News & Media

Harvick slips in to steal victory at Phoenix

November 12, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service,

Keselowski takes Chase lead; Gordon, Bowyer crews come to blows

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Brad Keselowski has long since proven he's an elite talent behind the wheel and a glib, if somewhat irreverent analyst in front of the microphone.

Now we can add prophecy to his list of accomplishments.

* Video: Final Laps | Victory Lane | Post-Race Reactions

We can also add fisticuffs to the repertoires of the Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon crews, who brawled in the garage after Gordon wrecked Bowyer and dashed his championship hopes on the next to last scheduled lap.

Never mind that Kevin Harvick stole a race that Kyle Busch absolutely dominated, winning Sunday's AdvoCare 500 in a green-white checkered-flag finish at Phoenix International Raceway.

Never mind that Harvick crossed the stripe as a wreck erupted behind him.

The real drama was deeper in the field, and earlier, as Keselowski moved tantalizingly close to his first Sprint Cup championship after predicting last Sunday that bad luck might be on the horizon for five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. The prediction came true -- in spades -- in the form of a wreck on Lap 234.

Harvick took the checkered flag ahead of Denny Hamlin, who passed Busch after the final restart. Busch came home third in a race that went seven laps beyond its posted distance of 312 laps. Kasey Kahne ran fourth, followed by Ryan Newman and Keselowski, who took back the lead from Johnson and leads by 20 points with one race left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

* Video: Keselowski comments on crazy day at Phoenix

Keselowski, however, was appropriately cautious when assessing his title chances.

"Certainly if you have the choice, you always want to be in the lead of the points, especially in the closing races, so I'm thankful for that," said Keselowski, who can win the Cup championship outright with a finish of 15th or better in next Sunday's season finale at Homestead.

"But I also know that the troubles that they had are the same troubles that we could have next week, and so you try not to take anything for granted. You try to just focus on what lies ahead, and we've got to do the best job we can at Homestead. That's where my focus is."

All other drivers were mathematically eliminated from title contention, including Bowyer, who was the victim of retaliation from Gordon for an earlier incident in which contact between their cars cut Gordon's left front tire and sent him sliding into the Turn 3 wall.

* Video: Gordon retaliates against Bowyer, fight ensues

Harvick's victory came two days after reports surfaced that he would leave Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2013 season, the last year on Harvick's current contract. Clearly, the reported business dealings didn't affect Harvick's focus.

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"There can be distractions," said Harvick who broke a 44-race drought in winning for the 19th time in the Cup series. "There can be whatever happening around the race track, off the race track, but when you get in that garage and everybody is doing their jobs -- I get in the car, he [owner Richard Childress] is up on the trailers -- we're all just racers in the end. We want to race cars, and it comes with a lot of media. It comes with a lot of things outside of the race track.

"But when we actually get to get into our element, we all do our jobs regardless, and we all don't want to go out and embarrass ourselves and not run good. We want to be exactly where we are, right here, talking to you guys after the race and in Victory Lane and doing the things that make us all happy. It's been a frustrating year, but two races to go, here we are."

* Video: Cut tire sends Johnson to garage

The biggest, most destructive bolt of ill-fortune in Johnson's already storied career struck on Lap 234, when the right front tire on Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet exploded -- the result of a melted bead (the edge of the tire that sits on the wheel) due to brake heat. Johnson smacked the Turn 4 wall.

Unlike at Kansas, where Johnson's crew was able to repair a wrecked car without losing a lap, the 48 was damaged far beyond the healing power of a pit road band-aid. Johnson spent 38 laps in the garage before returning to competition just as David Ragan's brush with the wall on Lap 273 caused the fifth caution of the race.

Johnson finished 32nd, his prospects for a sixth Cup title vastly diminished.

Busch led four times for 237 laps but surrendered the lead to Harvick after a restart on Lap 305 and never got it back.

Press Pass: Kevin Harvick | Denny Hamlin | Kyle Busch


• Kevin Harvick earned his 19th career win in his 429th start.
• Kevin Harvick's last victory came at Richmond in September of 2011, 44 starts ago.
• Kevin Harvick won for the third time at Phoenix in his 20th-career start there.
• Kevin Harvick's three victories at Phoenix tie him for second all-time among drivers.
• With Kevin Harvick's triumph on Sunday six of the last eight Phoenix races have been won by drivers breaking winless streaks of 44 or more races.
• Kevin Harvick becomes the 15th different winner of 2012.
• Kevin Harvick captured his third career Chase victory.
• Kevin Harvick posted only his second top-10 finish of the Chase, including his first top-five showing.
• Kevin Harvick has now won in nine of his 12 seasons in NSCS.
• Kevin Harvick led once for the final 15 laps.
• Richard Childress Racing earned its 101st career win including its first victory this year.
• Richard Childress Racing won for the fourth time at Phoenix.
• Richard Childress Racing's last win was at Talladega in 2011, 38 races ago.
• Richard Childress Racing captured its ninth all-time Chase victory.
• Chevrolet won for the 16th time at Phoenix and picked up its 14th victory of 2012.
• Denny Hamlin (second) notched his seventh top-five finish in 15 races at Phoenix, finished in the top-two in both races there this season.
• Kyle Busch (third) posted his sixth top-five finish of the 2012 Chase, tied with Johnson for the most; led 237 of 319 laps, the most of all drivers, but has now failed to win the last eight races after leading the most laps.
• Kasey Kahne (fourth) garnered only his third top-five finish in 17 races at Phoenix.
• Ryan Newman (fifth) picked up his first top-five finish since finishing fifth at Chicagoland in September.
• Brad Keselowski (sixth) has finished in the top-11 in every Chase race this season; leads the points by 20 over Johnson and will win the 2012 Championship with a finish of 15th or better at Homestead regardless of where Johnson finishes.
• Kurt Busch (seventh) has now posted top-10 finishes in consecutive races for the first time this season, finished eighth last week at Texas.
• Jimmie Johnson (32nd) had his worst finish of 2012 Chase, lost 27 points to Keselowski and is now 20 points out of the lead.

"The guys gave me an awesome piece, and unfortunately there, I gave the race away," Busch said. "I hate it for my guys, and they worked so hard and they dug hard this weekend, and obviously having a car that's the class of the field, you expect to win and you're supposed to win, but I guess I just didn't know how to win it [Sunday]."