Harvick latest to practically join Chase field
March 02, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
With win at Phoenix, Harvick likely in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
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RELATED: Full coverage of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format changes | Official news release | Changes explained | Chase Facts and FAQ | Bracket (PDF)
Two weeks. Two tickets punched.
Kevin Harvick became the second driver to take advantage of the new format for eligibility in the sport's postseason, virtually clinching a spot in the Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with his win Sunday in The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Harvick, who finished third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings last year, had a modicum of uncertainty in making the offseason move to Stewart-Haas Racing. In the early stages of the 2014 campaign, though, his chances of making the newly expanded, 16-driver postseason field are all but firmed up.
Harvick said the intense pressure he felt on the final restart from eventual fourth-place finisher Joey Logano underscored the new format's emphasis on winning, illustrating that the lead group was racing to make the first step toward a season-long goal and more than just the weekend's checkered flag.
"That's what we're all here for is to try to win races," said Harvick, who notched his 24th victory in NASCAR's premier series. "... I knew the later it got, the more aggressive it was going to get."
Said Logano: "With a win being so important you might as well go for it, and I tried to stuff it in there three-wide and gave up a spot by doing that, but overall it is all about the win. We didn’t quite get that today, but we will go to Vegas (next weekend) and try again."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the first to take advantage of the new system's premium on winning regular-season races, adding a sticker emblazoned with "Winner" above the driver's side window after prevailing in the season-opening Daytona 500 the previous weekend. Now Harvick has placed his name on the list.
After the second race of NASCAR's regular season, here is how the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings look:
|1.||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Winner: Daytona|
|2.||Kevin Harvick||Winner: Phoenix|
|3.||Brad Keselowski||2nd in points|
|4.||Jeff Gordon||3rd in points|
|5.||Jimmie Johnson||5th in points|
|6.||Joey Logano||6th in points|
|7.||Matt Kenseth||7th in points|
|8.||Denny Hamlin||8th in points|
|9.||Carl Edwards||9th in points|
||10th in points|
||11th in points|
||12th in points|
|13.||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||13th in points|
|14.||Kyle Busch||14th in points|
|15.||Ryan Newman||15th in points|
|16.||Austin Dillon||16th in points|