Cactus King Kevin Nips Carl in Photo Finish

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Kevin Harvick has dominated Phoenix International Raceway all throughout his career, and Sunday’s Good Sam 500 was no different.

But what was different was the finish – the closest in the history of PIR.

Harvick started 18th and methodically worked his way up to the front of the field before taking the lead on lap 169. He led a race-high 139 laps and opted to stay out on old tires (about 55 laps on them) when the last caution flag of the afternoon flew with six laps remaining, setting up an overtime green-white-checkered finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon also chose to bypass pit road, whereas everybody behind them came in for a splash of fuel and tires.

Carl Edwards, who led 65 of the 312 laps, restarted third behind Harvick, and was able to clear the No. 88 of Earnhardt Jr. (eventually finished fifth). As Harvick’s No. 4 car took the white flag, Edwards drove his No. 19 car deep into turn three, and got underneath Harvick.

I knew he (Edwards) was better through (turns) three and four,” Harvick said. “That was not the car that I wanted to see behind me. I knew I could beat him down there, and I tried to protect the bottom in three and four, and I just missed the bottom with all the rubber build-up on the tires and everything.”

The two drag raced to the start/finish line as the checkered flag waved, and after some hardcore West Coast beating and banging, Harvick barely beat Edwards to the line – by 0.01 seconds — and won his eighth career race at Phoenix International Raceway.

“I knew I was going to be on defense down there,” said Harvick. “I got up too high and wasn’t able to stay on the bottom like I wanted to, and then he got into me, like he should have, and I needed to get a good run off the corner, and I was going to have to get into his door and it worked out – just barely.”

The finish, one one-hundredth of a second, matches the margin of victory that Denny Hamlin secured over Martin Truex Jr. in the Daytona 500 earlier this season – only four inches.

Winning for the fifth time in six starts, the eighth time in his career and becoming the all-time laps leader at PIR puts Harvick in the record books. When you talk about the all-time greats at certain tracks, Harvick’s name will be one of the first to come up.

Carl Edwards was disappointed in the runner-up finish, but was encouraged by the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 team’s effort Sunday afternoon.

“We made him work for it,” Edwards said. “That’s more than we’ve been able to do here the last few times. Just a lot of fun. I really wish it would have worked out a little bit differently, but it’s a good race.”

“I ran into him about as hard as I thought I could without wrecking him, and it ended up being a drag race,” Edwards explained. “It was kind of fun coming to the line because I thought, man, I got him, and then he (Harvick) doored me real hard and then he got a little run, and then I tried to door him and slow him down, but it just didn’t work.”

Edwards’ teammates, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, finished second, fourth and seventh, respectively. The rest of the top ten included Kurt Busch in sixth, rookie Chase Elliott in seventh, Austin Dillon in ninth and rookie Ryan Blaney in tenth.

Some other notables included Jimmie Johnson in 11th, Martin Truex Jr. in 14th, Joey Logano in 18th (pitted late for fuel), Danica Patrick in 19th and Brad Keselowski in 29th, after he had a tire explode with about 70 laps remaining in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford.

Next weekend, NASCAR concludes the “NASCAR Goes West” tour, with a stop in Fontana, California for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, where Brad Keselowski got by Kurt Busch at the end to win last season.

Also, I am on record saying I am a Kevin Harvick fan. So you can only imagine me, a superfan, and someone who gets way too excited at things, especially sports related, as Kevin Harvick crossed that start/finish line. Enjoy that visual, everyone. Go Green!

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