NASCAR

Kevin Harvick holds on to win by a nose in Phoenix

Kevin Harvick has won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway after one of the closest finishes in history. A late race caution setup a green-white-checkered finish, with Harvick having to hold off a number of cars behind with much fresher tyres.

Carl Edwards jumped up from 4th to 2nd as the race entered it’s final lap, with Edwards putting it all on the line as he dove down the inside at turn 4. The pair banged side-panels on the run to the flag, with Kevin Harvick taking the win by 1 hundredth of a second.

The start of the race was all about pole-sitter Kyle Busch. After dominating the XFINITY series race yesterday, Kyle picked up where he left off by leading the 75 laps of the eventual 313 lap duration. Dale Earnhardt Jr was the driver who wrestled the lead away from the #18 car, with the #88 Axalta car on fresher rubber. Busch’s day went downhill from there, with pit problems following soon after for the reigning cup champion.

By contrast, Kyle’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Carl Edwards had great pit-stops all day. The crew’s great work got him into the lead for the first time just after lap 100 following a wreck for Paul Menard in the #27. Edwards would go on to lead 65 laps during the race, but it was Kevin Harvick who would surge to the front to control the race from the front for 139 laps; the most laps led by a driver on the day.

With under 100 laps remaining, Dale Earnhardt Jr came back at Harvick in the lead, with the Hendrick Motorsport driver briefly taking the lead after having the fastest car on the track. Soon after, his lap-times would soon begin to fall off, with Harvick retaking the lead before stretching out his lead once again; with the unquestionable Phoenix favourite looking on course to take another great win in the desert.

It wouldn’t be that simple for Harvick however. With just a handful of laps remaining, Kasey Kahne suffered a puncture on this #5 Chevrolet that bought out the caution; setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Harvick and Dale Jr elected to stay out on track, with the rest of the field behind them all coming in for fresh Goodyear tyres for the final 2 lap sprint to the finish. Austin Dillon, who had been running further back in the field, also stayed out on track; with Dillon separating Harvick and Dale Jr from the fresh-rubber runners led by Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.

On the restart, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch tried to make the most of their rubber right away. Busch dove down low on Austin Dillon, with Carl Edwards getting a fantastic restart to drive around both Dillon and Dale Jr to move into second place. His pace advantage soon kicked into overdrive, with the #19 Toyota cruising up to the rear bumper of race-leader Harvick as they began the final lap of the Phoenix International Raceway.

As the pair entered the final two turns, Kevin Harvick tried to defend the inside line, but his worn tyres wouldn’t give him the grip to get down low. Edwards powered down to the rear bumper of Harvick as he nudged the #4 up the track to get on the inside for the final turn. On the run to the line, Harvick and Edwards began bang doors, with the first hit giving Edwards the lead by just a couple of inches. They would smack again as they approached the line, but this time it was Harvick who would get the speed advantage as he got his nose just ahead of Edwards as they crossed the line.

The pair were separated by just 1 hundredth of a second at the checkered flag, the closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup series history; with Harvick taking the win at Phoenix once again. Despite the pair’s contact on the final lap, the two very much enjoyed the amazing finish to the race, with Edwards congratulating Harvick as the #4 driver drove down the pit-lane on his way to victory lane.

Joe Gibbs Racing had all 4 cars finishing in the top 10, with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch coming home just behind Edwards in 3rd and 4th place respectively. The 4th car of Kenseth was further down in 7th. Dale Earnhardt Jr held on to 5th place on his worn tyres, with Kurt Busch just behind in 6th place in the #41 Monster Energy Chevrolet.

Chase Elliot drove a great race in the #24 car, bouncing back after a wreck last weekend in Las Vegas. The #24 NAPA Chevrolet driver was on the lead lap all day, with a top 5 finish looking possible as he pulled off great moves on the likes of Kurt Busch during the 500 mile race. He would later fall slightly down the order, but a great 8th place would be his reward for a strong drive in the desert.

The #3 of Austin Dillon followed Elliot in 9th place, with Ryan Blaney completing the top 10 in the #21 Wood Brothers Ford Fusion; another impressive result for the Rookie who finished ahead of both affiliate-team Penske cars.

