When a race is dominated by one driver, there are always two distinct groups of fans. There’s the group for the driver that ends up winning, and the larger group of not only the fans of the driver that lost, but also the ones that complain about one driver’s dominance. Normally, and this has been more common in Nationwide races than Sprint Cup, that driver has been Kyle Busch.
Sunday’s race at Phoenix was not won by Busch, but it was a dominant race by Kevin Harvick. However, judging by what was seen afterward on social media and other outlets, there wasn’t much complaining.
The race lasted 312 laps, and Harvick had the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet in front for 224 of those laps. That is just about 72 percent of the race led by one driver. At the same time, despite that dominance, this win was a popular one in every aspect.
Keep in mind, a year ago at this time it was already well known that Harvick was leaving his ride at Richard Childress Racing at the end of the year, which was when his contract was up. He already signed on with Stewart-Haas Racing, and was bringing sponsorship over from Budweiser, Jimmy John’s and Rheem. So RCR was losing, but SHR was gaining. Yet, he went into the season with the same idea that his current team was the focus, even if he was a self proclaimed “lame duck.”
But, he would go out, win races, and make the Chase. His final win during his tenure at RCR came at Phoenix, which made him the first driver to win at the track both in the old configuration and the new one.
It only seemed appropriate that he be the driver everyone would watch as NASCAR hits the heart of the season. The media frenzy that comes into Daytona and even after is over, and now the real season is under way, and Harvick made sure that the first driver they remember when the “real season” began was his.
The final win for him at RCR came at Phoenix, and now he came back months later to earn his first win at SHR, a testament to the strength of the team, and how beneficial adding Harvick to the fold would be.
Sure it was dominant, but it was an expected dominance. At least at the end of this race, everyone for the most part could go along with Harvick’s nickname. At the end of the day, everyone was truly “Happy.”
RESULTS: 1-Harvick 2-Earnhardt Jr. 3-Keselowski 4-Logano 5-Gordon 6-Johnson 7-Newman 8-Edwards 9-Kyle Busch 10-McMurray
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Kenseth 16-Stewart 19-Hamlin 24-Dillon 36-Patrick 39-Kurt Busch
CAUTIONS: 8 for 38 laps. Lap 37-40 (Competition caution), 163-169 (Debris-FS), 172-175 (#10, 32, 51 Accident-T1), 188-191 (#10 Spin-T2), 248-251 (Debris-BS), 279-282 (Debris-T1), 287-291 (#38 Spin-BS), 298-303 (#41 Fluid on Track).
LEAD CHANGES: 14 among 8 drivers. Keselowski POLE, Logano 1-37, Gilliland 38-39, Keselowski 40, Log ano 41-73, Harvick 74-110, Keselowski 111-112, Harvick 113-190, Logano 191, Harvick 192-236, Edwards 237, Gordon 238-241, Newman 242-247, Bowyer 248, Harvick 249-312.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 51 Mins, 23 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 109.229 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.489 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Earnhardt Jr, 90 points; 2. Keselowski, -6; 3. Gordon, -10; 4. Harvick, -11; 5. Johnson, -12; 6. Logano, -15; 7. Kenseth, -20; 8. Hamlin, -22; 9. Edwards, -25; 10. Biffle, -26.