|Date: Nov. 12, 2017
Event: Can-Am 500k (Round 35 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway (mile oval)
Format: 312 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/162 laps)
Start/Finish: 6th/5th (Running, completed 312 of 312 laps)
Point Standing: 1st with 5,000 points (Advances to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway)
Race Winner: Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75)
● Kevin Harvick started sixth, finished fifth and earned six bonus points.
● Busch Light Ford Fusion raced up to fourth by lap 19 while fighting a loose-off handling condition.
● Harvick fell to the fifth position just before the end of Stage 1.
● The No. 4 teampitted at the end of the stage for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):
● Started sixth, finished sixth and earned five bonus points.
● Harvick advanced as high as the fourth position, but the car started to get tight in the center of the corner and loose off.
● The No. 4 team came to pit road at the conclusion of Stage 2 for four tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):
● Started fifth and finished fifth.
● The No. 4 Ford came to pit road under caution on lap 231 for four tires, fuel and air pressure and chassis adjustments.
● The team gained a position on pit road during the lap-231 pit stop and restarted in the fourth position.
● Harvick elected to stay out under caution in the third position on lap 240, but he fell to sixth following the restart.
● The team came to pit road under caution on lap 255 for tires, fuel and adjustments, but several cars opted to stay out, and the No. 4 Ford restarted in the 13th position.
● The Busch Light Ford came to pit road under caution on lap 277 for four tires and fuel, while most cars opted to stay out. He restarted with fresh tires in the 12th position.
● Harvick raced his way from 12th to fifth in the closing laps.
● This was Harvick’s 13th top-five and 22nd top-10 of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season.
● This was Harvick’s 14th top-five and 19th top-10 finish in 30 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Phoenix.
● The Championship 4 contenders are Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski. Each enters the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 5,000 points.
● Harvick will compete for a championship for the third time in the last four years. He won the championship in 2014.
● Harvick finished fifth in Stage 1 to earn six bonus points and sixth in Stage 2 to earn an additional five bonus points.
● There were seven caution periods for a total of 41 laps.
● Eighteen of the 40 drivers in the Can-Am 500k finished on the lead lap.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What does it mean to move on with a chance to win another title?
“It means a lot, especially this year switching everything from our manufacturer to Ford and just seeing the steady climb of performance and peaking as the playoffs started and running good on really every racetrack that we’ve been to; and this has by far been our best round – all three top-fives and a win. It’s the right time of the year to be peaking. I feel really good about our mile-and-a-half program. Homestead has been a great racetrack for us through the years, and hopefully we can go down there and contend. I think, for us, you’re really happy with where you are just for the fact that as a company we know what we went through and kind of playing on house money at this point. So we’re gonna go down there and wing it and see what happens.”
Team owner Tony Stewart said earlier that he’s seen this script before with you, and you are going to go down to Homestead and win. Is it that easy for you?
“We have every intention of doing that. Our intention is to go down there and win the championship. I think if you’re one of those four and you don’t have that mentality, you’re not prepared for what you’re getting into, because I feel like you’re gonna have to win the race, you’re gonna have to not make mistakes. We’ve seen it year after year, mistakes and circumstances and things happen and you have to be there first, you have to have a chance, and you have to think you can do it. We know we can do it, and I think there are three past champions and a guy that has run well all year and won a lot of races, so it’s not like it’s gonna be just check the box and send the check. It’s guys that have done this before and won races, but for us we’re confident in our team and feel like we should have a chance.”
From the mental toughness aspect that is required to win a title, is this maybe the strongest field?
“I wouldn’t say it’s the strongest field, because I think as you look at the past, and if I’m not mistaken, I know the 78 has been there before, the 18 (of Kyle Busch) has been there before obviously. I don’t know if Brad (Keselowski) has been there before or not in this particular format, but it’s not something that these guys are just gonna cave in and give up on what they’re doing. Three of us have won championships, and Martin (Truex Jr.) has won a lot of races this year, so the pressure is really on the 78 and the 18. Those guys have dominated the year, and I feel like if they don’t win at this point they would probably feel like they’ve had a letdown. So it’s a lot of fun coming from behind and playing catch-up. And kind of playing that underdog role is much easier than being expected to go down there and win. We expect to win.”
Championship 4 Drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway:
1. Kevin Harvick (5,000 points)
2. Kyle Busch (5,000 points)
3. Martin Truex Jr. (5,000 points)
4. Brad Keselowski (5,000 points)
Failed to Advance to the Championship 4:
5. Chase Elliott (2,338 points, -2,662)
6. Denny Hamlin (2,321 points, -2,679)
8. Ryan Blaney (2,297 points, -2,703)
10. Jimmie Johnson (2,250 points, -2,750)
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!