Harvick Finishes Runner-Up at Phoenix
Date: Nov. 15, 2015
Event: Race for Heroes 500k (Round 35 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 8th/2nd (Running, completed 219 of 219 laps)
Point Standing: 5,000 points, Advances to Championship Round of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished second in the rain-delayed and rain-shortened Race for Heroes 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway to advance to the Championship Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Harvick led twice for a race-high 143 laps en route to his 22nd top-five this season and his 11th top-five in 26 career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix. The finish was also Harvick’s 27th top-10 of 2015, eclipsing his previous single-season career-best of 26 top-10s in 2010. Harvick has now led 2,248 laps in 2015, breaking his single-season record of 2,137 laps led in 2014 as he raced to the Sprint Cup championship.
Harvick started eighth, raced his way to the lead by lap 45 and remained the leader until lap 118 when he came to pit road under green-flag conditions for a scheduled four-tire pit stop. He returned to the lead on lap 125 as the field cycled through and remained the leader until he returned to pit road for a second green-flag stop on lap 193.
The caution flag flew when the No. 32 car wrecked in turn 3 on lap 197 in the middle of the green-flag pit cycle. The caution caused Harvick to drop to the ninth position during the caution, but as the remaining cars came to pit road for service, he was able to move back up to the second position. Unfortunately, the race never returned to green-flag conditions and was called official after 219 laps due to heavy rain.
“I want to thank everybody on our Budweiser/Jimmy John’s team for just a really, really fast car,” said Harvick, who has a series-best seven Sprint Cup wins at Phoenix (April 2006, November 2006, November 2012, November 2013, March 2014, November 2014 and March 2015). “We made great adjustments overnight and got that little bit of balance that we were looking for from practice. Just the way that the caution fell, I didn’t get all my distance back on the racetrack under green and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) was able to beat us out. But hey, you lose some and you win some like that. Sometimes you’re on the right side of it, and sometimes you’re on the wrong side of it. Today we were on the wrong side of it, but in the big picture we’re racing for a championship next week. So, I’m just really proud of everybody on our team.”
Harvick’s runner-up finish led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished seventh to earn his 20th top-10 this season and his 15th top-10 in 26 career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 16th.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 27th.
Earnhardt won the Race for Heroes 500k to score his 26th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his third at Phoenix. The victory also secured the manufacturer’s championship for Chevrolet. It is the brand’s 13th straight title and 39th overall in the Sprint Cup Series.
Finishing behind Earnhardt and Harvick in third was Joey Logano. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five, while Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were two caution periods for 29 laps, with two drivers failing to finish the 219-lap race around the 1-mile oval.
As the penultimate event in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Phoenix served as the final elimination race. The eight-driver Chase field was whittled down to four following the Race for Heroes 500k. The winner-take-all Championship Round is Nov. 22 in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Harvick advanced to the Championship Round, along with Gordon, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. All had their respective point tallies reset to 5,000.
Logano, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Keselowski were the four drivers eliminated from the Chase.
The Sprint Cup season finale Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway begins at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC.
Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and the Stewart-Haas team. View the full list of SEM sponsored drivers.
Photo credit: Kevin Harvick Online