Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Kevin Harvick tough to top at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kevin Harvick's dominance amazes Carl Edwards. Jimmie Johnson shrugs while making Harvick the favorite in today's Good Sam 500.

When NASCAR comes to Phoenix International Raceway, all drivers chase Harvick, who has won a record seven Sprint Cup races on the 1-mile desert oval.

"I think really at this time in the sport for anyone to be that dominant at a track it really must have something special," Edwards said. "Yeah, I think the whole field is chasing those guys and chasing Kevin and that (No.) 4 car at this track."

There might be some hope for the field heading into today's 312-mile race. Kyle Busch, who will be on the pole, noticed Harvick's Chevrolet "was a little off" on Friday when he qualified 18th.

But there was Harvick on Saturday morning with the second-fastest car in practice behind Kurt Busch, his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate.

Harvick followed that by posting the fastest speed in the final practice session at midday, with track conditions most resembling those expected in this afternoon's race.

"It's hard to pick a favorite, but I guess if I'm forced to, the No. 4 car is the one that we'll all be paying close attention to," Johnson said.

It's true that when Harvick makes his 500th consecutive Cup start, he won't be the defending champion at Phoenix for the first time since November 2013. His four-race win streak was snapped last fall when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the rain-shortened race.

Harvick still led the most laps and finished second.

"For me personally, this is a fun place to come just for the fact that I started racing here in the mid '90s," Harvick said. "You still see some of the same fans and people that followed your career up through the ranks."

The Bakersfield, Calif., native went from minor-league races at Phoenix to dominating this track after it was repaved in 2011.

Now Harvick, who has finished fourth, sixth and seventh in the first three races the season, is looking to lock up a spot in the season-ending Chase for the Championship with another Phoenix victory.

"We grew up on a lot of these flat style-type tracks, short tracks, up and down the West Coast," Harvick said. "For whatever reason, all the flat tracks have just kind of still fit my driving style throughout the years, whether it be here or Loudon."

Lock it up: Expect Johnson to be extra careful locking in his steering wheel after it came off in his hands in qualifying Friday, leading to a scary wreck.

"I was sitting there with no steering and no steering wheel and staring at the blue wall," Johnson said. "I was along for the ride at that point."

Johnson, who took the blame for the incident, was forced to a backup car and will start at the rear of the field.

Sprint Cup points

Through three of 36 races. The top 16 drivers, based on wins then points, will make the 10-race, season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts Back

Kyle Busch 116—

Jimmie Johnson* 110 6

Kevin Harvick 109 7

Joey Logano 104 12

Kurt Busch 102 14

Brad Keselowski* 98 18

Carl Edwards 96 20

Denny Hamlin* 93 23

Martin Truex 90 26

Austin Dillon 90 26

Ricky Stenhouse 79 37

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 78 38

Kasey Kahne 77 39

Ryan Blaney 73 43

Aric Almirola 72 44

Jamie McMurray 69 47

* Has a win

Today's race

Good Sam 500, 3:30 p.m., Phoenix International Speedway, Avondale, Ariz.

TV/radio: Ch. 13, 102.5-FM

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