Newman the best of the rest
Jamie McMurray drove superbly to finish second, 1.154 seconds back of the victor.
Commented McMurray, “We had a really good weekend. Every practice our car was quick, and we qualified well and just had a mistake-free day. We executed the race perfectly. The No. 4 car is on an amazing roll and if I could do my (late) restart over again, I would have done something different. It is what it is, and I am happy with second. It would be nice to be in victory lane and locked into the Chase.”
Ryan Newman wound up third ahead of Kasey Kahne and comeback driver Kurt Busch.
Kurt Busch impresses
With Busch’s return from suspension and starting his first race in 2015, the high-profile driver shared the spotlight with Harvick, and he did so in a professional manner. Qualifying ninth, Busch made his presence known early and he showed no rust from being on the sidelines. At one point, he had a firm grip on second place before falling back three notches at the finish.
Said Busch, “It is great to be back and post a top-5 finish in our first effort. It was a pleasure to drive the car today. There were a lot of emotions, but I had to keep those in check and focus on the race car. There were a few times I was determined enough to over-drive it, especially when I was racing Kevin (Harvick) side-by-side. As the race progressed, the car got too loose and I ran out of tools to change it. We will take our top-five.”
Rounding out the top 10- finishers was Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson.
In finishing 13th, Carl Edwards gave Toyota its top finish.
In points, Harvick leads Logano by 22. He now joins 22 other drivers as the only men in history to score 30+ race victories.
Ten caution flags slowed the field for 53 laps with crashes taking out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart. They were scored 43rd and 39th, respectively.