Kevin Harvick scored the victory in the Valley of the Sun, but just by the slimmest of margins.
It took until past halfway through the Good Sam 500 to take over the lead for the first time, but the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet survived a beating and banging drag race to the finish line coming out of Turn 4 with Carl Edwards to secure the victory. It’s his 32nd career win in the Sprint Cup Series, his eighth at Phoenix International Raceway and the closest margin of any win in the history of the track (0.010 of a second).
“Well, I knew he was better through (Turns) 3 and 4. That was not the car that I wanted to see behind me. I knew I could beat him down there and I tried to protect the bottom in 3 and 4 and I just missed the bottom with all the rubber build-up on the tires and everything. But, all in all, I knew I was going to be on defense down there. I got up too high and wasn’t able to stay on the bottom like I wanted to and then he got into me like he should have, and I needed to get a good run off the corner and I was going to have to get into his door and it worked out, just barely. I just want to thank Jimmy John’s, Busch, Chevrolet, Mobil 1 and everybody at Stewart-Haas for everything that they do.”
“I should’ve wrecked him,” Edwards jokingly said after the race. “No, those guys were doing a great job all day. They hung on with those tires but we were faster so I thought ‘Man, I’ll just move him out of the way and get by.’ I just didn’t move him far enough and then he got up the door and I thought I was trying to time — I thought ‘I think he’s going to beat me.’ So, I tried to sideswipe him before he got there but I needed to be in front of his front tire. Anyway, just a fun race. Man, I wish we could’ve won that thing. Dave Rogers (crew chief) did a great job. I’ve got to thank Stanley. They’re onboard here. Hopefully, everybody that damaged their stuff could use some Stanley Tools to fix it today. ARRIS, Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Subway, Comcast, XFINITY, all of our sponsors. I wanted to win that thing but you win some and you lose some. It was a good race.”
Denny Hamlin overcame being penalized for an uncontrolled tire on his first stop to finish third in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
He said there was “great effort for our whole FedEx Freight Toyota team. Just I thought we had a car that could win. We really did a good job back there – pit crew did a good job down the stretch there. So, overall I’m very proud of our program. We’ve really come a long way on this race track. Obviously, this is a very pivotal race track when it comes to getting to Homestead so we want to run good here and this is a good step.”
Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led 75 laps on his way to finishing fourth in his No. 18 JGR Toyota. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 34 laps but opted to stay out when the rest of the field pitted and stumbled on the final restart on his way to rounding out the top-five in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“Yeah, I was surprised we finished as good as we did,” Earnhardt said. “I thought that was a good move to not pit. If a couple more guys don’t pit and we get another guy on the outside in the second row we was in good shape.”
Kurt Busch brought his No. 41 SHR Chevrolet home to a sixth-place finish.
“It was a good run, it wasn’t a great run,” Busch said. “Thanks to all my guys. We tried hard, we worked hard and it’s just a matter of getting that grip later in the day. Kevin Harvick is a master here at Phoenix, congrats to him. We were close. We will keep chipping away at it.”
After three races of bad runs, Matt Kenseth scores his first top-10 finish of the season after bringing his No. 20 JGR Toyota home to a seventh-place finish. Chase Elliott also bounced back from a lousy finish at Las Vegas with an eighth-place finish in his No. 24 HMS Chevrolet.
“I felt like it was a solid day for us,” Elliott said. “I was just happy we finally put a day together and got a finish that these guys deserved. I feel like we had a good car. We made gains on it all day long. That last restart, obviously, was pretty wild. We tried our best. We gave up a couple of spots, but we will take it and move on to Fontana.”
Austin Dillon continues his run of strong performances this season with a ninth-place finish in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
“Solid day we ran right there 10th all day,” Dillon said. “At the end Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) made the call to stay out. It was a gutsy call. I think right there at the end the No. 88 kind of spun his tires and didn’t get going. The No. 18 put me three-wide, so glad to come out with ninth after that. We gained a spot overall. We probably could have had, maybe two more spots really, just a fun race. I’m looking forward to this year. That was enjoyable right there.”
Ryan Blaney brought home another top-10 finish in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.
“That wasn’t bad,” Blaney said. “We fought really hard all day. We got a lot better throughout the day. We didn’t start out that great and we just got better as we went along. The guys did a great job with two tires at the end and I thought about staying out but we wouldn’t have been on the first two rows, I don’t think, so we had to come in and get two and I think it picked us up one spot. It was a good day and a good job by everybody on this Motorcraft Quick Lane team and a top-10 car is all I could ask for.”
Joey Logano pitted from ninth with seven laps to go and finished in 18th one-lap down.
“We just didn’t quite get the luck on our side today,” Logano said. “We created our own luck as well. We need to clean it up a little bit. We need to clean up the mistakes we have had here at the beginning of the season on everybody’s front. We still have speed. We were close today. At times, it felt like we were a third-place car, and we were running up there around third. We just still have work to do to catch the 4 and 19, they were the class of the field.”
Kasey Kahne had a top-10 run going before suffering a right-front tire blowout and slamming the wall in Turn 3 with six laps remaining.
“We had a right front tire go down,” Kahne said. “It happened earlier in the race but a caution came out and I thought it was the engine at the time because of the way it kind of vibrated and changed the tone of the engine. Come to find out it wasn’t the engine and it was the tire. We’ll look at what we are doing since it happened a couple of times. We had a car capable of running in the top-15 and we were really good early. The longer the race went I felt like I got looser. I used a lot of brake during the entire the race, which I was surprised about. Yesterday in practice I didn’t have to use the brake hardly at all and today with different grips I used it so much.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who’s been showing that Roush Fenway Racing has started to turn the ship around the last three weeks, suffered a right-front tire blowout and slammed the wall in Turn 1 halfway through the race.
“We were really tight and I was having to use too much break and I think we got the tires hot and once we did that the right front gave out from having to use too much brake,” Stenhouse said. “The cars were a handful. They were fun to drive. We just didn’t quite have the Fastenal Ford dialed in like we needed to today. We were really tight, therefore, we had to use too much brake.”
Paul Menard suffered a right-front tire blowout at the lap 105 mark and slammed the wall in Turn 3.
Asked what happened, he said he wasn’t “really sure. We were okay that last run. We fired off pretty decent and started getting really tight at the end. I don’t know if a left-front tire blew or what going into 3. I don’t know if something broke or if a tire blew. We are going to check it out. I’m curious about it.”
Ryan Newman also fell victim to a right-front tire blowout at the lap 53 mark and hit the wall in Turn 3.
“We just blew a right-front tire. It must have melted the bead or something. I don’t know if something failed in the cooling department or what the deal was. I didn’t do anything any different than I’ve ever done here before. Just definitely blew a right-front tire out and that was the end of our day with the Grainger Chevrolet.”
The race lasted two hours, 45 minutes and 53 seconds at an average speed of 113.212 mph. There were seven lead changes among four different drivers and five cautions for 30 laps. The final margin of victory was one one-hundredths of a second.
Complete Race Results: