Kevin Harvick
Photo by Steve Fecht

Happy Harvick! KEVIN HARVICK/No.4 Chevrolet is certainly in the right place now – handily winning the 10th Annual The Profit on CNBC 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. Like the side of his car says … “Freaky Fast.” He turned the race’s fastest lap, and is now fourth in the standings.

Harvick was quoted earlier that now he’s with a new team, he’s in the right place. Harvick drives for Stewart Haas Racing, after being with Richard Childress Racing for years. Harvick’s Crew Chief is RODNEY CHILDERS. Team co-owner TONY STEWART/No.14 said “It’s pretty cool.” GENE HAAS is the other team co-owner.

Harvick did doughnuts down by his team pit box in Turn One, and then came back to S-F for the waiting photogs.

Harvick took the lead on Lap 74, from JOEY LOGANO/No.22 Ford, who had grabbed the lead at the start to pass his Penske teammate, pole sitter BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.2 Ford. Harvick led three times for the most laps – 224.

This is Harvick’s twenty-fourth Cup victory, and fifth at PIR – the most track wins of any driver. He started in thirteenth position, just missing the new Top Twelve. But he had been stout in the practice sessions, with Happy Hour being ‘perfect’ for him – leading the most laps, fastest lap, and most laps in top five and in top ten. This is the fourth time Harvick has led more than 200 laps, and he won two of those three races.

Kevin Harvick

Rodney Childers

Left to Right: Kevin Harvick, Rodney Childers, and Gene Haas.

Points Leader DALE EARNHARDT JR/No.88 Chevrolet drove a stout race, keeping right up with Harvick and narrowed the gap several times, with the final Margin of Victory being 0.489 seconds. “The last run was the best I was all day. I didn’t have enough for Kevin earlier.” It felt good to be able to keep up with Harvick when he clearly was so fast all weekend. Our team has high morale.

Although third-place finisher, Keselowski, said he was very aware of the crowd standing and screaming when it looked like Junior would grab the lead, Earnhardt said he was fully focused on his race and didn’t know.

Keselowski was clearly disappointed in not winning, but conceded that Harvick had the better car all weekend. Keselowski is six points behind Earnhardt now, for second in the standings. “That was everything we could do to get up there and get third. Nobody had anything for Kevin. I am not sure there was anywhere he didn’t have an advantage. We did the best we could and that was really all we had.”

Fourth and fifth finishers were JOEY LOGANO/No.22 Ford and JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet. Sixth through tenth were JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet, RYAN NEWMAN/No.31 Chevrolet, CARL EDWARDS/No.99 Ford, KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Toyota, and JAMIE McMURRAY/No.1 Chevrolet.

Kyle Larson

KYLE LARSON/No.42 Chevrolet was the top Rookie, of eight in the field. Larson, 21, finished twentieth. He’s raced USAC midgets, Silver Crown Cars, and sprint cars – winning a race in each of them in one night, only the second driver to do so. He’s also driven dirt tracks. He moved into stock cars, running ARCA, K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Camping World Trucks, NASCAR Nationwide Series where he was 2013 Rookie of the Year, and is now running full time with Chip Ganassi Racing in Sprint Cup.

There were 14 Lead Changes among eight drivers: Harvick, Logano three times for 71 laps, Keselowski three times for three laps, RYAN NEWMAN/No.31 Chevrolet once for six laps, JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet once for four laps, DAVID GILLILAND/No.38 Ford once for two laps, and CARL EDWARDS/No.99 Ford and CLINT BOWYER/No.15 Toyota, each once for one lap.

All cars cleared Tech with no issues. The top two cars will be going to NASCAR’s R&D Center in Charlotte, but no additional engines will be making that trip. Good thing Harvick already has his dedicated Las Vegas car loaded on the trailer for Nevada.

The race ran 2 Hrs, 51 mins, 23 secs. The average speed was 109.229 mph

The race had eight cautions for 38 laps. The first was a scheduled Competition Caution on Lap 35, then the longest stretch of green flag racing in the past three years before the second caution for debris on the front stretch. In all, there were three debris cautions, one for fluid from the blown engine of KURT BUSCH/No.41 Chevrolet, two for spins and one for a three-car accident. No one was hurt and all cars continued.

Bill Patterson painting Kevin Harvick's winning car

To the victor goes the spoils. One of the perks of winning at PIR is getting a specially-painted car portrait done by famous motorsports painter, BILL PATTERSON. The painting is done in Patterson’s signature stylistically fashion in Victory Circle during the festivities, to be presented as part of the ceremonies.

The track was green after the torrential downpour Saturday night.

This weekend’s race was the first of the season to utilize the new qualifying format. So far the word is that it’s basically better, with some tweaks to be considered.

Qualifying, and new ride height rules were also added this year. Also, no spotters are allowed to have cell phones on the Spotters’ Stand.

Points Standings: Earnhardt-90; Keselowski-84; Gordon-80, Harvick-79; Johnson-78; Logano-75; MATT KENSETH/No.20 Toyota-70;DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 Toyota-68; Edwards-65; and GREG BIFFLE/No.16 Ford.

Danica Patrick

Only one car was moved to the back of the field for going to his backup car – Rookie JUSTIN ALGAIER/No.51 Chevrolet, who was already gridded last. Despite a run in with DANICA PATRICK/No.10 Chevrolet and TRAVIS KVAPIL/No.32 Ford, Algaier finished thirtieth. Before his accident, he had charged up to P29 by Lap 45.

All results and stats are unofficial until made official by NASCAR on Monday. This includes Harvick’s winnings of $260,048.

The Grand Marshal was MARCUS LEMONIS, star of the CNBC television program, The Profit. He is also the Chairman & CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises. As Grand Marshal, he was the one who gave the command for starting engines. Lemonis made a gaffe with “the most famous words in racing” in that he said “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines.” I guess that means Patrick is now just one of the guys.

The next Sprint Cup race is Sunday 9 March 2014 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.