A phoenix rises from the ashes to be reborn. In Phoenix, Kevin Harvick rose from the tears of Carl Edwards to once again become the Cactus King, the driver to beat at Phoenix.
In November of 2012, Harvick won his first at that track. The next spring, the winner was Edwards. Last fall, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was the victor. The four in between were all claimed by the man who has been victorious in six of the past eight events run in Arizona. That is domination, but it was close on Sunday. Very close.
Harvick had the dominant car on the day. Oh, what a surprise that was. However, he came to the overtime dash to the finish on four used tires, compared to the two fresh ones underneath Edwards. Underneath is where the gent went to make the pass, but Edwards did not get a clean get away. Side by side, fender to fender, fender into fender they came to the stripe, with Harvick taking it by a head. My head, if I had been foolish enough to have had it laying on the track, just 0.01 of a second for the closest outcome ever at this track, one of the closest finishes on any track, at any time.
Edwards was no slacker on the day, sitting among the top three pretty much from start to finish. He was the guy who was chasing Kyle Busch over the first 60 laps of this thing. Even a little miss on pit road did not derail Busch for long, as he concluded the event in fourth. Denny Hamlin was third, even after an early stop saw a tire roll away to find him penalized from fourth to 26th at the time. Earnhardt (5th) and Kurt Busch (6th) were also among the notables on the day, with young Chase Elliott bringing it home in eighth.
Sometimes being tired equates into being fatigued, adding new rubber in the pits, or having them fail to send one into the wall. Ryan Newman (39th) was the first casualty just over 50 laps into the race, and every fifty laps or so after somebody else got bit. Next up was Paul Menard (38th), to be followed by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (37th), but the exploding tread from Brad Keselowski (29th) was the most spectacular failure.
The Danica Patrick Line last Sunday was drawn at 19th, one place behind Joey Logano, who had a fuel intake issue that forced a late stop for juice, and Matt DiBenedetto in 20th.
The good news for everybody is the fact Harvick has not won at Fontana for the past five years. From 2004-2010, they visited the California venue twice, allowing the likes of Jimmie Johnson (5), and Matt Kenseth (3) to pick up a bunch of wins. Harvick and Tony Stewart have won there since they returned to a one and done situation, with Kyle winning twice before Keselowski took it last spring.
Those last two might be considered decent selections for the prognosticators, but remember that since 2006 Johnson has finished outside the Top 15 just once over the past 15 starts at Fontana. With both Edwards and Kenseth also boasting Top Ten averages, the track could live up to the community’s motto as the “City of Action.” I can live with that.