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UPS Game-Changing Moments: Phoenix

March 02, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com

Moments that changed the course of the second race of the season

KEVIN HARVICK SURVIVES LATE-RACE RESTARTS FOR WIN

In a race that began with an air of inevitability as thick as the storm clouds that pelted Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday night, Kevin Harvick survived a succession of late restarts to win Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

In his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing and his first with crew chief Rodney Childers, Harvick entered the race as an overwhelming favorite and delivered, despite the best efforts of Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who chased Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet to the checkered flag.

Having shown his speed by pacing both Saturday practice sessions, before the rain came, Harvick led 224 of the 312 laps at the one-mile track, including the final 24, leaving Earnhardt to battle with front row starters Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, who finished third and fourth, respectively, for Team Penske.

The victory was a record fifth for Harvick at Phoenix; he also won the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the one-mile track in November. The 38-year-old driver from Bakersfield, Calif., won for the 24th time in 468 career starts.

“Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions,” said Harvick, who left Richard Childress Racing after 13 seasons to make the move to Stewart-Haas. “It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in--but what a race car.”

In Harvick’s view, the victory vindicated his decision to change teams. 

UPS


ENGINE TROUBLE ENDS KURT BUSCH'S DAY

While it was happy times for Harvick, it was a disappointing race for another new Stewart-Haas Racing driver.

Kurt Busch saw his once promising day derailed by engine trouble.

The driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet was looking good and running in the top 10 before engine trouble hit.

The trouble occurred in the latter half of the race and saw Busch drop from the top 10 to the middle of the pack. Eventually, the engine blew, bringing out the caution on Lap 296 and ending Busch’s day.

Busch would ultimately finish in 39th. This comes after a 21st-place finish in the Daytona 500.

"I'm disappointed for my guys to have an engine go down. The car was pretty good and was top 10 worthy," Busch said through his Twitter account.

DANICA PATRICK CRASHES, SPINS IN THE DESERT

Another Stewart-Haas Racing driver, Danica Patrick, suffered a difficult fate in the desert as she and Justin Allgaier made contact in Turn 1 to bring out the third caution and collect Travis Kvapil.

The damage to Patrick's car caused her left rear tire to go down, and she later spun out in Turn 2 to bring out the fourth caution.

In her adopted hometown of Phoenix, Patrick finished 36th. 

The NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this report.