Kevin Harvick Falls Just Short of No. 10 at Phoenix

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Maybe you can put a career’s worth of drama into a single race.

Kevin Harvick came into Sunday’s (March 12) NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway as the best driver the track had ever seen, as one of the best drivers any single track has ever seen. There was nothing but open track between him as the laps ticked by — 20 to go, then 15, then 12. And he walked away empty-handed.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. Harvick drove an almost flawless race and all he needed was 10 more laps. He’d blown by Kyle Larson for the lead with 44 laps to go, opened it up to over four seconds and was still pulling away with 10 laps to go.

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Maybe NASCAR was a little too quick with the caution. Maybe Harvick should have gambled and stayed out on old tires or maybe just taken two as several cars did.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Harvick’s numbers at Phoenix speak for themselves and he didn’t need the win to extend a streak of top-10 finishes that goes back a full decade. Nor did he need it to boost his career-long streak of finishing races at this track.

But it was evident in the way he raced that Harvick wanted that 10th Phoenix win badly. 

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The No. 4 team’s strategy was rock-solid. Harvick started 15th but made his way forward early on. He cracked the top 10 early and finished eighth in stage one before backing it up by climbing to third by the end of the second stage.

Harvick made it a two-car race with Larson from the start of the final stage on. The final round of green-flag stops put him in perfect position to capitalize on leader Larson’s lone mistake in the closing laps. Larson slipped up the track in turns 3 and 4, and Harvick pounced, making passing look easy on a day where it wasn’t.

From there, Harvick raced with a vengeance, opening up the lead as the run went on. It was his to lose.

And then Harrison Burton spun. It looked harmless — Burton didn’t hit anything and drove away immediately. But the damage was done.

Harvick led the field into the pits, but he took four tires while five or six others took two, and when the restart came with just five laps to go, there was no room to make a move and no time for a second chance. The caution flew again for a spin by AJ Allmendinger and while Harvick was able to take a couple more spots in the two-lap overtime, he needed a longer run to make up ground.

“That one is not fun to swallow,” Harvick said. “We had a great car and didn’t need that caution at the end. We had a strong car and a chance to win. Just hate missing an opportunity when you have a car that strong.”

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Harvick has one more shot at that 10th Phoenix win before he hangs up his helmet. The title race at Phoenix tends to be all about the four contenders, and Harvick could be one of those, and he’s not the type to go easy on them if he isn’t. He showed Sunday he’s still as good as anyone at Phoenix. 

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on's Around the Track page.

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Guess you are blind and drink the NASCAR kool aid. Harvick got screwed by NASCAR and their phantom cautions again. That was a total BS call and cost Harvick the race pure and simple. NASCAR has become a joke. First the chase and now a little payback to Stewart Haas for Tony’s actions outside NASCAR. Happens all too often.

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