Harvick wins in wild finish

Mike Cranston THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

AVONDALE, Ariz.—For the second time in a month, two cars crossed the finish line seemingly together and no one was sure who won.
Electronic scoring and slow-motion replays put Kevin Harvick in a familiar spot on top at Phoenix International Raceway, and NASCAR celebrated another thrilling race to start the season.
Harvick and Carl Edwards twice bumped on the final lap before Harvick inched over the finish line first by 0.01 seconds in an overtime finish yesterday for his record eighth Sprint Cup victory at the mile oval.
It was the same margin of victory as Denny Hamlin’s over Martin Truex Jr. last month in the Daytona 500.
“That’s really what NASCAR racing is all about,” Harvick said. “You’re coming to the checkered flag, and he wants to win for his team and I want to win for my team.
“There’s a lot on the line.”
Harvick had the lead off a late restart, but Edwards had two fresh right-side tires and made it a side-by-side duel.
“I knew he was better through [Turns] 3 and 4,” Harvick noted.
“That was not the car that I wanted to see behind me.”
Harvick, on the high side, turned into Edwards’ door first to try to slow his momentum.
Edwards returned the favour in what he called “a drag race,” but came up just short.
“If we had one more lap, I could have passed him clean,” Edwards said. “But it just wasn’t going to work without bumping him.
“So I decided to hit him as hard as I did.
“I really didn’t want to wreck him,” Edwards added. “I thought I moved him enough to get by, but it’s just racing.”
Harvick made up for qualifying 18th by shooting toward the front early in the race.
He took the lead for good in the No. 4 Chevrolet when he immediately passed Edwards on a restart with 77 laps to go.
Harvick built a lead approaching three seconds before Kasey Kahne hit the wall with six laps left to bring out the caution.
Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers decided to stay on the track while Edwards and others took on two tires.
Harvick had enough fuel for the extra two laps, but needed to do some banging to hold off Edwards’ Toyota.
“I don’t think there’s any real love lost between the two of us,” Harvick conceded.
“I knew that I was going to get hit and I’m going to hit him.
“I don’t want to spin him out, but you definitely want to rough him up because that’s not the guy I want to lose to—and I know he doesn’t want to lose to me.”
It was another success for NASCAR’s new downforce and aerodynamic packages.
Used for the first time on a mile-track, it helped produce plenty of passing and only a handful of tire issues on long green-flag runs.
Hamlin recovered from an early pit penalty to finish third.
Kyle Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, started from the pole and led the first 77 laps before ending up fourth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr, who ended Harvick’s four-race winning streak at Phoenix with a rain-shortened victory back in November, was fifth.
Two days after a scary crash in which he pulled off his steering wheel in qualifying, Jimmie Johnson finished 11th.
Harvick, meanwhile, found another way to win at his favourite track.
He’s won five of the past six races and six-of-eight at Phoenix.
“I just like racing here,” Harvick said.
“It’s just one of those places where I feel like I’ve been here enough times to where I can move around and find something to make our car work.”