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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Kevin Harvick Lives up to Hype, Wins at Phoenix for 7th Time

Kevin Harvick is undoubtedly the strongest man in NASCAR today, especially at Phoenix International Raceway.

Let’s see here: a defending Sprint Cup championship, back-to-back wins in the 2015 season, four consecutive at Phoenix, seven straight finishes of second or better to join his seventh career win at Phoenix along with becoming to first driver to led over 1,000 laps at PIR.

Numbers like this are what some would call “once in a lifetime” to achieve in an entire career. It’s save to state that Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers and Stewart-Haas Racing have become the NASCAR’s version of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing.

Harvick led an outstanding 224 laps en route to winning the CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix, extending his points lead to 22 over Joey Logano.

“These things are incredible and they are just really fun to drive,” Harvick said in Victory Lane. “When you look at the start of this year, we (SHR team) just know each other so much better and have had a lot of luck. Everybody gets along so good. It’s almost scary how well things are going. You don’t want to talk about it too much because you want it to keep going.”

On nearly each restart throughout the afternoon, Harvick would stand unchallenged as the pack would circle around the first time. Harvick credited this speed to the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, where he finished third.

“The restarts were really slippery and I learned that in the race yesterday,” Harvick said. “You really had to maintain your entry speed and really slide the thing through the center of the corner to help keep it pointed up off.”

Behind Harvick were a few surprise finishers in the top five, including Kurt Busch, who was warmly welcomed back after missing the opening three rounds of the season, to battle for the lead at times, and grab a strong fifth-place finish.

The way that we raced today, it was with heart,” Busch told FOX. “Congratulations to my teammate Kevin Harvick for winning. We had a great day.”

Rounding out the top three were Jamie McMurray in second and Ryan Newman in third for the second race in a row.

“Matt McCall (crew chief) made a very good decision at the end to stay out,” said McMurray, who scored his best result since his last win at Talladega in 2013. “That got us on the front row and then that was a fun battle with Kevin.”

Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10.

“Awesome job,” Newman told FOX. “Luke (Lambert, crew chief) and the guys did an awesome job again. We’re knocking on the door, that’s two top three’s in a row.”

Not everybody’s day in the desert went as trouble-free as was Newman’s.

Coming to complete the opening lap of the 312-lap event, Brian Vickers made contact with Jimmie Johnson. Vickers spent 79 laps in the garage area and Johnson would continue on without major damage.

On lap 118, Sam Hornish Jr. blew a right-rear tire, which sparked a long day for the Richard Petty Motorsports entry.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had an identical tire failure coming off turn 2 and backed into the SAFER barrier wall, ending his day in the 43rd position. His incident was reported as a melted tire bead.

Despite running in the top 15 throughout the day, Tony Stewart did not survive the day without more problems. On lap 238, Stewart’s No. 14 washed up into the No. 51 of Justin Allgaier, resulting in a spin and hard right-side damage. Although losing laps during repairs, Stewart continued on only to blow a tire off dreaded turn 4, ending his day in 39th.

27 cars finished on the lead lap after race that had 10 cautions and eight lead changes.

Next week the Sprint Cup circuit caps off the West Coast Swing at Auto Club Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.

2015 CAMPINGWORLD.COM 500 RACE RESULTS

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