Under sunny skies in Phoenix, Kevin Harvick wasted no time letting everyone know he was pissed off and he was ready to race.
After getting docked points from his win at Las Vegas for failed and improper rear window struts and a side skirt issue, Harvick and team overcame any distractions and stayed in the hunt all day.
Kyle Busch led the most laps, 128, and won the first stage while Kurt Busch won the second stage. But Harvick ran in the Top 10 all day and simply ran down his competition at every stage on his way to grabbing the late lead and subsequent win. That makes his third win of the year and his first ever 3rd straight win. If he goes on to win at California this weekend, then he will really be in rarified air.
While the stands at Phoenix were far from full, those who showed up got to see some good racing. At one point, there was Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick all battling for the lead. As they wore each other out, Chase Elliott appeared and suddenly there were four cars racing nose-to-tail and side-by-side, lap after lap until Hamlin wore out his tires and brakes allowing the other three drivers to get around and duke it out.
2018 champion Martin Truex, Jr. led only three laps and hasn’t been the dominant driver that he was in 2017. While he is only 12 points behind Harvick in the standings, Harvick is dominating the playoff points the way that Truex did last year. All the teams saw how Truex racked up critical Stage and Playoff points last year on his way to the title. Monkey see, monkey do.
For a while, Hendrick Motorsports had two drivers in the Top 10. Elliott still finished third with teammates Byron, Bowman and Johnson finishing 12th through 14th respectively. While not a major gain, their early speed and final finish was a move in the right direction. We’ll see how the finishes at Phoenix translate this week to another 1.5 mile track, where the Hendrick teams have been struggling.
Joe Gibbs Racing showed their mettle this week with all four cars finishing in the Top 10.
Aside from SHR which put all four teams in the Top 10, Ford looked to take a step back overall with Team Penske finishing 15th, 16th and 19th. Keselowksi did lead 12 laps, but the teams struggled to pass in traffic.
While Kyle Larson won the California race last year, look for the Fords and Toyota’s to be back up front. A couple of Chevy teams appear to have speed but overall they are not up to the Blue Oval and Toyota teams. Chevy will most likely rely on Larson and Elliott again to lead the way.
Phoenix, now called ISM Raceway, will look brand new in the fall with new seats, pit road changes and the start/finish line moving to the front dogleg where the track flattens out and many drivers use the apron to pass. That could mean some really wild finishes in future races.
Enjoy your race upcoming weekend!