8 men enter. Only 4 leave. Sounds like a fun night!
Kevin Harvick had one job to do….and he did it, happily winning the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. The driver of the #4 Budweiser did it commanding fashion, leading 264 of 312 laps.
The win locks Harvick into the Final Four Spots that will decide the Championship next week in North Cuba. No other driver had anything for the #4 as Harvick lept to a commanding lead on every restart – despite a record 12 cautions giving others ample opportunities.
The other three spot locks were more fluid than a baby’s diaper as the race wore on in front of a sold out crowd in the desert.
Locking in are Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman. Knocked out contention were Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth.
The 4th spot was yanked out of Jeff Gordon’s hand on the last lap when Ryan Newman “moved” Kyle Larson in Turn 4 – sealing his chance to compete for the Sprint Cup.
Gordon squared off “West Side Story Style” with Brad Keselowski last week in Texas after Bad-Brad made a move to try and steal the victory. When asked about Newman making a similar move today to knock him out of contention, Gordon said, “it made last week even tougher to swallow,” adding, “if (that move) is acceptable then, it is acceptable now.”
Newman made it into the final four by the skin of his neck. For his part, on bumping Larson, Newman said, “I did what I had to do, I don’t like racing like that. I didn’t take him out. He still finished the race. In a day or two, he’ll understand.”
Never give up! It is a lesson we were all taught as a kid but a lesson that Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano really took to heart today.
On lap 32 Hamlin got a flat tire during a pit stop when the valve stem was knocked off by the air gun. The odd incident caused Denny to pit a second time and lose a lap. Many wrote off the #11 team but they fought back for a 5th place finish.
Logano’s day seemed to run downhill several times. On lap 124, during a pit stop the #22 team was penalized for removing equipment from the pit box. Starting in the back of the field, it didn’t take long for the lightning quick Harvick to put Logano a lap down. On lap 212 when Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer made contact, Joey went low to avoid the #18 and in the process contacted Danica Patrick.
The contract resulted in a tire rub on the #22. After the race Logano said, “We (Danica) hit pretty hard but it didn’t knock the toe out. When NASCAR threw the red flag we had time to talk about the damage on the radio and for me to calm down.” The #22 quickly pulled the fender out and kept Logano in contention. JoLo fought to the end and finished P6, sealing his place in the final four on points. His teammate, Brad Keselowski, didn’t fair so well at PIR.
Former Cup Champion Keselowski, who had the most wins of any driver this season needed to win again at PIR to grab one of those final four spots. He finished fourth – but that was three spots short. The #2 had several shots at Harvick on multiple restarts but Miller Light had nothing for Budweiser today.
“We were just a little bit short,” said Keselowski. “Kevin was really, really strong all day long. We just weren’t strong enough to win. We were strong enough to run second or third, and ended up fourth. A lot to be proud of, just not enough.”
Now, a short message to all of the Chase Haters filling my timeline at the moment. STFU!
Yeah, I get it. If you’re a Keselowski or Gordon fan you are mad that your guy won’t have a shot for another title. But if you’re a Hamlin or Newman fan you love this new format. This new format has delivered that every week and I expect it to deliver next week in Florida. So sit back and enjoy the show!