Harvick, Keselowski winners in a race that turned ugly
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012
AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, looks on prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 11, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 11, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
AVONDALE, Ariz. Eddie Gossage, the president of Texas Motor Speedway, billed last weekends stop of the Sprint Cup Series as the Wild Asphalt Circus.
Apparently, its now on tour.
Long after Sundays AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway was over, track workers literally still were cleaning up from what NASCARs latest race had left behind.
With the dust not yet settled, Kevin Harvick ended a 44-race winless streak, holding off Denny Hamlin to capture his first victory of the season just days after reports surfaced he was leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of next season.
Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer on the next-to-last lap, which turned into both teams crews brawling on pit road as ESPN cameras caught Bowyer running through the garage in an effort to confront Gordon.
But wait, theres more.
Jimmie Johnson, who seemed well on his way to winning series title No.6, blew a tire on his car because of excessive brake heat and handed the series points lead over to Brad Keselowski with one race remaining.
How to sum all this up?
Yeah, you know, it was an interesting day to say the least, said Harvick, in what may rank as the biggest understatement of the season.
The victory was a much-needed one for Harvick, who had qualified for the Chase but had struggled much of the season to run up front and contend for wins.
Both Harvick and team owner Richard Childress didnt directly address the reports after the race but both said they planned to approach next season on the same page.
When we actually get to get into our element we all do our jobs regardless, and we all dont want to go out and embarrass ourselves and not run good, Harvick said.
We want to be exactly where we are, right here, in Victory Lane and doing the things that make us all happy. Its been a frustrating year, but two races to go, here we are.
Sunday, Harvick passed Kyle Busch with eight of the scheduled 312 laps remaining the first time he led in the race.
His win seemed assured when a caution for the Gordon/Bowyer incident came out as Harvick was taking the white flag. NASCAR, however, ruled the caution lights had been triggered before Harvick took the flag.
That meant at least one two-lap overtime period. Even though he was running low on fuel, Harvick easily moved out to a big lead on the restart and grabbed the win.
Johnson, who entered the race with a seven-point advantage over Keselowski, slammed the wall hard on Lap 235 and was forced to the garage for repairs.
He now trails Keselowski by 20 points entering the season finale and a sixth series championship suddenly looks much less likely.
We still have to go to Homestead and race and anything can happen down there. But this is not the position we want to be in late in Phoenix, Johnson said after the race.
Across the board there has been a huge effort put in to try to get us a championship and I just hate for our day to turn out as it did.
Johnson ended up 32nd.
Kyle Busch finished third, Kasey Kahne was fourth and Ryan Newman was fifth.
Keselowski at one time was leading the race and finished sixth. He was one of several drivers who got collected in a wreck after the race.
Danica Patrick twice hit the wall on the final lap but NASCAR did not display the caution flag. She slid down the frontstretch as the lead-lap cars were taking the checkered flag.
You know, I raced pretty hard last week at Texas and a couple guys gave me flack for it but theres a difference between racing hard and what we saw today, Keselowski said. That was borderline ridiculous.
Regardless, Keselowski finds himself in excellent position to win his first series title in just his fourth full-time season. A Cup title would also be a first for his team owner, Roger Penske.
Its really tough to just survive a race like that physically and mentally and I felt very lucky to do so, Keselowski said. It makes me feel like that could happen the other way around next week and we could be right back out of this thing.
You cant take anything for granted in this sport.