It’s time to put a nice little bow on the events in the Valley of the Harvick.
It took until past halfway for Kevin Harvick to take the lead for the first time in the Good Sam 500. This is surprising given that when he’s won at Phoenix in the past, it’s been in dominant fashion. That’s not to say yesterday’s drive wasn’t, as he did lead 134 laps.
In the end, however, the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet had to beat, bang and out drag race Carl Edwards to the finish line coming out of Turn 4 to score his eighth career win at Phoenix International Raceway.
The final margin of victory was one one-hundredths of a second (0.010 seconds). It was the closest finish in Phoenix history, tied for the eighth-closest finish in NASCAR history and closest finish for a non-restrictor plate race since Rockingham 2004.
With that being said, the race itself overall for me was a B-, and that got a boost with the finish. While it was a good race overall, I can’t help but wonder what we’ll see at similar lower banked tracks like Loudon and Richmond (the latter of which really needs something to make the racing great again (channeling Donald Trump there).
Five cars dealt with tire blowouts during the race, four of them were right-front blowouts. All were related to melted beads (where the edge of the tire meets the wheel). Some want to pin it on Goodyear, but that would only work had this affected at least half the field. With it being five cars, it was more likely a case of teams not inflating the tires to the psi that Goodyear recommended.
It doesn’t change the fact, however, that Kasey Kahne’s run of abysmal performances continued on Sunday. He had been running great toward the end of the race and was poised to finally get a top-10 finish. Unfortunately, the cruel racing gods had other plans. The damage was minimized with it happening with six laps to go and he only lost a single lap on his way to finishing 22nd. So while his day ended in disappointment, it was because of bad luck and not lousy performance.
Matt Kenseth, on the other hand, ended his run of poor finishes and scored his first top-10 of the young season. He wasn’t much of a factor the whole race but was up toward the front of the field when it counted and secured a seventh-place finish.
After four races, Austin Dillon is showing he’s finally coming into his own with his third top-10 finish of the season. With finishes of 10th, 11th, fifth and ninth, the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet has an 8.8 average finish through four races. If he continues racing this way, I truly believe he’ll be in victory lane before the season is over.
Harvick leaves Phoenix tied for the points lead with Kyle Busch. Jimmie Johnson trails by 14. Kurt Busch trails by 17. Edwards trails by 18.
That about sums up the events of this weekend. Next week, NASCAR concludes the West Coast Swing with a trip to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. for the Auto Club 400.