KEVIN HARVICK/No.29 Reese's Chevrolet won the NASCAR Nextel Cup Checkers Auto Parts 500 Race at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday, making it three for four of the PIR NASCAR races this year.
He won both the Busch and Cup race at this year's Spring PIR NASCAR weekend, and finished a close second in Saturday's Busch Series race. This was his tenth Cup victory, five of which came this season, and he is the only Chase driver to score a repeat victory in The Chase. Harvick led four times for 252 laps in the 312-lap races.
HARVICK said "Our race car was really good today. The team tweaked it bit by bit throughout the race. Just doing what we had to do."
JIMMY JOHNSON/No.48 Lowe's Chevrolet was runner-up, 0.250 seconds behind Harvick. Johnson was followed by the top Rookie, DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 FedEx Chevrolet. JEFF GORDON/No.24 Dupont Chevrolet and CARL EDWARDS/No.99 Office Depot Ford finished fourth and fifth, respectively. The top four drivers ran Chevrolet Monte Carlos. Chevrolet has won 23 of this year's 35 Nextel Cup races and has clinched the 2006 Manufacturers' Championship.
A Red Flag was thrown three laps from the end, lasting for nearly nine minutes. CASEY MEARS/No.42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge spun and cars piled up behind him blocking the track. No one was hurt and all involved continued the race. Mears got back on track and was the last car finishing on the lead lap. Harvick's failing alternator and then battery were of concern to Harvick during the race, and when his car wouldn't start on the last restart, Harvick asked for a wrecker. After his victorious burn out, he again had to call for a Tow.
Harvick is now unofficially third in The Chase For The Nextel Cup, tied with Hamlin-90 points behind leader Johnson and 63 points behind Kenseth.
NASCAR indicates the top five drivers, who are within 156 points of Johnson, still have a mathematical chance of winning The Chase. Johnson has three scenarios which will ensure his championship next weekend: Finishing twelfth or better and leading no laps; finishing thirteenth or better and leading at least one lap; or finishing fifteenth or better and leading the most laps. As soon as Harvick starts the Homestead race, Jeff Gordon is eliminated from The Chase. The other four drivers have already fallen out of contention after this weekend's race.
Gordon, the newlywed, said "We're in great position. We're just not in position to win the championship. We've been fighting hard and doing great, but not good enough. If we hadn't had those three bad finishes, who knows where we'd be right now. But I'm just excited we're just improving it seems like everywhere we go. It's got me excited that we're heading in the right direction for next year."
NASCAR further draws out the possibilities. If Kenseth wins the Homestead Ford 400 race, and both he and Johnson tie in the points, they would have to go past the first tie breaker, as they each have five victories. The second tie breaker involves second place finishes, and Johnson would win, with his six runner-up finishes compared to the three of Kenseth's.