This weekend was Ty Dillon’s turn to substitute for the injured Tony Stewart in the #14 car, with Ty putting in a fantastic drive to go from 28th in qualifying to 15th in the race. The final Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Danica Patrick would also be in the top 20 in her Nature’s Bakery #10. Rookie driver Matt DiBenedetto finished just behind Patrick, with Matt running on the lead lap for much of the day en-route to a 20th place finish in the #83 car.

A number of drivers suffered issues with their tyres during the race, with Ryan Newman and Paul Menard being among those to have their tyre beads melt in the harsh heat in Phoenix. They would retire from the race early on.

We’re now four races into the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup series, with Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick locked into the chase with race-wins so far. Next weekend is the final race of NASCAR’s west coast swing, as the drivers head to the Auto Club Speedway. Brad Keselowski is the reigning race winner of the Auto Club 400, with many drivers hoping to deny him a return to victory lane to lock themselves into the chase for the Sprint Cup at the end of the season.

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup series Good Sam 500 results:

POS

Driver

Start

Laps

Led

Speed

Time

Gap

1

#4 Kevin Harvick

18

313

139

128.027

28.119

Leader

2

#19 Carl Edwards

2

313

65

128.719

27.968

0.010

3

#11 Denny Hamlin

3

313

0

129.622

27.773

0.370

4

#18 Kyle Busch

1

313

75

129.940

27.705

0.478

5

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

26

313

34

128.361

28.046

0.647

6

#41 Kurt Busch

4

313

0

129.548

27.789

0.705

7

#20 Matt Kenseth

6

313

0

128.884

27.932

1.065

8

#24 Chase Elliott

17

313

0

128.714

27.969

1.272

9

#3 Austin Dillon

15

313

0

127.105

28.323

1.429

10

#21 Ryan Blaney

12

313

0

128.100

28.103

1.535

11

#48 Jimmie Johnson

5

313

0

128.604

27.993

1.718

12

#42 Kyle Larson

7

313

0

128.954

27.917

2.051

13

#43 Aric Almirola

14

313

0

125.830

28.610

2.571

14

#78 Martin Truex Jr.

8

313

0

124.615

28.889

2.725

15

#14 Ty Dillon

28

313

0

126.263

28.512

2.764

16

#1 Jamie McMurray

11

313

0

124.926

28.817

2.914

17

#47 AJ Allmendinger

22

313

0

123.170

29.228

5.686

18

#22 Joey Logano

9

312

0

127.074

28.330

1 lap

19

#10 Danica Patrick

36

312

0

126.529

28.452

1 lap

20

#83 Matt DiBenedetto

23

312

0

127.047

28.336

1 lap

21

#16 Greg Biffle

13

312

0

126.975

28.352

1 lap

22

#5 Kasey Kahne

24

312

0

113.906

31.605

1 lap

23

#6 Trevor Bayne

21

311

0

124.339

28.953

2 laps

24

#23 David Ragan

29

309

0

123.567

29.134

4 laps

25

#38 Landon Cassill

27

308

0

125.519

28.681

5 laps

26

#95 Michael McDowell

33

308

0

125.030

28.793

5 laps

27

#44 Brian Scott

30

308

0

126.369

28.488

5 laps

28

#7 Regan Smith

31

308

0

126.042

28.562

5 laps

29

#2 Brad Keselowski

19

307

0

126.618

28.432

6 laps

30

#34 Chris Buescher

32

307

0

124.978

28.805

6 laps

31

#15 Clint Bowyer

35

307

0

120.728

29.819

6 laps

32

#32 Joey Gase

39

305

0

122.670

29.347

8 laps

33

#46 Michael Annett

38

303

0

123.716

29.099

10 laps

34

#30 Josh Wise

37

303

0

124.731

28.862

10 laps

35

#13 Casey Mears

25

268

0

124.783

28.850

45 laps

36

#98 Cole Whitt

34

236

0

19.369

185.864

77 laps

37

#17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

10

161

0

127.605

28.212

152 laps

38

#27 Paul Menard

16

104

0

127.669

28.198

209 laps

39

#31 Ryan Newman

20

51

0

88.814

40.534

262 laps

 

Featured image courtesy of NASCAR.com – http://static.nascar.com/content/dam/nascar/articles/2015/2/10/main/NASCAR-Lifestyle-main.jpg/jcr:content/renditions/original

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