Kevin Harvick dominated for his second consecutive Sprint Cup victory at Phoenix International Raceway. It was Harvick’s first race with Stewart-Haas Racing, a fitting start to his tenure given that just four short months ago he ended his tenure with Richard Childress Racing with a victory on the same racetrack. Harvick had a resounding performance while Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in second, the man who recently won the Daytona 500. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano were the other racers who finished third, fourth and fifth.
The victory at The Profit on CNBC 500 was well-deserved for Harvick after a deflating crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Harvick was well in the mix throughout the race, but unfortunately could not hold his ground all the way through. He finished a mediocre 13th at Daytona.
Harvick jumped out to an extraordinary and commanding lead from the beginning. He began the race slotted 13th and was believed to have the most powerful car on this day. He proved from the opening seconds that that was in fact the case. Harvick led for a dominating 224 of the 312 laps on the track.
“This solidifies so many things, so many decisions,” said Harvick according to USA Today.
Harvick dominating for his second consecutive Sprint Cup victory at Phoenix is even more impressive given the fact that Harvick had only raced one time in his new car prior to Sunday. After 13 years with Richard Childress, one could say that he knows how to make a quick adjustment. He did have the best car on the day, but any unfamiliarity went out the window quickly.
The new team member clearly enjoys his time out in Phoenix, as The Profit on CNBC 500 marked his fifth win on the unique ovular track. Third place finisher Logano led throughout almost all of the first 73 laps, but that marked the turning point when Harvick took over and never looked back. Harvick got his first lead at that time and may as well have kicked it into cruise control the rest of the way.
Keselowski started in the pole today but quickly relinquished his advantage to Earnhardt and Logano. Earnhardt was the only racer even mildly on Harvick’s radar most of the way. He believed he had the car and the team to get it done today, but there is just something about the desert air that gets Harvick going. Regardless, Earnhardt is clearly putting himself back on the map after years of failing to live up to expectations. He still has a bright immediate future ahead of him.
What contributed greatly to Harvick’s dominance on this day was his ability to handle four restarts between laps 187 and 282. Each caution flag helped Harvick solidify his lead. Unfortunately, Harvick’s new teammate Danica Patrick did not step up like he did. She got a flat tire and crashed, resulting in the first caution flag.
Kevin Harvick dominated for his second consecutive Sprint Cup victory at Phoenix today to usher in a new era with his new team. By teaming up with Tony Stewart and upgrading what he has under the hood of his car, it is fair to assume this may be a sign of things to come for Harvick.
Commentary by Justin Hussong