Kevin Harvick continues Phoenix winning tradition


March 15, 2015; Avondale, AZ, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick (4) celebrates his victory of the 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Harvick dominated the 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, leading 224 of the 312 laps that made up the race on the way to his second-straight win of 2015. With his latest win, Harvick became the first repeat winner of the season.

"“It’s almost scary how well things are going,” Harvick said in victory lane."

The victory was the seventh of Harvick’s career at Phoenix, including the last four-in-a-row and five of the last six. It also extended his string of consecutive top-two finishes to seven, dating back to the final three races of his championship run of 2014.

"“This is a really special place, all these West Coast races, for us to win,” Harvick, a Bakersfield, Calif., native said."

So far, Harvick is 2-0 on the three-race West Coast swing, winning last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The swing concludes next weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Jamie McMurray finished second. He managed to get by Harvick to lead one lap on the final restart of the race with 12 laps to go before Harvick retook the top spot for good.

"“Really good day for our Cessna/McDonald’s Chevy. I ran fifth to eighth all day,” McMurray said. “Good team effort. Great pit stops all day.”"

Ryan Newman finished third, and Kasey Kahne was fifth.

Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five in his first race since NASCAR lifted his indefinite suspension.

"“It means I’ve got a strong team, and personally, I’m glad to be back with them,” Busch said after the race."

Busch moved into second by getting by Joey Logano on a restart just past the 200-lap mark and ran second to Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and race leader Harvick until the ninth and second-to-last caution of the race with 24 laps to go when he gave up the position to pit for fresh tires.

"“I was just too loose on restarts and couldn’t quite capitalize,” Busch said."

He restarted 10th and was up to eigth for the final restart of the race with 12 laps remaining. He was the highest finisher among those who pitted.

Harvick started the race on the pole, with Joey Logano alongside in second. They were the only two lap leaders until Brad Keselowski took two tires to Harvick and Logano’s four during a yellow flag on lap 117. Logano had taken the lead from Harvick at the start of the race but then lost it to Harvick on lap 28. Harvick led until Keselowski got to the front.

With Keselowski as the leader on the restart, Harvick restarted fourth and Logano eighth. Harvick retook the lead fewer than 50 laps later, but Logano had trouble getting back up through the field. Logano did lead one additional time when he took two tires during a lap 181 caution to get off pit road first. Harvick was back up front on lap 199.

Logano faded late in the race and was running 10th at the white flag. He was able to pass both Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon on the final lap, though, to finish eighth. Other drivers finishing sixth through 10th included Keselowski in sixth, Martin Truex Jr. in seventh, Gordon ninth and Larson 10th.

Aside from McMurray leading one lap on a restart, the only other lap leaders were Harvick, Keselowski and Logano. Keselowski led 52 laps, and Logano was credited with 35 laps led.

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