Home » HEADLINE, NASCAR - Sprint Cup Series

Harvick Wins Phoenix; Chase’s Final Four Is Set

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 9 2014

Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix and earned a berth in the Chase finale next weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett)

Kevin Harvick bulled his way into the four-driver, all-deciding, Championship Race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs when he won at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.

The victory was his fourth of the year, second of the 10-race Chase and, as it turned out, it was also essential as he pursues his first Cup championship.

Also earning berths in in the Championship Race were Denny Hamlin (fifth Sunday), Joey Logano (sixth) and Ryan Newman (11th).

Chasers Jeff Gordon finished second Sunday, Matt Kenseth third and Brad Keselowski fourth on Sunday but all failed to make the playoff finale.

Gordon appeared to have made the finale on points but on the final lap, Newman opted to force rookie Kyle Larson up into the wall near Turn 4 and in doing so, passed him and earn enough points to edge Gordon for the final Championship Race berth.

Newman said he had to do what he had to do vis a vis Larson and Gordon.

“I just gave it my all,” Newman said. “I wasn’t proud of it but did what I had to to get to this next round. That little boy has got a lot of things coming in this sport and he used me up like that in a truck at Eldora a couple years ago. From my standpoint, I call it even but I think if he was in my position, he’d have done the same thing.”

Gordon said he was disappointed about not making the finale and also sounded as though he’s still holding  Keselowski  responsible: Keselowski crashed into Gordon late in the race a week ago at Texas Motor Speedway by way of a risky pass attempt.

“I hope we caught somebody who you could race clean and still go out and give it your best and you don’t have to wreck people to make in in the Chase or win the championship,” Gordon said.

Asked about Newman running Larson into the wall to get the final berth, Gordon said, “Well, he ran him wide. I don’t know if I’d say he wrecked him. He certainly ran him up the race track. That’s the system that we have. Wait until next week when the championship is on the line. You’re going to see a lot more than that. That’s what NASCAR wants this to become to create intensity and interest and that’s what’s going to happen. You have to expect it. But just like what happened on pit road last week, there are lines that need to be drawn or somebody’s going to cross the line and they’ll have to back everybody up.”

Harvick earned his berth by dominating at PIR. He took the lead on Lap 44 and stayed in command the rest of the way. On restart after restart, he would keep his lead and blow out to big leads.

“Wow,” he said, “I guess that’s what it feels like to hit a walk-off (home run) in extra innings.”

Hamlin led the first 26 laps after starting from the pole. He yielded the lead to Logano. A couple laps later, the caution flag waved for debris. Before the race could restart, Hamlin had a tire problem and had to re-pit. When the race did restart, Hamlin was in 32nd place.

Logano held the lead until he was passed by Harvick on Lap 44. Once out front, Harvick began to pull away and by Lap 55, he had a 2.2-second lead over second-place Logano and that lead was growing rapidly.

The yellow flag waved again on Lap 80 and all of the leaders pitted. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took just two tires and left the pits with the lead. On the Lap 88 restart, Harvick quickly moved past Earnhardt to recapture the lead.

Gordon also took just two tires on the stop but not by choice. A jacking problem forced him to exit the pits with the two new right side tires. He restarted fourth quickly dropped two spots. On Lap 95, another yellow flag waved and Gordon pitted for tires. He restarted 20th.

On Lap 123, the caution came out for the fourth time for debris. Harvick’s comfortable lead over Logano disappeared but during the pit stops, Logano disappeared: He left his stall with the fuel can still engaged and drew a penalty that dropped him back to 26th place.

On the ensuing restart, Kenseth, who started P2 to the inside of Harvick, stumbled and Harvick quickly had a five-car length lead. Once again, Harvick moved out to a big lead – it was over 5 seconds by Lap 156 and over 6 seconds by Lap 160.

On Lap 185, Austin Dillon had a tire problem, scraped the wall and brought out a caution. Harvick was the first out of the pits while Kyle Larson was second and Keselowski third.

On Lap 200 of the 312-lap race, another caution flag flew. The top five were Harvick, Larson, Kurt Busch, Keselowski and Gordon. Getting back on the lead lap by way of the free pass, was Logano. The race restarted on Lap 205 but a wreck brought out another yellow three laps later and that put Hamlin back on the lead lap.

On Lap 237, Jimmie Johnson lost his brakes and slammed the wall. The leaders all pitted – most for two tires but four for the Penske cars of Keselowski and Logano who started 10th and 11th respectively. Harvick came out first and Gordon second.

Harvick and Gordon ran 1-2 as the laps wound down and that was the way they finished.

“Kevin Harvick was in another zip code,” Gordon said. “I’m not going to wreck a guy that’s racing me clean all year long just to make it into the Chase. That’s not what it’s all about for me. You’re not going to go win the championship next week by doing that. So, it’s just unfortunate. It’s just unfortunate. We did everything so good this year. That one race, that one race is going to stick with me for a little while. I got over it this week, knowing that we could come here and compete like this.

“Now it makes it sting that much more. But, I couldn’t be more proud of what this team did this year. What a great season and great race cars. That’s what I’m most disappointed in. I don’t think anybody deserves to be Homestead more than this No. 24 team because of the effort that they put in and the performances that we’ve had. But, you know what? You’ve got to score the points or win the races to get in there and we didn’t do that. So now we’ll go to Homestead and battle hard to try to win that race.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 9 2014
No Comment

Comments are closed.